Sunday hunting bill moves on in Pennsylvania legislature

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hunter loading rifle orange vest

UPDATE: The Sunday hunting bill passed the Pennsylvania state House Oct. 30, moving on for a final vote in the Senate.

Senate Bill 147 passed the House with a vote of 144-54.

The House added some amendments, including allowing hunters going on private property to retrieve a hunting dog without facing trespassing violations; appoints local law enforcement to enforce trespassing; and pushed back the effective date to 90 days.

The state Senate will be in session again on Nov. 18.

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Pennsylvania is one step closer to having more Sundays available for hunting.

The House Game and Fisheries Committee approved Senate Bill 147 bill on Oct. 21, sending it to the full House for discussion and a vote. The bill passed 21-4 in committee.

In its amended form, the bill allows for hunting on three Sundays: one day in archery deer season; one day in firearms deer season; and one day to be selected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The bill, introduced in February by Sen. Daniel Laughlin (R-Erie), originally allowed for the Game Commission to decide which Sundays to allow hunting.

It changed significantly since then to appease the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which has historically been against Sunday hunting in any form.

“For many of them, they work every day of the week. But Sunday is the one day during the week where farmers try to pull back from work on the farm,” said Mark O’Neill, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau spokesman. “They spend more time with the family, use their own land for recreational purposes. They don’t want to be bothered with people.”

Hunting on Sundays is illegal in Pennsylvania except for coyotes, foxes and crows.

Despite its misgivings, Farm Bureau would take a neutral position on the bill if it met three provisions, O’Neill said.

The first was allowing for a maximum of three Sundays per year for hunting. The second was stronger trespassing laws, like making trespassing a primary offense. The third was requiring written permission for any hunter who wanted to hunt on someone else’s land.

The first two provisions were met while the bill was in the Senate. The last one came as an amendment while the bill was in the House committee.

“Under the current bill the way it sits today (Oct. 23), the Farm Bureau has taken a neutral position,” O’Neill said. That could change if amendments are added in the House that go against the Farm Bureau’s conditions.

If it’s approved in the House, the bill will go back to the Senate to be approved in its amended form. Then it’s off to the governor’s desk.

The House will be back in session on Monday, Oct. 28.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or rachel@farmanddairy.com.)

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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