Could Sunday hunting become a reality in 2024?

Sunday hunting has been a hot-button topic for as long as most hunters can remember. I bet hunters started arguing about the pros and cons as soon as the first ban occurred over 100 years ago. Despite many attempts to change the law that prohibits widespread Sunday hunting, the efforts have largely fallen short. Could 2024 be the year that all changes?

Since the 19th century, Pennsylvania Game Laws have prohibited Sunday hunting (with exceptions for crows, foxes and coyotes) throughout the state. A push by sportsmen and legislators gained a slight win in 2019 when the law was changed to allow limited hunting, with three Sundays being opened during the annual deer and bear season. But sportsmen are asking for more, and some legislators are listening.

For years, sportsmen have argued in favor of Sunday hunting. Some cite the need for more weekend days in the field without needing to take time off from work. Others claim the extra day each week would make it easier to get younger hunters involved, especially those with conflicting sports or school events. Some do not see why Pennsylvania hunters cannot enjoy their sport seven days a week when many surrounding states have allowed the practice for years.

So why has Pennsylvania been so slow to respond? Some blame deep religious beliefs. Others blame the legislature or Game Commission for being unwilling to accept change. But the real hurdle has been the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. For a variety of reasons, the Farm Bureau has been the largest, most influential opponent of Sunday hunting and the main reason legislators have been unwilling to sign off on a larger change.

As in past years, a legislative bill is proposed to address the ban on Sunday hunting. Rep. Mandy Steele (District 33) is leading the effort to gain co-sponsors for yet another bill that would remove the probation. If passed, the Pennsylvania Game Commission would have full authority to establish hunting seasons and bag limits, including statewide Sunday hunting throughout the year.

So what is different this year? Why is there hope that Rep. Steele’s effort, or that of any other pro-hunting legislator, will be any more successful than past efforts? Because the Farm Bureau has decided to step aside and stop actively opposing Sunday hunting.

Although the Farm Bureau is still not willing to endorse unfettered hunting seven days a week, they have loosened their opposition to the point that it may actually succeed. Concerns regarding trespassing and the ability to keep properties closed to Sunday hunting are still present but should be manageable hurdles. Many of the solutions are already in place.

Game Commission wardens can enforce trespassing laws, especially when such activity involves hunting or trapping.

A new Commonwealth-wide dispatch center, which makes contacting the Game Commission and having a warden respond more efficient, is up and running.

Recent changes to trespass laws allow property owners to mark boundaries with purple paint rather than signs. This aids both hunters and law enforcement in determining when a violation is taking place.

For decades, the Fish & Boat Commission has allowed property owners to post streams prohibiting Sunday Fishing. Although not as prevalent as it once was, the law still exists, property owners still take advantage of it, and Waterways Conservation Officers still enforce it.

It is important to note that any change to Sunday hunting would not require anyone to participate.

Property owners would only be obliged to allow hunting on Sunday as much as they are to allow hunting in general. Even if they open their property to hunting Monday through Saturday, they could keep Sunday off limits. Nor would hunters be forced to hunt on Sunday. It would be another day. You could hunt or remain out of the woods as you see fit.

Even without Farm Bureau opposition, any change to Pennsylvania’s hunting laws would be an uphill battle. However, 2024 may be the first time this change could happen.


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