The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved a resolution on Tuesday supporting an end to the state’s statutory prohibition on Sunday hunting. The board’s resolution—the first time in the history of the Game Commission that it has supported Sunday hunting in such a manner—came just hours before state Rep. John Evans (R-Erie/Crawford) introduced legislation that would allow more hunting seasons in Pennsylvania to include Sundays.
“By removing such restrictions and prohibitions, we would be greatly improving access and opportunity for hunters across the Commonwealth at a time when our great hunting and sporting traditions are in jeopardy due to declining numbers and limited access,” said Evans, who chairs the House Game and Fisheries Committee. “My proposal would not mandate hunting on the 52 Sundays in the year, but merely would allow the Game Commission to include Sundays as part of regular hunting seasons.”
Pennsylvania is one of only 11 states that continue to restrict or prohibit hunting on Sundays. Pennsylvania’s prohibition on Sunday hunting dates back to 1873 and serves as a barrier to recruiting new hunters and retaining existing hunters. Currently, only coyotes, crows and foxes are permitted to be hunted on Sundays.
Evans’ bill, HB 1760, is being supported by the Sunday Hunting Coalition—a multi-organization coalition of leading conservation, sportsmen’s, and hunting groups committed to removing bans and restrictions on Sunday hunting. In addition to the NRA, members of the coalition include the Archery Trade Association, Boone and Crockett Club, Cabela’s, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Delta Waterfowl, National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, and the Wildlife Management Institute.
HB 1760 has been referred to the House Game and Fisheries Committee.
Research shows that allowing Sunday hunting would be a huge economic boost for Pennsylvania. Every day that hunters are in the field they spend money on gasoline, food, lodging and the dozens of other incidentals that go along with a day’s hunt.
According to one study from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the ripple effect of Sunday hunting could mean as much as $764 million in economic activity in the state each year and create more than 8,000 jobs. Another study conducted in 2005 by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee found that Sunday hunting would have an economic impact of up to $629 million and add 5,300 new jobs.
“It’s estimated the average hunter would spend nearly five more days a year in the woods if Sunday hunting was permitted,” said Evans. “Participation is expected to increase 25 percent, and could have a benefit of drawing more out-of-state hunters.”
In its decision to support Sunday hunting, the Game Commission cited consistent declines in hunting participation by both resident and non-resident hunters over the past several decades that translate into fewer licenses sold. The number of licenses issued annually has decreased from 1.1 million in 1990 to 927,655 in 2009. Allowing Sunday hunting would help reverse that decline by increasing weekend hunting opportunities for working adults and school-age children.
The vote on the resolution, which was proposed by Game Commissioner Jay Delaney Jr. and seconded by Game Commissioner Ralph A. Martone, passed 4-3, with one abstention. Those voting in support of the resolution were Game Commissioners Delaney, Martone, David J. Putnam and Robert W. Schlemmer. Those voting in opposition were Game Commissioners Thomas E. Boop, David W. Schreffler and Ronald A. Weaner. Game Commissioner Gregory J. Isabella abstained.
Game Commission staff will present the resolution to the House Game and Fisheries Committee, which has been holding public hearings on the topic of Sunday hunting, including one in Somerset County on June 9. Two additional public hearings are planned later in the summer for central and eastern Pennsylvania.
The text of the resolution is as follows:
“The Board of Commissioners for the Pennsylvania Game Commission declares its support for a repeal of prohibitions on Sunday hunting by the amending of Title 34 (Game) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues in Hunting and Trapping.
“Whereas, Pennsylvania has experienced consistent declines in hunting participation by both resident and non-resident hunters over the past several decades, with both the number of license sold and revenues generated experiencing steady declines, and
“Whereas, youth participation is vital to maintaining the long-standing tradition of hunting in Pennsylvania, we can effectively double the number of hunting days for youths during the school year by offering Sunday hunting, and
“Whereas, Sunday hunting is an effective means of recruiting new hunters and retaining current hunters by increasing the value of the hunting license through offering additional opportunities to spend time in the field, and
“Whereas, many Pennsylvania residents seek hunting opportunities and hunting leases in neighboring states that offer Sunday hunting; Sunday hunting will keep Pennsylvania hunters in Pennsylvania, and
“Whereas Pennsylvania has a long-standing tradition of hunting camps and clubs, Sunday hunting will effectively double the number of hunting days for camp owners and club members, and
“Whereas, Sunday hunting is expected to generate a substantial increase in out-of-state license sales and the accompanying revenue for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and
“Whereas, hunting license sales and their associated federal matching funds are the primary revenue source for the Pennsylvania Game Commission in carrying out its mission, including maintaining 1.5 million acres of state game lands and acquisition of additional public lands, research and management of wildlife and providing information and education to the public, and
“Whereas, Sunday hunting will provide substantial economic benefits to rural areas and businesses by increasing money spent by hunters on lodging, food, gas and other incidental items, and
“Whereas, Sunday hunting is expected to generate $629 million in additional spending and create 5,300 new jobs, resulting in $18 million in additional sales and income tax, and
“Whereas, the mission of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is to manage wildlife and its habitat for current and future generations, and
“Whereas, Sunday hunting, which is currently permitted to control a growing population of coyotes, will provide the biologists of the Pennsylvania Game Commission a new tool to manage wildlife populations, and
“Whereas, the forty-three states that currently permit Sunday hunting have not experienced any discernable impact on the health or vibrancy of game populations, and
“Whereas, the Board of Commissioners recognizes the authority to permit Sunday hunting lies entirely with the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, and
“Whereas, if the General Assembly repeals the restrictions on Sunday hunting thus giving authority to regulate Sunday hunting to the Board of Commissioners, the Board recognizes the many stakeholder groups any action on Sunday hunting will effect and will endeavor to engage these stakeholders before passing any new regulations in regard to Sunday hunting.
“NOW, THEREFOR, we the Board of Commissioners for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, do hereby urge the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to REPEAL the PROHIBITION ON SUNDAY HUNTING IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA.”