Senate bill would allow Pennsylvania Game Commission to decide future of Sunday hunting

Erie Times-News (TNS)
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A state Senate bill has been introduced that would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission, not the state legislators, to determine how many Sundays could be open to hunting.

Senate Bill 607, introduced by Sens. Dan Laughlin, the Game and Fisheries Committee chair, Devlin J. Robinson and James R. Brewster, Game and Fisheries minority chair, would provide the opportunity to hunt on Sundays.

If approved, the Game Commission would be able to institute Sunday hunting by regulation when setting hunting season dates each year.

Last year, the legislature approved three Sundays for hunting. The Game Commission created a Sunday for black bear season, a Sunday for archery deer hunting and a Sunday for rifle deer hunting.

“I haven’t heard any complaints about it,” Laughlin said in a telephone call. By and large, he said, people liked it, especially those who work. He feels it’s helping more hunters find time to be in the woods.

Travis Lau, communications director for the Game Commission, responded through email to questions about the future of Sunday hunting.

“We know license sales increased this past year," he said. "The last numbers I saw were as of the end of April, when 2020-21 general license sales were at 884,105, an increase of more than 3%, or more than 26,000 hunters, compared to 2019-20.

"We’ll still have to see where sales end up since 2020-21 licenses will be on sale through June 30, but sales on the year already are higher than last year’s total of 860,743. That said, the extent to which Sunday hunting played a role in the increase is an issue we are currently researching and don’t yet have the complete picture of.”

Efforts are under way to determine the reasons why more licenses were sold last year. For example, the pandemic created more free time for people to pursue outdoor activities.

“We are conducting two separate surveys this spring/summer to learn more about the impact of the Sunday seasons on license purchases," Lau said. "Obviously, people hunted on these Sundays, and we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about Sunday hunting and often hear comments that people would like more of it.

"From the comments we’ve heard, it seems clear that most hunters will show support for Sen Laughlin’s bill, and the Game Commission supports it as well.”

Sunday hunting will continue this fall with three Sundays being adopted with this year’s seasons. Nov. 14 is during archery deer season, Nov. 21 is during rifle black bear season and Nov. 28 is during rifle deer season.

New this year, on Nov. 14 and 21, hunters are also permitted to hunt other species like squirrel, grouse and rabbit (except migratory game birds and wild turkeys) that are in season on those dates.