A legislative fight may be looming on an issue near and dear to many rural Pennsylvanians’ hearts: hunting on Sundays.
A bill that could allow Sunday hunting has passed through the Senate’s Game and Fisheries Committee and is awaiting consideration before the full chamber.
The hunting restriction is one two so-called “blue laws” that remain on the books in Pennsylvania — measures rooted in religious tradition that ban certain Sunday activities. The other prohibits buying and selling cars.
But Mark O’Neill, a spokesman for the state Farm Bureau, said farmers support the Sunday hunting ban these days for a different reason.
“Having one day of peace and quiet on the farm shouldn’t really be too much to ask,” he said.
Many Pennsylvanians hunt on private land — often, farmland. O’Neill said many farmers have good relationships with hunters, but they still want a day of respite. And he noted, they’re not the only ones.
“Hikers, bikers, motorcyclists, ATV users, orienteers … there are a lot of people who want to use the outdoors on Sunday and not necessarily come in contact with a lot of hunters,” he said.
The issue isn’t a partisan one. Instead, it divides lawmakers based on how they think rural land should be best used.
Bill sponsor Dan Laughlin, an Erie Republican who chairs the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, said he thinks it makes sense to give hunters flexibility.
“With my own children, a lot of times on the weekend, the only day that we would have had available to us to go out and spend some time in the outdoors would have been Sunday,” he said.
Other Sunday hunting proponents argue Pennsylvania is losing hunting business to states who don’t limit the activity on weekends, like New York.
Laughlin’s measure wouldn’t necessarily open every Sunday during hunting season. It would leave that decision to the state Game Commission.