Officials debate blue laws and Sunday hunting
House Game and Fisheries Committee hearing to discuss Sunday hunting at Seven Springs Resort on Thursday. (Staff photo by Philip Petrunak)
The House Games and Fisheries Committee are considering a change that would allow Pennsylvania’s whitetail deer to be hunted on Sundays.
One of the bill’s largest opponents, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, testified before the House committee Thursday that farmers and private landowners control approximately 80 percent of the state’s huntable land, according to a 2005 survey.
Farm Bureau member Nila Cogan opposes the expansion of Sunday hunting for several reasons, including the preservation of a day of peace and relaxation on her farm, the private use of her own land for recreational purposes and religious beliefs.
Those religious beliefs have once again sparked the debate over blue laws.
Blue laws are designed to enforce religious standards, such as the observance of Sunday as a day of worship and rest.
“I doubt it’s a surprise to you that the church community is very opposed to the expansion of Sunday hunting,” Cogan said before the committee. “In a day and age where Sundays have become just another day of the week, we (Christians) feel like we are losing the battle. The question of Sunday hunting is about more than changing the commonwealth, it’s about changing our way of life.”
John Hohenwarter, the National Rifle Association’s Pennsylvania state liaison, said the religious views of some — even many — should not dictate the laws of everyone.
“It’s personal choice whether you go to church on Sunday,” he said before the committee. “I think you need to keep in mind that there are other religions (besides Christianity) in this state. It’s been determined that Sunday is the day of rest, but that’s not the case for everyone.”
Pennsylvania’s blue laws have played a role in preventing Sunday liquor and car sales.
Joel Rotz, state governmental relations director for the Farm Bureau, said Sunday hunting is different from other forms of blue laws.
“Private landowners are not going to benefit from this change, and they don’t want it,” he said.
Those in favor of Sunday hunting point out double standards involved with blue laws.
Coyote, fox and crow hunting is legal, for example, while hunting for deer and turkey is not. Fishing on Sundays is also legal.
State Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Armstrong/Indiana, said he has not yet decided whether he will vote in favor of the expansion of Sunday hunting.
“I agree that Sunday is a day of rest,” he said. “But why is hiking, biking, or riding quads and motorcycles acceptable on Sundays, but hunting is not?”
The primary sponsor of the bill, majority Chairman state Rep. John R. Evans, R-Erie/Crawford, said farmers who use Red Tags, or crop damage permits for killing deer are hypocritical in their opposition of Sunday hunting.
“Do you understand how some people would question the fact we’re hearing two different stories here?” he asked Rotz. “You’ve said the deer are a problem and crop damage is a problem, yet you’re asking the legislature to not allow more hunting.”
Evans pointed out that farmer’s wishing to restrict Sunday hunting can also post signs reading, “No Sunday Hunting.” The Farm Bureau countered by saying that posting large areas of land is difficult for the Pennsylvania Game Commission to enforce.