Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lawmakers, Farm Bureau at Odds Over Sunday Hunting

Sunday, June 12, 2011
There are probably few issues on which the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Humane Society of the United States are allies.
Sunday hunting is one of them.
Pennsylvania is one of just 11 states nationwide to prohibit — at least partially — hunting on Sundays. Hunters here can pursue coyotes, foxes and crows on the week's seventh day, but all other species are off limits.
That law's been in place since 1873.
Now, though, some lawmakers want to change that. Citing the expected economic benefits of Sunday hunting — which some believe could top $1 billion annually -- state Rep. John Evans, a Crawford County Republican, and Rep. Ed Staback, a Lackawanna County Democrat, are crafting legislation that would remove the prohibition and give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the option to include Sundays in hunting seasons if it chose to do so.
The bill is expected to come forward within the next few weeks.
On Thursday, the first of three public hearings on the issue took place at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. The hearing was hosted by the House of Representatives Game and Fisheries Committee.
The Farm Bureau and Humane Society made it clear they don't like the proposal.
Nila Coga, a Somerset County vegetable grower and member of the Farm Bureau's board of directors, as well as an ordained minister, said farmers view Sundays as their day of "peace and quiet." They don't want to deal with hunters knocking on their doors at 4 and 5 a.m. looking for permission to hunt. That "can be more frustrating than telemarketers calling at dinner time," she said.
If that occurs, many farmers may post their land against hunting completely, she said.
Staback said he's heard those concerns for years. They are the same ones voiced when New York and Ohio allowed Sunday hunting a decade ago, he said.
"And you now what? Not one of those issues they feared ever materialized," Staback said. "Some of the stuff you guys are alluding to is farfetched."
Sarah Speed, state director for the Humane Society of the United States — who denied the organization is anti-hunting, despite its official stance against killing wildlife for "fun or sport" — said that group opposes hunting on Sundays because it's the one day of the week when non-hunters can use the woods without fear of being shot. Sundays are also important to wildlife because they are the one day of rest "they've had and they're used to."
The hearing featured supporters of Sunday hunting, too: the National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation and United States Sportsmen's Alliance. The groups — part of a Sunday Hunting Coalition launched this year to remove the bans on Sunday hunting everywhere — touted the positive impact of adding a weekend day to the hunting schedule for working people and those with children.
"With the ban on hunting on Sundays in place, we are severely limiting our opportunities for recruiting new hunters," said Evan Heusenkveld, director of state services for the Sportsmen's Alliance.
Jake McGuigan of the Shooting Sports Foundation agreed, noting that agencies like the Game Commission rely on license-buying hunters for the money to pay for conservation.
"Where is that funding going to come from in the future if we do not expand opportunities with Sunday hunting?" he asked.
When asked, though, they could not say that legalizing Sunday hunting in other states has directly led to more youth hunters being created.
The issue is controversial, said Evans, majority chairman of the Game and Fisheries Committee. He once opposed Sunday hunting himself, he said. He's changed his mind because of its potential to recruit hunters, create jobs and inject huge amounts of new dollars into the state economy.
That's why he plans to move forward, he said.
"I think there are some pretty compelling arguments for allowing this," he said

Read more: Lawmakers, Farm Bureau at odds over Sunday hunting - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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