Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ushered in a new era today in the Keystone State when he signed into law a bill that will allow pursuit of deer and other species on three Sundays starting in the 2020-21 season.
Senate Bill 147, sponsored by Sen. Dan Laughlin of Erie, won approval by wide margins twice in the Senate and once in the House en route to Wolf’s desk.
“The Pennsylvania Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers would like to thank Governor Wolf for signing the Sunday hunting bill into law in support of the needs of today’s sportsmen and women,” Chapter President Nate Fronk said. “BHA stands for access to hunting and fishing for all. Tearing down the ‘No Hunting Sign’ on even just three Sundays does a great deal to increase opportunities for hunters throughout Pennsylvania.”
While efforts to legalize Sunday hunting have a long history, the Pennsylvania chapter of BHA drove a pivotal stake in the ground in March 2018 when it published a statement opposing the ban and calling on members to engage with their elected officials on the issue.
“There is much to be thankful for today in Pennsylvania!” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “High praise for those hunters and anglers who worked unwaveringly to get this over the finish line. The repeal of the all-out ban on Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania bodes well for others trying to expand opportunity in states like North Carolina.”
The law allows for one Sunday during the firearm deer season, one during the archery deer season and a third Sunday to be determined by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Hunting on Sunday was previously limited to coyotes, foxes and crows. In its original form, the bill entirely removed Pennsylvania’s prohibition on Sunday hunting and would have allowed the Pennsylvania Game Commission to manage hunting seven days a week.
“I am excited for this historic opportunity for the hunters of Pennsylvania,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “Having time is a major driver in hunters being able to hunt. Allowing additional Sunday hunting opportunities will help so many of our hunters.”
Burhans added that the law also bolsters landowner rights. “The provisions in this bill will go a long way toward protecting landowners against trespass,” he said.
Provisions via amendment in the House include:
- Hunters must have written permission to hunt on private land on Sunday.
- Waiver of trespassing violations for those who go on private property to retrieve a hunting dog.
- Allows for the game commission to call on local police to help enforce trespassing rules.
- Delay of the law’s effective date by at least three months from final approval.
As SB 147 moved through the legislature, the Pennsylvania Chapter called on BHA members to engage their elected officials several times, and members answered the call.
“BHA was fortunate to be part of a diverse group of partners working together to bring this bill to fruition,” said BHA Regional Manager Chris Hennessey. “Conservation organizations, legislators and hunters came together to make this happen for the future of our sport. I think many of us working in conservation here feel energized and empowered by that unity and we plan to retain that momentum as we take up other issues affecting hunters and anglers.”