The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 24, 2013

Scoping out middle ground | Sunday hunting compromise possible?

JOHNSTOWN — A simmering battle to overturn Pennsylvania’s long-standing ban on Sunday hunting may be decided by a federal judge.

Hunters United for Sunday Hunting (HUSH) filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Game Commission, claiming hunters face “irreparable loss” of time in the field by not being able to pursue game on Sundays. The game commission enforces the state’s game code, which is set by the state Legislature.

On its website, HUSH (www.huntsunday.com) states that Pennsylvania recruits only 68 hunters for every 100 it loses. Time constraints and complications brought on by modern life have made it difficult for hunters to get young hunters out in the field.

“Given that most people work Monday through Friday and children under 18 ... are in school Monday through Friday, Sundays comprise 50 percent of the available time to hunt in Pennsylvania,” the lawsuit states.

And, a legislative study done in 2011 found that Sunday hunting would generate more than

$804 million to the state’s economy. It would be hard to ignore the tax monies that would be generated by adding another day of hunting.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has countered that many of its members want to preserve the ban so people can enjoy the outdoors without running into hunters or hearing gunfire.

A proposal that would have allowed Sunday hunting died two years ago because of opposition from the farm bureau.

Pennsylvania’s ban on Sunday hunting stems from “blue laws,” established in the 1800s to prevent trade and other activities that conflicted with observances of the biblical “day of rest.” By the mid-1980s, only 13 states enforced blue laws. Sunday hunting restrictions remain in nine other states: Maryland, North and South Carolina, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Actually, Pennsylvania does allow Sunday hunting – for wild hogs, crows, foxes and coyotes – and farmers are allowed to harvest deer or elk that are destroying their crops. But HUSH said that violates the constitution’s equal-protection clause.

HUSH also said the ban interferes with hunters’ religious rights and their right to bear arms.

But we believe a compromise could be reached.

Pennsylvania has available for hunting 1.4 million acres in about 300 different state game lands across the state. There also are more than 2 million acres of state forest lands. Why not allow Sunday hunting on those areas only?

Thus, both sides would be appeased. Hunters would be able to pursue game on state-owned lands and farmers and others opposed to Sunday hunting would retain their “day of rest.”

It’s an option that we believe is worth exploring.

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