The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 26, 2013

Bill takes aim at Sunday hunting ban

John Finnerty
CNHI State Reporter

HARRISBURG — While the push to open up Sunday hunting is stalled over opposition from farm groups, Rep. Greg Lucas has proposed a bill that will give hunters one more option on the first day of the week.

Lucas’ bill would allow commercial hunting grounds to do business on Sunday.

“Forcing these Pennsylvania businesses to shut down one day a week at a time when we need all the jobs and economic activity we can get seems counterproductive,” said Lucas, R-Crawford. “If regulated commercial hunting grounds want to operate on Sundays and hunters want to go there on Sundays, my bill would allow them to do so.”

But in the tradition-rich world of hunting, even such a modest reform is not greeted with universal enthusiasm. The notion would allow preserves to open their doors on an extra weekend day, a prospective financial boon. But two operators of hunting preserves contacted Thursday said they oppose the idea.

“We don’t prefer that,” said Chris Lenker, farm manager at Martz’s Gap View Hunting Preserve, a 1,300-acre hunting ground for pheasants and partridge in Dalmatia, Northumberland County. Officials at Martz’s would rather remain closed on Sunday. But if the state legalized Sunday hunting on preserves, operators would feel obligated to be open in order to be competitive, he said.

“Sunday should be a day of rest, even for game,” said David Showers, owner of Dry Valley Farm in Winfield, Union County, which also offers pheasant and partridge hunting.

There are 86 commercial regulated hunting grounds and 233 private regulated hunting grounds in Pennsylvania, said Travis Lau, a spokesman with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Commercial grounds are open to the public for a fee, and the facilities typically charge either per bird, or for a package providing the right to a number of birds.

Noncommercial hunting grounds are basically private clubs that are not open to the public.

The ambivalence of the hunting preserve operators is typical of the overall debate over Sunday hunting, said Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, the Democratic chairman of the House Game and Fisheries committee.

While many hunters would like more Sunday hunting opportunity, there are many hunters who like the status quo. The farming industry has actively opposed Sunday hunting on private lands, Haluska said. The objections to Sunday hunting on private land have also derailed efforts to get it approved on public lands. Haluska said it would be too difficult to determine if hunters are on property that’s open or closed to hunting.