by Brian McCombie - Monday, March 15, 2021
Last fall, Pennsylvania hunters had the chance to do something they’d been forbidden to do for over 100 years: Hunt on Sunday. The hunt opportunities were, admittedly, rather limited and represented a trial run of sorts. But the NRA-supported Sunday hunting was so successful that 2021 hunting season likely will see expanded opportunities.
“Lifting the ban on Sunday hunting is really about the freedom to hunt,” said Erica Tergeson, Director of Hunting Policy for NRA-ILA. “Hunting on Sunday is no different than hunting on any other day of the week. All of the same laws and regulations apply, and there's absolutely zero evidence that because an individual is hunting on a Sunday, rather than a Saturday or any other day of the week, that he or she will do something unlawful.”
She added, “Many in government forget that hunting also provides much-needed protein and a number of meals for families struggling to make ends meet. This is especially true for working families who may only have Sunday available to hunt.”
Last year, the Pennsylvania Legislature allotted three Sundays for hunting: Nov. 15, 2020, for archery deer; Nov. 22, 2020, for bear hunting: and Nov. 29, 2020, for rifle deer season.
As the Reading Eagle noted, “Sunday hunting had been prohibited in Pennsylvania since the 19th century—though crows, foxes and coyotes are an exception to the rule. The commonwealth was one of only 11 states with statutes that either ban or restrict hunting on Sundays.”
Sunday hunting was banned over what is termed “blue laws.” A holdover from Colonial America, blue laws were designed to encourage Christian worship on Sundays. Stores and taverns, for example, were closed on Sundays throughout much of Colonial New England. Work, various leisure activities and hunting also were banned or frowned upon by the larger society. When Colonial America became the United States, many of the states included the blue laws in their legal statutes.
But over the last decade, Pennsylvania hunters and conservation organizations and the NRA began working to make Sunday hunting a reality. With a decline in hunter numbers, Sunday hunting was and is seen as a way to attract more people into the hunting fold.
As Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) spokesperson Ken Lau told the Tri-County Independent in 2020, “It's important that we provide hunters with these opportunities. There is so much competition for people's time these days, especially with jobs and school. Giving folks a chance to get out on Sunday can make a difference.”
To his point, Tergeson added, “With work, family obligations and the hectic schedules of most Americans, it's unfair to ban hunting on Sundays and it turns hunters into second-class citizens. For many people, Sunday is the only day they have available to hunt.”
As NRA Publications reported when Pennsylvania’s Sunday hunting was approved for 2020,
NRA-ILA worked with a core group of legislators who overcame countless roadblocks. The bipartisan effort was spearheaded by Pennsylvania legislators Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49th), Sen. Jim Brewster (D-45th) and Rep. Bill Kortz (D-38th). In February 2020, the three were honored for their efforts on behalf of Pennsylvania hunters with the NRA’s first-ever “NRA-ILA Defender of Hunting” award, presented by Pennsylvania State Director for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) David Weber and Tergeson at the 2020 NRA Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg. In the end, their collective hard work paid great dividends for hunters strapped for time to get afield.
According to NRA-ILA, the PGC has given preliminary approval to expand Sunday hunting in 2021. Sunday hunting again would be restricted to three separate Sundays, but the PGC is exploring adding game species to two of the three Sunday hunting dates. Hunters also would be allowed to pursue several small game species including pheasant, rabbit, grouse and squirrel among other species. The PGC will meet in April and make its final decision.
About the Author
NRAHLF.org contributor Brian McCombie is a field editor for the NRA’s American Hunter and writes about firearms and gear for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated website. He is a member of the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Brian likes hunting hogs, shooting 1911s chambered in 10 mm and .45 ACP, watching the Chicago Bears and relaxing with his two cats, Peanut Morgan and Simon.
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