(AP) A proposal to allow limited hunting in Pennsylvania on Sundays ran into opposition during an information hearing on Sept. 10 and a key committee chairman said its final passage in the state House was in doubt.
After a contentious informational hearing in the Capitol, Game and Fisheries Committee Chairman Keith Gillespie said supporters will need to engage in some "damage control'' if they hope to see the bill enacted.
Representatives of hunting organizations and the National Rifle Association spoke in favor of the measure, which would permit hunting on one Sunday during deer rifle season, one during deer archery season, and on a third Sunday to be designated by the Game Commission.
Pennsylvania has banned Sunday hunting since the 19th century, although there are currently exceptions for crows, foxes and coyotes, and for noncommercial private game reserves.
The bill, touted as a way to make it easier for younger people and those who work during the week to hunt, passed the state Senate comfortably in June. It would also toughen trespassing laws.
Representatives from the Keystone Trials Association and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau told lawmakers they are opposed. Hikers don't want to lose three Sundays a year when they know there will not be hunters in the woods, and Farm Bureau members say even stronger provisions against trespassing are needed before they will be neutral on the bill.
Darrin Youker, a Farm Bureau lobbyist, told the committee the proposal should include a requirement that anyone hunting on Sundays have with them written permission from the landowner -- although that requirement would not be in place for the other six days of the week. He said there is support from among his group's farmers to maintain Pennsylvania's tradition of a one-day-a-week break from hunting pressure.
The 20 organizations within the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists have all endorsed the Sunday hunting legislation, according to its executive director, Harold Daub. Daub took aim at the Farm Bureau, saying farmers should not be dictating landowner rights, and told lawmakers a main argument against the change is a feeling that people should be in church on Sundays.
"While many of us agree that people should be in church, few of us want lawmakers infringing on our religious freedom,'' Daub said.
Hikers, he said, routinely go into the woods during hunting season on the other six days of the week, including on state game lands.
Gillespie, R-York, said his survey of residents in his district indicate a majority are opposed. He said after the hearing that it's unclear whether the committee will vote on the bill as scheduled later this month.