Hearings on Sunday Hunting
Director asks the General Assembly to approve Sunday hunting.
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Vern Ross today delivered the following prepared statement at a House Game and Fisheries Committee hearing on House Bill 904, sponsored by Rep. Edward G. Staback (D-Lackawanna). Rep. Staback, House Game and Fisheries Committee Democratic chairman, introduced the bill to remove the current prohibition in state law for Sunday hunting, which would authorize the Game Commission to establish what species may be hunted on Sundays. Rep. Bruce Smith (R-York) serves as the House Game and Fisheries Committee Republican chairman.
“Good morning, Chairman Smith, Chairman Staback and members of the Committee,” Ross said. “It’s a pleasure to be here and we appreciate the opportunity to comment on HB 904.
“On Oct. 15, 2004, we were asked by Chairman Staback to comment on HB 2779, similar legislation that he sponsored last session. At that time, I responded to him in the following manner:
“The Game Commission has been using the following position statement when asked to comment on the issue of Sunday hunting: ‘The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not oppose legislation to legalize Sunday hunting. Our Board of Game Commissioners is split — some supporting and others opposing — on this issue, which reflects the current difference of opinion held by many in the General Assembly and the public at large. Over the years, the Game Commission has surveyed hunters on this issue. Traditionally, they have been split 50-50 but support seems to be increasing in recent years particularly among younger hunters. The whole issue of Sunday hunting is a matter that must be decided by the Legislature, landowners, hunters and citizens of the Commonwealth. If the legislation is enacted, the agency will seek to implement Sunday hunting when and where appropriate.’
How about the PGC support that which it should, a law that says “It is unlawful to restrict hunting based solely on day of week.”
“We recognize that HB 2779 takes a slightly different tack and gives greater regulatory authority regarding seasons, including Sundays, to the Game Commission. This concept is very intriguing and warrants much greater discussion and consideration. As a broad statement of philosophy, I can say that anytime the General Assembly wants to give greater authority to the Game Commission, that we would welcome that responsibility.
“Mr. Chairman, after talking this over with staff and Commissioners, I can say that we would welcome the authority HB 904 would give to the Commission. We feel that with input from our biologists, the public and thoughtful consideration by our Commissioners that we can make all decisions regarding seasons and bag limits including what species could possibly be hunted on Sundays and which species may not be appropriate to hunt on that day.
“Again, our position is that anytime the General Assembly wants to give greater authority to the Game Commission, we would welcome that responsibility.
“Although we need to think about what impact Sunday hunting would have on our Farm-Game, Forest-Game and Safety Zone programs, in which we have several million acres of private lands signed up to provide public hunting and trapping opportunities. Many of these landowners have said that if Sunday hunting is approved they will leave the program and post their land. I would like to point out that nothing in HB 904 would change the fact that the landowner has control over who hunts on his or her land and when they hunt. Landowner control of private property remains exactly as it is today.
“On a positive note, with additional time given to hunters, we may see an increase in license sales such as we’ve seen with muzzleloader sales in the past few years. Also increased opportunities may help with retaining the hunters we currently have and should further our efforts at recruiting new hunters.
“Lastly, let’s not forget that hunting in Pennsylvania is big business. The latest study done by Southwick Associates within the past couple of months shows that there were $1.16 billion in retail sales in 2001 with a total impact to our economy of more than $2.28 billion.
“In his letter to me, Chairman Staback had some kind words to say concerning our national reputation as leaders in wildlife management throughout the United States. We will continue to strive to be a leader among wildlife agencies nationwide, and with support from people like you on this committee, we believe it is possible to remain a respected leader in the field of wildlife management for years to come.”