Last week, just before Thanksgiving, Governor Wolf signed Senate Bill 147 to give Pennsylvania hunters three new days of Sunday hunting each year. This is a welcome change for those hunters who work a standard business week, go to school, or generally have responsibilities on weekdays who have been relegated to hunting one day per week in the past.
Under current Pennsylvania law, Sunday hunting is generally limited to foxes, coyotes, feral hogs, and crows. SB 147 expands Sunday hunting to one Sunday during rifle deer season, one Sunday during archery deer season, and one Sunday to be chosen by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The Sunday at the choice of the Game Commission is not bound to rifle or archery deer season so we will all have to wait and see how the Game Commission decides to allocate the third Sunday. SB 147 will also require hunters who hunt on private property on Sunday to obtain written permission from the landowner. Failure to obtain that permission will be a summary offense. SB 147 will go into effect 90 days after it was signed, which will be February 25, 2020, so there will not be any new Sunday hunting opportunities this season, or this year.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Pennsylvania is one of only eleven states that regulate Sunday hunting differently than any other day, all of which are eastern or northeastern states. NSSF estimates that lifting the restrictions on Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania could generate up to 4,405 new jobs and the significant additional direct, indirect, and induced economic activity. It is unclear how SB147 will affect that estimate, as it is not the complete lifting of restrictions and prohibitions that NSSF predicts will bring the economic development. However, if the increased hunter turnout for this year’s new Saturday deer season opener is any indication what increasing accessibility to everyone can do for the tradition, then SB147 is a step in the right direction.
This article was written by Dillon Harris, a third-year law student at Vermont Law, and reviewed by Attorney Joshua Prince.