Sunday hunting issue to be discussed this week
State reps to meet in East Allen on Thursday for hearing
Gary Blockus, Allentown Morning Call – Sept. 13, 2011
When I came out against the proposal to remove the ban on Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania, I got lambasted in the chat rooms and bulletin boards on a variety of hunting websites, and even from a few outdoors writers across the state who claimed I'm "giving the 'anti's' ammunition."
The anti-hunting community already has enough ammunition, as does the pro-hunting community and the Second Amendment rights community.
A bill is in the works in the state House that would give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to regulate Sunday hunting, which is actually where that power belongs. The Legislature currently has authority on Sunday hunting.
The game commission manages hunting in Pennsylvania. Hunting is a game management tool, one that has proven to be the most effective and efficient when it comes to bringing animal numbers into balance with the health and availability of habitat.
The state House Game and Fisheries Committee is holding its second public hearing on the Sunday hunting issue. It will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at East Allen Township Municipal Building on 5344 Nor-Bath Boulevard in Northampton, and will be carried live online at http://www.repevans.com
beginning at 6:25 p.m.
Rep. John Evans (R-Erie/Crawford), Ed Staback (D-Wayne/Lackawanna) and Marcia Hahn (R-Northampton) and other members of the committee will be on hand to listen to testimony from various stakeholder organizations. While the meeting is public, testimony from the general public will not be taken.
Depending on what groups offer testimony, this could be very interesting. On one hand, hunting organizations such as National Wild Turkey Federation and Quality Deer Management are in favor of eliminating the arcane ban on Sunday hunting. Groups such as Valley Mountain Bikers and the Allentown Hiking Club are a little more leery.
The game commission manages more than 1.4 million acres of land in Pennsylvania that we refer to as State Game Lands, which are managed primarily as wildlife habitat. As far as I'm concerned, the game commission can allow Sunday hunting on the state game lands.
My major area of concern is the potential for hunter-outdoors enthusiast conflict, and that potential is already great in border areas such as the Lehigh County-owned Trexler Nature Preserve and the adjoining State Game Lands 205. Heck, it's even great on SGL 205 where a man was walking his dog — not hunting — right below where my son and I were archery hunting last fall.
People hike, bird watch, mountain bike, horseback ride and picnic in the Trexler Nature Preserve. They also are allowed to archery hunt for deer. While arrows and bolts are not bullets, they still accomplish the same deer-hunting mission, which is to kill deer. Archery hunting's dirty little secret is that deer don't often just drop and die from an arrow. In fact, much of the literature suggests archers who have shot at a deer that did not fall down immediately should take at least 30 minutes or so to check the spot where they shot, and much longer than that to begin tracking the deer.
Say that Sunday hunting goes through. Lehigh County can choose to close Trexler Nature Preserve to Sunday hunting. The problem then becomes the boundary with SGL 205. People can legally hunt there on the border with TNP. Say you're a family out on a hike or bike ride on the perimeter trail on a Sunday and a bleating deer comes staggering through with blood splattered on its sides from where the arrow entered and exited. If you're a hunting family, that doesn't faze you. If you're a non-hunting family, that's a pretty scarring scene. Imagine being the parent of a child witnessing that, and then seeing the hunter successfully track the deer and claim it while your child pleads with you to save the deer.
In the game commission's Wildlife Management Unit 5C, which includes the vast majority of Lehigh County, archery season opens Saturday and does not close until Jan. 28, 2012. During a period when nature is at its most brilliant and beautiful and leaves are turning all kinds of breathtaking colors as autumn gives way to winter, when birds are most visible due to fall migration, Sunday hunting will provide a higher potential for hunter/non-hunter conflict.
But — and here's the big but — we don't know what the game commission plans on doing with Sunday hunting. Will it just be utilized as special Sunday youth hunts? Will it be for all hunting, just small game hunting, all deer hunting or simply firearms deer hunting?
As one archery hunter told me on Sunday, "If they allow hunting on Sunday, I'll feel obligated to go out there and hunt."
That's fine, but let's think about addressing the potential conflicts before they become reality, especially in special regulations areas like WMU 5C, where the deer season is 19 weeks long.