Debate on Sunday hunting heats up between state co
Debate on Sunday hunting heats up between state congressmen
By Bob Frye, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Could the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's long-standing opposition to allowing Sunday hunting even public land ultimately restrict it to only private land, like that of its members?
The state House of Representatives is debating House Bill 1760, which would remove the prohibition against Sunday hunting and allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to decide when and if to include Sundays in seasons.
That's left many rural elected officials who typically court farmers and sportsmen in a quandary. How to satisfy one without antagonizing the other?
The answer, according to Rep. Dan Moul, an Adams County Republican, is to legalize Sunday hunting, but only on private property. He will offer an amendment H.B. 1760 to that effect while simultaneously proposing a strengthening of trespass laws if the bill comes up for a vote, he said.
That would give landowners control over what does or doesn't happen on their own land, he said. It would also address fears birdwatchers, hikers and equestrians who can't be on private property without permission, and who would, in the process of asking for it, know whether hunting was also taking place have about safety, he added.
"It's simple. It addresses everyone's arguments. And it provides common ground," Moul said.
Michael Balestra said as much in a paper on the legality of Sunday hunting laws written while a law student at the University of Kentucky in 2008.
"Arguments that landowners wish to have their land to themselves one day per week, or that hikers or other non-hunters should be able to enjoy the outdoors, fall on their face concerning private land. If landowners wish to restrict hunting on Sunday, that is their absolute right. Furthermore, non-landowners have little to complain about on private land, as they have no right to use the land in the first place," he wrote.
Sunday hunting bans will eventually "fall by the wayside," he wrote, predicting that its economic benefits will carry the day. Private land is just a logical place for things to start, he said.
That time might be now, said John Hohenwarter, state liaison for the National Rifle Association, a member of the Sunday Hunting Coalition.
The NRA has not said if it will grade lawmakers on their vote on Sunday hunting, and it's "premature" to say if or when that might change, Hohenwarter said. But he's optimistic lawmakers will get some form of Sunday hunting legislation passed, he said.
"There's been more debate on this the past couple of months than ever, but I think we're eventually going to see something moved to the House floor," he said.