Preserve the ban on Sunday hunting in Pa.
June 17 was the first day one can purchase hunting licenses from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
It is an early reminder that hunting season is not that far away. In truth, hunting season has already begun in Harrisburg. Months back, Senate Bill 147 was reported out of the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee. Pennsylvania State Grange opposed it then and we oppose it now.
Advocates for Sunday hunting maintain that we need more licensees and that allowing Sunday hunting in some fashion will dramatically increase the numbers of hunters. It is presented as a father-child time and a new free time opportunity since the rest of the week simply has too much going on.
That is an open question since Sunday has become the new Saturday with soccer practices or recreational games taking over Sundays as well as Saturdays. The bigger question is whether Sunday hunting will make any difference in the downward trend in hunting licenses issued in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
Note these figures from the FY 2019-20 state budget proposal which includes program measures for the state Game Commission. Number of hunting licenses sold:
2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
952,989 943,836 935,767 914,244 885,564 867,853 860,496
A 92,493 drop in licenses over a six-year period should have everyone alarmed. That is a clear danger sign to the future of the Game Commission and to hunting in the Commonwealth.
Sunday hunting simply will not change the direction of this decline. What is needed is a longer-term approach that looks beyond a quick fix to find ways to interest people in hunting.
A better approach is to take a serious look at Pennsylvania and find out why fewer and fewer licenses are sold. Is it a cultural shift away from hunting by the Millennials?
Are guns getting a bad media rap prompting some to choose other activities? Is the almost elimination of gun safety classes through the schools – even if taught after class hours? After all, if kids are not exposed to the proper way to handle firearms, they may simply not become interested in hunting as sport or recreation.
Instead of focusing on adding additional days where hunting can take place, hunting advocates should be taking a deeper look at how to preserve the future of hunting in Pennsylvania. A simple House or Senate Resolution can direct that this attitude analysis be done by one of the several research resources the General Assembly has at its disposal.
Fortunately, House Bill 102 sponsored by Rep. Dave Maloney takes this approach and looks deeper into the why. His legislation recognizes that there is increasing disinterest by our younger population in hunting. One reason is that young people are not familiarized with hunting.
If kids are made aware of hunting through training courses offered in schools after regular hours taught by certified trainers, they will once again become aware of the sport. House Bill 102 is a forward thinking alternative to allowing Sunday hunting. Currently, this legislation passed the PA House of Representatives and was referred to the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee.
Clearly, House Bill 102 is a step in the right direction, but by itself, it is not enough.
The bottom line to this statement is that Pennsylvania should preserve the ban on Sunday hunting and look for other ways to restore hunting’s rightful place in Pennsylvania.
Wayne Campbell is president of the Pennsylvania State Grange (www.pagrange.org. Email him at email@example.com.