Pennsylvania Farm Bureau members have historically kept organization policy restricting Sunday hunting. Our stance on Sunday hunting has been developed by our members, through a robust policy development process. Membership input on this, and other issues, determines the position that our organization takes. Farmers have several concerns over Sunday hunting, but chief among them is trespass by hunters. Laws dealing with trespassing while hunting are weak in Pennsylvania. But even if those laws were strengthened, there simply is not the personnel in rural areas for effective enforcement of trespass violations. Many farm families want to enjoy their land with their families on Sundays. Since hunting happens mostly on private land, it’s reasonable to allow farm families one day without having to worry about hunters lawfully, or illegally, hunting on their land. Bottom line, our members already deal with numerous trespassing problems, and they believe Sunday hunting will only exacerbate the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s position on Sunday hunting?
Like every issue we advocate for, our policy positions are determined by the men and women who work in Pennsylvania agriculture. This is not a static process as our members frequently debate the merits over certain issues, including Sunday hunting. We are opposed to Sunday hunting. However, our members have established a set of criteria that would allow our organization to stay neutral in the debate. Those criteria include strong and enforceable laws that serve as an adequate deterrent to trespassing; hunting on private property with written permission only and Sunday hunting for deer during certain days of hunting seasons. There are several bills before the General Assembly about Sunday hunting, notably Senate Bill 147. None of them fulfil Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s policy statements, and we stand opposed.
Will Strengthening Trespassing Laws Help?
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau would like to see the issue of making hunting related trespassing laws stronger happen outside of the debate over Sunday hunting. Unfortunately, lawmakers have tied the two issues together—such as with SB 147. Our farmers fear that this bill will bring about hunting pressure seven days a week, with trespassing laws that are only strong on paper. It’s no secret that our Pennsylvania Game Commission staff is stretched thin, due in large part because the agency has not received a license increase. We believe a better course of action would be to strengthen trespassing laws and see if that has an impact on reducing the number of problems that occur during hunting season before moving ahead with any debate over Sunday hunting.
Can’t Farmers Simply Post Their Property?
Any landowner can post their property. But we can’t assume that posting property will magically solve the issue of trespassing. Trespassing happens regardless of whether land is posted or not. For landowners who support hunting, but don’t want Sunday hunting, what are they left to do? Maybe it should be left up to landowners who want Sunday hunting to have to put up signs saying Sunday Hunting Welcome Here. The bottom line is that our farmers support hunting, but have had problems through the years with people abusing their privileges on private property, such as leaving gates open, leaving litter behind or not respecting safety zones. Many farmers appreciate a one-day restriction on hunting as it strikes a balance between supporting hunting while still being able to enjoy their property.
But won’t Sunday hunting give more opportunity for hunting?
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is concerned about the decline of hunters and the need to attract youth to the support. That is why we have policy positions to either expand the length of hunting seasons, or carve out more hunting opportunities for our youth. Most importantly, these changes DO NOT require approval by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and can simply be enacted by the Game Commission during the establishment of seasons and bag limits. Over the years, we have advocated for adding days to the hunting calendar with the goal of finding more opportunity for hunting. If the goal of hunters is to expand hunting in Pennsylvania, we believe these measures are more realistic, and can be done without any legislative action.
- An October rifle antlerless deer season.
- Antler and antlerless deer season be extended by one week, allowing more hunting time and more harvest of deer, without Sunday hunting.
- A concurrent season for antlered and antlerless deer.
- Deer season open on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.
- Statewide concurrent deer and bear seasons.
- Establishing a second youth deer season on the Friday and/or Saturday after Thanksgiving.
- The Game Commission offer free DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program) permits to youth hunters.
Wouldn’t Sunday Hunting Attract More Hunters?
Proponents have argued that Sunday hunting will attract more hunters. But based on the experience of surrounding states, the facts don’t add up. In New York, Sunday hunting was opened in 2001. That year, there were 694,815 license holders. In 2017, there were 572,992. Ohio allowed Sunday hunting in 2002, when there were 426,856 licensed hunters. Now, there are 394,598. Virginia opened Sunday hunting in 2014, when there were 292,863 licensed hunters. In 2017, 277,281 hunters purchased licenses. Adding Sundays will not solve the problem of attracting and retaining hunters. (Hunting data obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). We are aware that the Pennsylvania Game Commission supports Sunday hunting. But we hope they have a multi-pronged approach to hunter recruitment and retention because the data suggests that adding Sunday hunting will not solve the problem.
What About the Impact On Public Recreation?
To understand why farmers, along with others who enjoy outdoor recreation, are so concerned about Sunday hunting, it’s important to consider several factors about hunting in Pennsylvania. First, Pennsylvania has the most hunters in the country, second to only Texas. Second, Pennsylvania has the highest hunter density numbers in the country. Our hunting season runs from September through May. Many of those seasons overlap with popular days for other outdoor recreation pursuits. We have an abundance of fantastic park and forest land that is open for hunting and other types of outdoor recreation. A restriction on Sunday hunting makes it easier to share that space.