An essay I’ve written for the op-ed pages of the Allentown Morning Call. It should appear in the next week or so.
By Bob Quarteroni
Just when I thought we had finally shot down the idea of allowing Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania, the corpse appears to have a little life left in it.
The effort to revive Sunday hunting is being led by a group that seem to be channeling Donald Trump when it comes to slipperiness with the facts.
Talk about parsing the truth! Hunters United for Sunday Hunting has NOT called for repealing the Sunday hunting ban. No, they just want to expand the list of species that can be hunted on Sunday to groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, raccoons and waterfowl.
Color me dumb but how is that NOT Sunday hunting? Especially since state hunters are already allowed to go after foxes, crows and coyotes on Sundays?
As expected, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which will do anything to stop the decline in hunting license sales, immediately reaffirmed its support of legislative action that would allow for expanded Sunday hunting.
The resolution is at least the third the Board of Game Commissioners has adopted over the years in support of expanded Sunday hunting.
Happily, the Game Commission can’t pull the trigger here: It doesn’t have the authority.
Instead it’s up to the state legislature and a gun happy rep who introduced House Bill 71 in January 2017 which proposes a nifty back pass: Part of a summary reads: “An Act…providing for regulation of Sunday hunting by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.”
Luckily, this baby has been languishing in a House committee since then as there are still a few sensible folks in government.
But it does have its proponents, arguing, with no proof, that Sunday hunting would recruit more young hunters and bring in additional dollars to the Game Commission.
And its backed by the all-too-powerful National Rifle Association which said: “Allowing hunting on Sundays would undoubtedly invigorate essential hunter recruitment and retention efforts — key factors in preserving Pennsylvania’s hunting heritage for future generations to come.”
With all that excitement, you would assume people are clamoring wildly for Sunday hunting.
And you would be wrong.
People and organizations from all spectrums of life oppose it. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau opposes it. Trail-riding, hiking and bird-watching clubs oppose it. People who just want to wander the sylvan woods one day a week without the fear of being shot at oppose it.
And, according to the Game Commission itself, not even a lot of hunters want it,
Last year, the Commission sent out surveys to 4,000 hunting license owners.
Among the 2,002 hunters who responded to the survey, only 40 percent replied that they “strongly support” Sunday hunting, versus 31 percent, who are “strongly opposed.”
If you add in the 13 percent who “support” hunting and the 9 percent who “oppose” it you wind up with 53 percent in favor versus 40 percent opposed. And all of them are hunters.
Not exactly a mandate.
As P.J. Reilly said in Lancaster Online, “What would the numbers look like if someone surveyed the general population on this issue?”
Luckily, someone has. And it turns out state wildlife watchers outnumber hunters by more than 3 to 1. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as reported by Humanepa.org, “Thirty-seven percent of Pennsylvanians are wildlife watchers, while hunters make up only 11 percent of the state’s population. Many of them, along with hikers, birders, horseback riders, bikers, photographers, and others who enjoy the outdoors, often choose to venture out only on Sundays when there are no hunters in the woods, for safety reasons.”
Isn’t that the truth. That one quiet day of the week is to be cherished, not sold down the river so the Game Commission can stay afloat a little longer.
In Virginia the Sunday hunting ban has existed for more than 200 years. And it has been in the lawbooks since 1903, as a “day of rest for all species.”
Perfect policy, perfectly phrased.