Harrisburg Capitol with flag

HARRISBURG — The state’s controversial ban on Sunday hunting will be addressed today by the House Game and Fisheries committee in a public hearing at 1 p.m. at the Capitol.

The state Senate in June passed legislation to allow Sunday hunting.

The move has been backed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission as a way to encourage more people to either take up or continue hunting. But the idea’s been opposed by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and by hiking groups who like having one day of the week when there is no gunfire in the woods.

Proponents of the move say it’s needed to help stem the decline in the number of hunters. Over the 10-year period ending in 2017, the number of hunters with adult resident licenses dropped 12 percent — from 665,719 in 2007 to 587,640 in 2017, according to Game Commission data.

Pennsylvania is one of just three states — along with Maine and Massachusetts — that bans Sunday hunting.

Harold Daub, executive director for the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists, said that 20 outdoors groups have endorsed the plan to end the ban on Sunday hunting.

Pennsylvania’s Sunday hunting ban dates to 1682 when Pennsylvania was still a British colony, Daub said.

The measure that passed the Senate “is a step forward in removing the 337-year-old antiquated blue law,” he said.

Opponents of the move say that the Sunday ban is needed to give non-hunters an opportunity to enjoy time outside without hearing gunshots.

“Most farmers work every day of the week, but they try to spend more time with their families on Sundays and don’t what to be interrupted by people knocking on their doors at 6:30 in the morning seeking to hunt on their land on Sundays, or listen to gunshots ringing across their property,” said Mark O’Neill, a spokesman for the Farm Bureau.

He added that farmers, who allow people to hunt on their land the rest of the week, appreciate being able to go outside to hike or ride horse, snowmobiles or ATVs without having to worry about encountering hunters.

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

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