An issue that’s boiling over in Pennsylvania is not only pitting some hunters against other hunters, but it’s also aligning some sportsmen with agricultural interests with a long-avowed nemesis—the anti-hunting behemoth known as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
In late June, a historic resolution approved by the Pennsylvania Game Commission called for an end to the long-standing ban on Sunday hunting and supported the introduction of legislation (HB 1760) that would lead to the reversal of the restriction that has stood—literally—since colonial times.
The move by the commission was generally praised Keystone State sportsmen, as well as by a coalition of hunting and conservation groups led by the National Shooting Sport Foundation.
The passage of HB 1760 would shift the authority to regulate Sunday hunting from the General Assembly, where it currently resides, to the Game Commission. The Pennsylvania House Game and Fisheries Committee has scheduled a second hearing on the bill for September 15, 2011.
In recent weeks, rhetoric both for and against the measure has intensified, with the state’s largest agricultural organization, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, leading the opposition, surprising many observers with its unwavering resistance.
On the other hand, it’s no surprise to sportsmen to see the nation’s largest and most active anti-hunting organization, the HSUS, leading the animal rights side on the Sunday hunting issue. What's truly disturbing, though, is to see both factions—agriculture and animal rights—fighting side-by-side, in an effort to restrict hunting rights.
“It is really easy to understand why HSUS opposes House Bill 1760,” said Rob Sexton of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. “They know that hunting on Sunday will strengthen the future of hunting by allowing families a day to be in the field together when work or school does not compete.
“But it is not easy at all to understand why the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is on the same side,” Sexton went on. “In fact it makes no sense at all. Hunters and farmers should be on the same side. We are natural allies.”
Currently 11 states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia—have some type of Sunday hunting restriction or prohibition dating back to “blue laws” originally enacted in the 1700s.
The Sunday Hunting Coalition is comprised of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Rifle Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Archery Trade Association, Boone and Crockett Club, Cabela’s, Delta Waterfowl, Mule Deer Foundation, National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Quality Deer Management Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and the Wildlife Management Institute.