Pennsylvania moves to allow deer hunting on three Sundays per year, a substantial increase from the zero Sundays of hunting previously allowed.
Strictly religious Blue Laws have prevented Pennsylvania’s hunters from filling deer tags on Sundays for 200 years. But the tide is changing in one of the most hunter-heavy populations in the country.
The Pennsylvania Senate voted 38-11 in favor of the new law. It moves on to the desk of Governor Tom Wolf, who will likely sign it into law for the 2020 hunting season. The law will provide hunters one Sunday for rifle season, another for archery season, and a final Sunday to be determined by the Pennsylvania Game and Fish Commission.
‘A Step in the Right Direction’ for Hunters
Pennsylvania isn’t the only state with restrictions on Sunday hunts. The Eastern Seaboard still holds onto a vast number of antiquated Blue Laws and states that prohibit Sunday hunting, including Maine and Massachusetts.
But with three Sundays now open, Pennsylvania native and longtime hunter Paul Kemper sees the expanded season as an opportunity for more hunters to engage in a longstanding tradition.
“I don’t think Pennsylvania can rely on its hunting tradition alone to hold onto hunting as it stands today,” Kemper said. “For people who work during the week or have just one or two weekends to hunt, they’ll have more opportunity to fill their tags and feed their families.”
The law also requires that hunters have written permission to hunt private land on Sundays, whereas only verbal permission is necessary the other 6 days per week.
But Pennsylvania also offers some of the more unique state land hunting opportunities in the country. Allegheny National Forest is federal land, but beyond that are many blocks of state land and state forests that number in the hundreds of thousands of acres.
“There’s a big difference between hunting and trespassing, and trespassers are breaking the law,” Kemper said. “Hunting on a Sunday doesn’t change that. Responsible hunters will still legally hunt with permission or on public land, and private landowners can make the determination for themselves as to who and when their property gets hunted.
“This is a step in the right direction to providing more access to hunters across the board.”