2 state legislators hear from proponents of Sunday hunting at Penn State New Kensington event
About 30 residents gathered at Penn State New Kensington on Sunday to learn more about a bill being considered in the state Legislature that would allow hunting on Sundays during hunting season.
Most, if not all, of those in attendance were already in favor of such a change, but wanted to show support to the grassroots group holding the event called Hunters United for Sunday Hunting (HUSH).
“They’re preaching to the choir,” said Dave Bayne, of New Kensington. “I’ve been working on this for years.”
Harold Daub, HUSH executive director, spoke about the bill along with State Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, and Tom Fazi, director for the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s southwest region office.
The state Senate Game and Fisheries Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow limited Sunday hunting . The bill must go to the full Senate for a vote and then to the state House for approval before being sent to Gov. Tom Wolf.
Brewster said the committee vote was a “major step forward” because they’ve never been able to get this kind of bill out of committee.
The legislation calls not just for hunting on some Sundays, but transferring the decision-making process for which days are open for hunting from the General Assembly to the Game Commission. Currently, state law makes the Legislature solely responsible for deciding which days of the week can be used for hunting.
Daub said the main purpose of Sunday’s meeting was to inform residents about the bill and encourage them to reach out to their state senators and state representatives to show their support.
He said Pennsylvania is one of only three states that still prohibits hunting on Sunday. He said many people leave Pennsylvania to travel to West Virginia or Ohio to hunt, which leads to a loss of revenue and sportsmanship in the state.
“This organization is about removing this prohibition, and getting it to the Game Commission and then letting that process work,” he said.
Fazi said the Game Commission has a responsibility to listen to all sides and look out for hunters — as well as residents who like to enjoy wildlife in other ways such as hiking and biking.
“People love wildlife, but not all people are hunters,” he said.
That can be a tough spot for the commission though, which Fazi said is significantly funded by hunting license fees as well as federal tax revenue from the sale of guns and ammunition. The Game Commission does not receive any money from the state budget.
Kortz, a retired steelworker, had to work many six-day weeks. Oftentimes he was left with only Sundays as his day off, which is a common complaint from those who are behind Sunday hunting.
With today’s busy world, many can’t find the time to teach the sport to their children and grandchildren because all of their days, besides Sunday, are already filled up with other activities, work and school.
“I take it very personally,” Kortz said. “I missed a lot of first (hunting) days with my boys.”
Supporters of Sunday hunting say that the measure under consideration doesn’t open every Sunday to hunting. They feel it’s necessary to secure the future not just of hunting but of conservation in general. A maximum of 14 Sundays out of the year could be opened up for hunting.
The change would still allow private landowners to make the choice for themselves of whether to allow hunters on their property, but public game lands, owned by the game commission , would open up for hunting on those 14 Sundays.
Delmont resident Kathi Ponzetti feels passionately about the role of hunting in the ecosystem. She recalls seeing photos as a child of deer starving to death after reading a story about deer hunting being limited elsewhere.
“I never apologize for hunting,” she said.
Aside from hunting for food, she said she just enjoys being in the woods and experiencing all nature has to offer. She said often times the chase is more exciting than the kill.
“If I just hear a gobbler, the hair stands up on my neck,” she said.
Keystone Trails Association, a group representing trail owners, users and conservation groups, as well as the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau have opposed the legislation.
No one spoke in opposition of the bill during Sunday’s event.
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter @emilybalser.