It’s official: Expanded Sunday hunting is coming to Pennsylvania in 2020.
Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 147, which permits additional hunting on three Sundays per calendar year — one within the archery deer season, one within the firearms deer season and one selected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The law will take effect Feb. 25, 2020, and the first new Sunday hunting opportunities will be identified by the PGC thereafter.
In Pennsylvania, Sunday hunting generally is limited to the hunting of foxes, coyotes, crows and feral hogs during open seasons.
Introduced by state Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, Senate Bill 147 passed the state House of Representatives by a 144-54 vote Oct. 29, then passed the state Senate by a 38-11 vote Nov. 18.
PGC Executive Director Bryan Burhans said Wednesday’s signing of Senate Bill 147 by Gov. Wolf is a win for Pennsylvania’s hunters.
“People today tend to lead busy lives, and hunters are no exception,” Burhans said. “No matter how badly a hunter might want to get out and enjoy the outdoors during hunting season, other responsibilities might take priority and make it difficult.
“Providing opportunity to experience hunting on previously closed Sundays has game-changing potential for hunters with tight schedules and, in many cases, will make a difference by enabling those hunters to hunt alongside their children, setting them on a path they’ll follow the rest of their lives,” Burhans said.
“To Sen. Dan Laughlin and to all of those who supported the bill and helped to make it a reality, please accept a heartfelt thank you on behalf of the game commission and hunters statewide.”
Laughlin, Chair of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, said the new law will create opportunities for tens of thousands of working families across Pennsylvania.
“I believe this has been a long time in coming and is truly a tribute to the thousands of hunters and the many organizations who have supported this effort,” he said. “Weekends are essentially the only time that most working men and women can get out into the woods.
“The same could be said for many young people, the ones who represent the future of the sport.
“Lifting the ban will give them increased opportunities to pursue the activity that they love.”
Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, who serves on the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee as minority chair, sees the new law as an important tool in helping to recruit new hunters and keep them active.
“Sunday hunting will boost interest in the sport and open up new opportunities for hunters who are unable to get into the woods on other days of the week,” Brewster said.
“I have been a longtime supporter of adding days when hunters are able to be in the field.
“This law will create access yet provide reasonable protections for farmers and landowners,” he said. “Sunday hunting will allow us to usher in new generations of sportsmen and women to enjoy our woodlands.”
Prior to passing the House of Representatives, Senate Bill 147 was amended to require all hunters on private land on the selected Sundays to carry written permission from the landowner. This requirement does not apply on Sundays when only foxes, coyotes, crows and feral hogs may be hunted.
The bill also gives PGC officers the authority to investigate private-land trespassing complaints and enforce trespassing violations as a primary offense.
Previously, trespassing violations were referred to police unless a Game & Wildlife Code violation also was alleged. Once the new law takes effect, hunting-related private-land trespassing violations will be enforced year-round by the game commission.