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Deer gather in a snow covered field with a hunting blind in the nearby tree line VladSokolovsky/Getty Images
TIME TO HUNT: Rifle hunting season, the most popular hunting period in Pennsylvania and in other states, will start in late November, but don’t expect to be able to hunt on Sundays this year.

Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania nears legalization

Hunters may still have to wait a year to partake on Sunday due to a new provision in the bill.

If you’re a hunter, you’ve probably heard the news that Sunday hunting is very close to being legalized in Pennsylvania.

This is a big deal in the farming community because not only do many farmers hunt, they also own a lot of the land that other hunters want to use.

But even if it is passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, don’t expect Sunday hunting to be legalized in time for this year’s deer rifle season, which starts the weekend after Thanksgiving.

An amendment to the bill added this week now carries a 90-day provision, which means Sunday hunting will only take effect long after this year’s Thanksgiving and hunting season have passed, according to Mark O’Neill, media and strategic communications coordinator for Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

Under the current bill’s provisions, Sunday hunting will be available on just three Sundays per year: one Sunday during firearms season for deer, one Sunday during archery season for deer and a third Sunday to be set by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Here are some other recent amendments to the Sunday hunting legislation, according to O’Neill:

  • Hunters must get written permission from landowners prior to hunting on their land on Sunday.
  • Trespassing will be a primary offense enforceable by the Game Commission. If a hunter trespasses more than one time in seven years, their hunting license will be suspended for a year.
  • Another amendment allows unarmed individuals to enter properties for the sole purpose of retrieving their hunting dogs.

Farm Bureau, which has long opposed Sunday hunting but is “neutral” on the current bill in the Legislature, has noted that the move to allow Sunday hunting in other states has failed to increase hunter numbers. New York has seen a decline of 115,000 hunters since 2001, Ohio has lost nearly 37,000 hunters since 2002 and Virginia has seen license sales drop by 42,000 since 2009.

Only three states currently ban Sunday hunting: Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Maryland allows Sunday hunting but limits it to certain counties and on certain dates.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is also asking members of the Legislature to pass a so-called “purple paint” bill, sponsored by state Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Dillsburg, which would allow landowners to mark their property boundaries with purple paint stripes on trees and fence posts. Those markings would have the same legal implications as traditional “No Trespassing” or “No Hunting” signs.

There are big changes to this year’s hunting season, including the opening of rifle deer hunting season on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 30.

You can read all the changes and this year’s season dates and bag limits online.

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