Randy Santucci and Dan Davila: Bring back Monday hunting opener

Randy Santucci and Dan Davila: Bring back Monday hunting opener

The Pennsylvania Game Commission arbitrarily changed the opening day of deer season, destroying a highly successful 60-year Thanksgiving weekend structure. Moving the opening day from Monday to the Saturday after Thanksgiving revealed a gross lack of knowledge and enormous disregard of the economic benefits linked to hunters.

One of the top sales weekends for many rural businesses was taken away. No regulatory impact study was done to assess the impact from this radical change, and tens of millions of dollars of localized business sales, and state tax revenue, evaporated.

The arrogance of the PGC board of commissioners was further revealed when they ignored even the fact the Saturday opener would be in direct conflict with “Small Business Saturday,” steering a half-million hunters into the woods that day.

The Monday opener structure not only provided families time to put Thanksgiving to bed, it provided the entire weekend for hunters to travel, do last-minute hunting preparations, partake in decades-old traditions and, yes, spend money that weekend before the Monday opener . Also, most schools across the commonwealth are closed the Monday after Thanksgiving.

This change was not an oversight or mistake. Before it was made, PGC hunter surveys, hunter contacts to the agency and input from hunters across the state were running 65% to 90% opposed. Even the PGC staff surveys of perceived benefits from a Saturday start came back flat, from college students and otherwise, and not in support of the commissioners’ Saturday opener position.

A small sample poll of just 10 sporting goods stores revealed over a $360,000 loss in sales after that first Saturday opener weekend. They noted that I suffered the same fate. Chamber of commerce representatives reached out to the PGC, as many of their businesses were sucker-punched, seeing big losses in sales.

The commissioners had no basis to make this change beneficial to hunting or otherwise, but they convinced legislators to wait three years to evaluate it. The waiting period is over: Three years in, hunting license sales validate this as a mistake, as the main categories of resident adult and resident youth are below where they were in 2018.

A paltry increase of a few thousand licenses in peripheral categories, not even influenced by the Saturday change, are meaningless. The PGC represented a tiny survey done by an out-of-state company as broad hunter opinion, and blasted it across the state to every media outlet, because the real indicators flopped.

The Saturday opener was, in part, a segue to bring in Sunday hunting; the Sunday can be moved to the next weekend, creating 13 continuous hunting days for those who cannot hunt Monday, and everyone wins.

A fresh organized movement is beginning today to bring back the Monday opener and decide this decision to the highest level of state government. To be counted and get your voice heard for restoring the Monday opener, whether a business or individual, email us at the addresses below.

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