Around this time every year, many of the hunting and shooting organizations, such as the NYS 4H Shooting Sports, National Wild Turkey Federation local chapters and Friends of the NRA host their annual fundraising banquets.
As an attendee of many of these dinners, one of the topics that kept creeping up was the new crossbow law. And surprisingly, many of those I spoke with were not really aware of what this bill did — and especially what it did not do. They assumed that, “finally, we can hunt with a crossbow.” But when I explained what we really got, they were very disappointed.
If you are not totally aware of what we we are allowed to do, in terms of crossbow hunting in New York state, let me outline it for you.
The original proposal was very good, but that is not what was passed. It was severely altered, removing some important passages, such as getting a special crossbow hunting season or at least a share of the regular bowhunting season. Also, there is nothing included that allows a more lenient definition of the disability requirements for those people who were no longer able to draw and hold a regular bow. I believe the original proposal also included letting a landowner hunt his/her own property with a crossbow during any of the regular big- or small-game seasons, including the bowhunting season. This, too, was removed.
What we got was a cut-and-paste crossbow law that begins Sept. 18 with the early bear season, but is not permitted in the Northern Zone archery or muzzleloading season for bear. Crossbows can only be used during the regular Northern Zone firearms season from Oct. 23 to Dec. 5. And in the Southern Zone, the crossbow can only be used during the regular firearms season and late muzzleloading/archery season. With regards to those bow-only
areas such as the Pine Bush, crossbows can never be used there. Lastly, this new law will expire on Dec. 31, unless the legislature and governor decide to extend it. There are 75 days of exclusive bowhunting in New York, and the crossbow cannot be used to hunt any of these days.
I do not have an answer why this law was passed with a potential life expectancy of only a few months.
What I would like to see, and what I believe is fair and already happening in numerous other states, is letting the crossbow hunters share a part of the current 75-day bowhunting season. Ohio has had a successful crossbow hunting season since it first allowed them in 1976. And since that time, almost every state has a crossbow hunting season. A number of states have combined the regular bow and crossbow hunting seasons.
Another ridiculous crossbow regulation that has been in effect in New York for a while is the modified crossbow permit. This permit allows qualified people to hunt big or small game with a crossbow that has been specifically modified with a device that only allows it to be discharged by means of a breath tube. To qualify for this permit, a person must be permanently physically unable to hold or draw a legal bow or to fire a legal bow that has been modified to hold and release the string. If a person can pull the trigger on a gun, they will not qualify for a modified crossbow permit. How many of these permits have been issued? Less than 40.
Those who oppose crossbow hunting suggest these individuals apply for a modified archers permit and use the draw lock system for their bow. This device attaches to the bow and holds the arrow at full draw. The hunter then only has to aim and pull the trigger. However, the hunter also has to first pull the string back to lock it into position. If it is a 60-pound pull bow, they have to initially pull back 60 pounds. My TenPoint Stealth XLT is equipped with ACUdraw 50 cocking mechanism that only requires the strength of the average person’s index finger to operate.
Our neighboring states of Connecticut and Massachusetts both have reasonable disability requirements for hunting with a crossbow. Those who qualify need only to have a permanent disability that does not allow them to physically operate a regular bow. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, they allow anyone to hunt with a crossbow during any regular bow and arrow season. And I also found there are several states that will allow the use of a crossbow for big-game hunting for anyone 62 and over. I know of a number of senior citizens whose shoulders would really appreciate this, and I am one of them.
I am saving my biggest, selfish gripe for last: Why can’t I hunt wild turkeys with a crossbow?
WHAT CAN WE DO
If you are truly in favor of the crossbow and realize that it is just another valuable tool in the conservation of these resources, go to click here on DEC’s website and take a look at what crossbow hunters may or may not do. I think you will agree it is time for us, and that is all hunters, whether a crossbow hunter or not, to let our feelings be heard.
It is time to pick up the phone and/or send an email to your state legislative representatives and voice approval of a “fair” crossbow hunting season. You can start with Assemblyman George Amedore of Rotterdam, who is an avid hunter himself. You can contact him at [email protected], or call 843-0227 or 455-5197. Let’s get a reasonable crossbow law going for next year.