Outdoor Journal: Crossbow season welcome, but limited

If you happen to be traveling on the Northway in the Adirondacks in the next few days, chances are v

If you happen to be traveling on the Northway in the Adirondacks in the next few days, chances are very good you’ll see a northbound parade of pickup trucks.

Many will be towing utility trailers with ATVs, boxes of canned goods and other camping par­aphernalia. Looking inside, you’ll probably see red, blaze orange and red/black checkered-shirted men.

They’re deer hunters heading to their Adirondack cabins, motels or camping grounds for the opening of the Northern Zone regular (gun) deer season that opens Saturday. This tradition of hunters migrating north dates back into the early 1800s and often spans generations.

One of the unique traditions of the Northern Zone hunter is his/her choice of firearms. The most prev­alent inside those zippered gun cases are the Winchester 94 or Savage 99 lever guns, and perhaps an equal number of Remington 7600 pump or 7400 semi-auto 30-06 rifles. The 7400 .30-06 has been my Northern Zone firearm season deer gun, but not this year.

Well before sunup Saturday morning, I’ll be sitting in a tree stand in the Northern Zone with a crossbow. Why? Because it’ll be the first time a hunter can legally hunt a whitetail in New York state with a crossbow. I doubt there’ll be many carrying crossbows this year because of the current regulations governing their use.

The regulation states crossbows can only be used during the early bear season, regular firearms seasons for deer and bear, late muzzleloading seasons for deer and bear and the special firearms season for deer in Suffolk County. Add­itionally, crossbows can’t be used in “bowhunting only” areas of the such as the Pine Bush and other areas of Albany County. And due to recent rifle and crossbow legis­lation, they can’t be used in Cortland County.

In my opinion, there are a number of things in this new crossbow legislation that don’t make a lot of sense. One is the option for bowhunters who can no longer draw and hold a regular bow and otherwise disabled bowhunters. The current regulationss have no special provisions for the use of crossbows for disabled hunters or for hunters over 70. These hunters, with either temporary or permanent physical disabilities, can only use the long/compound bow modified apparatus, which holds the bow at full draw until released.

I have spoken with several bowhunters who are using these appar­atuses, and they tell me they are quite clumsy and require a substantial amount of energy to pull the string to lock it at full draw. They also say they would welcome the legal use of crossbows. What’s the difference between this apparatus and a crossbow which would allow a disabled shooter to use a simple hand crank to draw and lock the arrow in place?

Currently, we have a very large group of seniors who are no longer enjoying the advantages of the mild-weather bow hunting season because they cannot draw their bows. Many states now allow sen­iors 65 and older to use crossbows. A similar law in New York would allow these hunters to again enjoy the early bow hunting seasons.

At a recent shooting/hunting club seminar I attended with a mixed group of deer hunters, the major topic was the coming deer season. One hunter asked me a number of questions about crossbow hunting and his desire to try it. The one question I couldn’t answer was how long we will be able to have this season. He was referring to the new regs provision that states: “A licensed hunter can use a crossbow during the 2011 and 2012 big-game hunting seasons.” However, it also states that “the law will expire on Dec. 31, 2012, unless the legislature and governor decide to extend it.” I don’t know why this provision is there.

This question also prompted several other hunters to ask why a hunter would want to invest hundreds of dollars to purchase a crossbow for hunting (only during the gun season) now and not know if he would be able to use it after 2012.

I’ve been hunting with a crossbow for more than 20 years and have taken a variety of game, ranging from a cottontail to a 1,700-pound buffalo, and I truly enjoy these challenging hunts. Unfortunately, many of these hunts were with an out-of-state, non-resident license or behind the fences of var­ious preserves.

Those who read this column frequently know I’m an avid turkey hunter, and one of my questions about the current temporary crossbow regulations is why we can’t hunt turkeys with a crossbow. I can hunt a deer with a crossbow, but not a turkey?

It’s unfortunate the statements made about crossbows are false. They’re not far superior to a modern bow. The only difference between a crossbow and a regular modern compound bow is the ability to lock the crossbow’s arrow (bolt) in the ready position.

I recently had to have the draw weight of my current compound bow reduced because of my aging shoulder. The bow is equipped with very accurate fiber-optic sights, and I release the arrow with a very fancy and expensive T.R.U. Ball mechan­ical trigger device. As for speed, modern compounds will launch an arrow over 325 feet per second from a 70-pound draw-weight bow.

In comparison, the crossbow I’ll be using is a TenPoint (www.tenpointcrossbows.com) Stealth XLT which has a draw weight of 185 pounds and will propel a

20-inch Carbon Express arrow 320 feet per second. As for my tender shoulder, it has an ACUdraw 50 cocking mechanism that allows me lock and load or let down the bowstring easily, and I can do it all from a sitting position.

The scope is a TenPoint RangeMaster Pro which came mounted and pre-sighted in from the factory. At the range, I found when sighted in for 30 yards, it was on at 20, 30 and 40 yards. The three-arrow shot groups from a resting position using Steel Force 100 grain broadheads were all within 2 1⁄2 inches.

I guess if I miss, it will be my fault.


Here is my crossbow hunter’s wish, or perhaps I should call it a set of dream regulations.

Allow seniors 65 and older, or anyone who has an authentic doctor’s statement that they’re unable to draw and shoot a regular bow, to hunt the regular bow season with a crossbow.

Give the general hunting popul­ation a special one-week crossbow season. The last week of the regular bow season would be fine.

Allow the hunting of small game, including turkeys, with a crossbow during the season dates already set by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Lastly, and I know this will really rustle some “feathers:” allow crossbow hunters to share the woods with bowhunters like they do in 18 states already. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are two.

I can’t think of a better way to keep the aging-hunter generation or crossbow-hunting enthusiasts in the New York woods. I can see it now — a new $20 crossbow hunting privilege stamp — I’d be very willing to pay that fee.

I’m definitely looking forward to being able to finally hunt with a crossbow in New York, however, I’m not happy about competing with gun hunters, but I do wish them good hunting and remind readers to remember Buck TalesBuck Tales when they connect.

I wonder who the first New York hunter to harvest a whitetail with a crossbow will be.

Categories: Sports

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