Crossbow showdown in Albany
Albany — Crossbow opponents and supporters worked frantically in the final hours of the legislative session last week for the passage of bills that would either expand crossbow use or continue to keep the implements out of the traditional archery season.
It at least one case, legislation could threaten the proposed Columbus Day weekend youth deer hunt.
In what has clearly become the most contentious sporting issue in New York today, the two sides lobbied individual lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly.
While the New York State Crossbow Coalition worked on behalf of legislation that would expand crossbow use into the regular archery season, officials from that group also sought to halt the progress of a bill which, if passed, would continue to limit crossbows to firearms deer seasons and would also limit youth hunting days during the archery season.
That would almost assuredly be the death knell for the proposed three-day youth deer hunt, set to be held this fall as part of DEC’s five-year deer management plan.
Much of the lobbying focus was directed at Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, who serves as chairman of the Assembly’s environmental conservation committee.
“We have not been able to get the EnCon Chairman (Assemblyman) Robert Sweeney to put A9682 on the committee agenda,” Rick McDermott, president of the newly formed New York Crossbow Coalition, wrote in an e-mail. “Instead, Chairman
Sweeney introduced a different bill (A10583) which will extend, for two years, most of the present law limiting crossbow use in firearms seasons only, and also add a new section that will prevent the DEC from enacting any regulation that would allow the use of firearms, muzzleloaders, or crossbows, before or during archery seasons. Sweeney’s bill would also limit youth hunting days during archery season to youth archery days only.”
Meanwhile, New York Bowhunters, Inc., a statewide group long opposed to crossbow use within the regular archery season, intensified its lobbying efforts as the legislation session wound down.
That group pushed for the passage of A10583/S7705, which would maintain crossbows during the firearms seasons, and opposed A9682/S6747, which would expand crossbow use into the regular archery season at the discretion of the DEC.
“The archery season as you know it will cease to exist unless you act,” read a “Critical Red Alert” issued to New York Bowhunters, Inc., members.
NYB officials stressed they “do not oppose a youth firearms hunt,” but the placement of that hunt within the archery season. “NYB has made several attempts to negotiate its placement so that it would have the least impact on the archery season,” the NYB statement read. “These attempts have been ignored by the DEC.”
As part of DEC’s five-year deer management plan, the department established an Oct. 1 opener for the Southern Zone archery deer season, instead of the traditional mid-October kickoff. That move, in expanding the archery season, wrapped the youth deer hunt within the archery season.
Some sportsmen, including those who aren’t associated with New York Bowhunters, Inc., have expressed safety concerns with the young deer hunters sharing the woods with bowhunters in early October.
And Sweeney spokesman Steve Liss said that triggered the legislation that would essentially trump DEC’s season-setting power on the youth deer hunt.
At presstime, Sweeney’s bill (A10583) and a Senate companion (S7705) sponsored by Sen. Carl Marcellino had not reached the floor for a vote in the waning hours of the Assembly and Senate sessions. While the bills would extend the legalization of crossbows for an additional two years, they would also restrict them to firearms season and also trump DEC’s proposed youth hunt through a clause that prohibits firearms during the archery seasons.
The bills were amended on June 18 to allow junior archery days only during the regular archery season.
Meanwhile, the New York Crossbow Coalition – with backing from numerous organizations, including the New York State Conservation Council, Conservation Alliance of New York, New York Farm Bureau and New York 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation – lobbied for passage of S6747 and A9682. Those bills would essentially leave the crossbow decision in the hands of the DEC; officials with the department have previously indicated they favor expanded crossbow use into the regular season, at least for senior and physically challenged hunters.
While A9682, sponsored by Assemblyman Sean Ryan, stalled in the environmental conservation committee, S6747, sponsored by Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, was passed by the Senate and forwarded to the Assembly for consideration.
But S6747 was then funneled into the Assembly environmental conservation committee – chaired by Sweeney – and there was no indication at presstime it would be released for a floor vote.
Another pair of bills, S2973 and A469, would allow disabled hunters to use crossbows. A469, sponsored by Assemblywoman Aileeen Gunther, has not advanced beyond the committee stage. But S2973, offered by Michael F. Nozzolio, was passed by the Senate and, again, forwarded to the Assembly’s environmental conservation committee. A similar bill was approved by the Senate last year but died in the Assembly.
If no legislation related to crossbows passes this session, the current regulations which allow the implements during the regular firearms deer season expire at the end of the year. That would almost assuredly guarantee a legislative free-for-all next year.
Currently, 25 states in the U.S. allow crossbow hunting during at least a portion of the regular archery season. Sportsmen have wide-ranging opinions on crossbows; some contend they shouldn’t be legal within regular archery seasons but many favoring more liberal crossbow use for at least seniors and physically challenged hunters.
For updates on the status of crossbow-related legislation, check with the New York Outdoor News website, located at www.outdoornews.com/New-York/ .