Southern Tier rifle bill awaits Pataki

By Don Lehman Contributing Writer

Albany — Big-game hunters in some Southern Tier counties will
likely get to take rifles afield this fall under a bill passed last
month by both houses of the state Legislature.

The proposal, which was awaiting Gov. George Pataki’s signature
as of late June to become law, would allow the use of rifles for
deer and bear in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chenango, Herkimer,
Montgomery, Oneida, Oswego. Otsego, Schoharie and Tioga counties as
well as rural parts of Broome County.

Big-game hunters in these counties have, for years, been allowed
to use only bows, muzzleloaders, handguns and shotguns.

But the New York State Conservation Council helped persuade
legislators to introduce bills in the Senate and Assembly that
would change the counties’ regulations, and both bills were passed
in mid-June.

A number of legislators, including state Sen. Dale Volker,
R-Erie County, who introduced the bill in the Senate, supported it
as a way to help thin out burgeoning deer populations in some parts
of the Southern Tier.

“There are fewer deer hunters than in previous years,” Volker
wrote in his memorandum supporting the bill.

“Crop damage and deer and automotive collisions are increasing …
and it is costing New York state taxpayers millions of dollars in
damages.”

Howard Cushing, president of the New York Conservation Council,
said the bill allowed sportsmen’s federations in the Southern Tier
counties to determine whether they wanted their counties to make
the change. Only those included in the bill opted in, he said, with
some choosing against it.

“Some people aren’t happy with it, but there are a lot of people
who are,” he said.

He said the state Department of Environmental Conservation
supported the change, and Pataki was expected to sign it into law.
The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance has also gotten behind the
proposal.

“It’s a good piece of legislation for hunters,” Cushing
said.

Jennifer Meicht, a spokeswoman for Pataki, said June 24 that the
governor had yet to review the bills, so she could not say whether
he would sign the change into law.

However, she said Pataki is “generally supportive” of measures
that increase hunting opportunities in New York.

The proposal received mixed reviews during a June 26 bow shoot
at Cassety Hollow Rod & Gun Club in Oneida County.

Blake Hotaling, the club’s treasurer, told a reporter the 15
club members on hand for the shoot were split on the idea.

Hotaling seemed to be on the fence.

“A muzzleloader is as good as a rifle,” he said. “But if they
allow that (black-powder guns) they might as well allow
rifles.”

If signed by Pataki, the measure would take effect this fall
during the Southern Zone big game season. In Broome County, areas
east of the Susquehanna River would be included in the new
regulations.

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