Four counties considered for rifle hunting

Albany – A pair of legislative bills would expand New York’s
rifle hunting zone into four more counties – Cortland, Wyoming and
parts of Ontario and Chautauqua.

The bills are currently held up in the Senate and Assembly
environmental conservation committees, with no votes scheduled.

But the past proposals in other counties have been successful,
and sportsmen are optimistic they could be using rifles for big
game – deer and, in some cases, bear – this fall.

The bills – all currently on hold in the Senate and Assembly
environmental conservation committees – are:

  • A07463A and S3299, which would allow rifle hunting in the
    southern portion of Chautauqua County under a one-year trial basis.
    The Assembly version of the bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Joe
    Giglio, R-Gowanda, while the Senate sponsor is Sen. Catharine
    Young, R-Olean.
  • A10765 and S7487, which would allow rifle use for big game in
    Cortland County during deer season. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton,
    D-Ithaca, sponsored the bill, with Assemblyman Gary D. Finch,
    R-Springport, as the co-sponsor. The Senate version was crafted by
    Sen. James Seward, R-Milford.
  • S07210 and A10775, which would add Wyoming County to the
    Southern Zone’s rifle use area. Sen. Dale Volker, R-Depew, and
    Assemblyman Daniel J. Burling, R-Warsaw, are the bills’
    sponsors.
  • S07006 and A10158, which would allow rifle use for big-game
    hunting in the area of Ontario County south of Route 20. Volker
    again sponsored the Senate bill, while Assemblyman Brian Kolb,
    R-Canandaigua, introduced that house’s version of the bill.

Approval of a similar bill for Ontario County came from state
lawmakers last year, but the legislation was ultimately vetoed by
Gov._David Paterson when it was learned the bill would have
inadvertently approved rifles for the entire county, and not just
the portion south of routes 5 and 20.

DEC officials expected the legislation to be amended to reflect
that, but it never happened and the bill that made it to the
governor’s desk called for a countywide rifle zone. Since the
county’s supervisors had previously voiced approval for only the
southern part of the county, Paterson vetoed the bill.

Typically, county supervisors give their blessing to a rifle use
proposal after hearing that sportsmen support such a move. That was
the case this year in Wyoming, Cortland and Ontario counties,
although the measure passed a bit narrowly – by a 924-672 weighted
vote – in Wyoming County.

Rifle use has also been subject to solid debate in Chautauqua
County, where some hunters are opposed to the move, primarily for
safety concerns.

DEC officials, however, have reiterated that there have been no
hunting-related shooting incidents that could be directly tied to
rifle use since the expansion of the Southern Tier rifle zone in
recent years.

In addition to the entire Northern Zone, rifles are currently
allowed in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chemung, Chenango, Columbia,
Delaware, Fulton, Greene, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida,
Orange, Schoharie, Sullivan, Steuben, Ulster, Saratoga, Tioga,
Washington and Yates counties, as well as a portion of Broome
County east of the Susquehanna River.

Several of those counties, particularly those in the Southern
Tier, were added to the rifle area in recent years.

If any of the bills are approved, rifles would likely be allowed
for big-game hunting in those counties this fall. That would be the
case even if the approval came after DEC’s hunting regulations
guide was printed. Officials have said in the past that since it
would be a less restrictive regulation it could be put into effect
immediately.

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