Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Crossbow debate not likely to end

Albany – Legislation allowing the use of crossbows during the
firearms and muzzleloader big-game seasons – as well as a special
crossbow season after the late muzzleloader offering in the
Southern Zone – has been met with mixed reaction from

Some say the bill, amended dramatically from its original
writing, doesn’t go far enough.

Others – notably New York Bowhunters, Inc., which has long
fought the arrival of crossbows in archery season – contend it sets
the stage for an ongoing battle.

“It will never go away,” New York Bowhunters President Gary
Socola said. “The ultimate goal (of crossbow supporters) is to get
it into the archery season.”

That didn’t happen in the legislation which, at press time, was
still on Gov. David Paterson’s desk awaiting his approval. The bill
allows crossbows during the muzzleloader and regular firearms
season, and allows DEC to establish a special crossbow season after
the December muzzleloader season.

“I would say 90 percent of my customers would like to see
(crossbows) during the regular archery season,” said Joe Guernsey
of Klein’s Archery in Dryden (Tompkins County).

But Patsy Leader, owner of Shooter’s Sports in Valatie (Columbia
County), says many of her customers “are dead set against it during
archery season, and I don’t blame them. It’s such an

Leader says the crossbow debate continues to linger at a time
when “there are other, more pressing issues, like license fees and

Both Guernsey and Leader say passage of the legislation will
likely mean additional crossbow sales in New York, despite the
limited hunting opportunities.

“I sell them now, since we’re so close to the Pennsylvania
border, and really not far from Ohio (two states that have more
liberal crossbow hunting opportunities),” Guernsey said. “Plus, you
know some guys; it’s a new toy and they can use it, so they’ll buy

Leader said she had some customers buying crossbows in
anticipation of the state allowing the implements. “I’ve been
selling quite a few in the last month or so to hunters who
speculated it was coming and wanted to practice,” she said. “They
would have liked to have had a better season set up just for

The legislation doesn’t take effect until Feb. 1, 2011 – too
late for allowing crossbows this hunting season. The bill also
includes “sunset” provisions under which it will expire Dec. 31,

“So we’re looking at a two-year window for allowing crossbows to
take big game during established regular gun
seasons,” DEC Assistant Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine
Resources Doug Stang said. “Based on my read of this bill, there
are few provisions that foster opportunities for the use of

Stang said the only “silver lining” is that DEC “may be able to
craft regulations that can aide hunters with disabilities to use
longbows with mechanical devices so that a greater number of
disabled persons may continue to bow hunt or get involved with

There may also be instances where landowners in suburban
settings may allow hunters to use crossbows, Stang said.

Support for allowing crossbows has seemingly grown in recent
years in New York, but that support wanes somewhat when the
discussion turns to allowing crossbows during the regular archery

Socola said his group is actually neutral on crossbows, until
the implements are allowed in any part of the archery season or
result in a shortening of the regular archery season.

“Crossbow supporters are quick to point to the statistic that
they’re allowed in all but two states, but only 14 states actually
allow them in the complete archery season,” Socola said. “Four
states allow crossbows in parts of the regular archery season, 18
states for physically challenged hunters only, one in urban areas
only, and 14 only during the firearms seasons.”

Socola said the legislation includes some provisions that will
make it easier for physically challenged hunters to obtain a
draw-loc device, which New York Bowhunters pushes as an option to
the crossbow for hunters who have a difficult time drawing a
regular bow.

Others say the physically challenged hunters are short-changed
by the legislation.

“The problem is it doesn’t achieve one of the core things it set
out to do – allow seniors and those who are physically challenged
to hunt with a crossbow during the bowhunting season,” said Stephen
Wowelko, president of the Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen’s

Still, Wowelko sees the bill’s passage as “the first step in
legalizing crossbows for all seasons.”

Socola says other states have seen rampant abuse by hunters
obtaining crossbow permits under the guise they are physically
challenged. “When Pennsylvania allowed crossbows for physically
challenged hunters they anticipated getting 2,000 applications –
they got 47,000,” he said.

Socola said he was disappointed that DEC Director of Fish,
Wildlife and Marine Resources Patricia Riexinger, in a letter to
sportsmen earlier this year, voiced support for crossbow use.

DEC’s legislative proposal would have allowed seniors and
hunters with disabilities to use crossbows and would give the
department the latitude to allow crossbows during the regular
archery season.

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