Veto keeps youth hunt untouched

Albany — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto of legislation that would have extended crossbow use for hunters in the regular firearms and late muzzleloader seasons had little to do with the crossbow itself.

It had everything to do with a clause within the bill – A10583 – that would have essentially quashed the state’s youth firearms deer hunt, held over the Columbus Day weekend for the first time this year.

“The bill would, among other things, extend until Dec. 31, 2014, the authority (of the DEC) to regulate crossbow hunting, while prohibiting DEC from holding a big-game junior hunt during longbow season for all weapons except for longbow,” Cuomo wrote.

Cuomo, in his veto of the bill last week, noted that the legislation “would go beyond simply extending” DEC’s authorization to regulate crossbow hunting by also precluding the department from offering the youth firearms deer hunt for 14- and 15-year-olds.

And the governor had a problem with that.

“Simple extender bills should not be used as a basis to impose unrelated restrictions,” he wrote.

The veto was welcomed by DEC officials, who had labeled the first-­­ever youth hunt an overwhelming success, and by many sportsmen who favored increasing hunting opportunities for youngsters.

“In our hard-fought effort to get youth hunt legislation passed, we find it unacceptable that this bill contains language repealing all but junior archery hunting on special days,” the New York State Conservation Council, which pushed for the bill’s veto, said in a prepared statement.

“The youth big-game hunt held this year took place during the archery season with no incidents; all reports to the DEC indicated it was a successful event. There is no reason why a big-game youth hunt cannot continue to be held during the archery season,” the NYSCC statement read.

The Council called for a veto of the bill and the introduction of legislation in 2013 “that would protect the youth hunt while allowing the use of crossbows.”

With the sunset of the crossbow regulations, hunters will no longer be able to use the implements after Dec. 31. That impacts hunters in Suffolk County, where there’s a Jan. 7-31, weekdays-only firearms deer season, as well as the Deer Management Focus Area of Tompkins County, where an antlerless-only season runs through Jan. 31.

It’s likely legislation will be introduced in 2013 that will allow crossbow hunting in some form, but the issue has been a contentious one among the state’s sportsmen.

New York Bowhunters, Inc., the statewide group that lobbied for passage of A10583 in an effort to keep firearms out of the archery season, has long fought crossbow use anywhere outside the firearms season, as well.

“NYB has always supported increasing all hunting opportunities for the youth,” NYB president Richard Kirschner said. “It was our position that the timing of a youth firearms big-game hunt would be more practical if it were held the very first weekend of firearms season as opposed to during the middle of archery season.”

Supporters of the youth hunt disputed NYB claims that it would create safety issues in the woods. DEC officials reported no safety incidents over the three-day period in which about 1,000 whitetails were taken based on preliminary estimates.

Crossbow discussions have sparked a variety of opinions, generally ranging from allowing them only in the firearms seasons; allowing their use by senior and physically challenged hunters during the archery seasons; and allowing them for all hunters during the archery seasons.

“There were provisions in A10583 that would have permitted persons unable to draw a bow (physically challenged and/or elderly) the opportunity to utilize a draw-locking device with nothing more than a physician’s note,”  Kirschner said. “It is an unfortunate loss for this group of bowhunters, however NYB will continue to pursue legislation that will address this issue.”

Another group, the New York Crossbow Coalition, has gained momentum over the past year and is likely to push for legislation that will allow crossbow use once again – for all hunters and during the archery seasons.

“The 2013 legislative year starts in January,” coalition president Rick McDermott said on the group’s Facebook site. “We need everyone who wants to see crossbow use expanded for everyone during all seasons archery equipment is permitted and for all game to consider becoming a full member.”

Kirschner said statistics showed that not many hunters decided to head afield with crossbows over the past two years. Crossbow advocates, however, said that’s because they were limited to using the implements only during the firearms and late muzzleloader seasons.

The New York State Conservation Council, in its statement, said “the real issue at hand is having the crossbow be considered a legal hunting implement and having the DEC determine where it can be used.”

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