Making sense of the crossbow confusion

Life as a New York big-game hunter can sometimes be very confusing. And frustrating. An excellent case in point is with the controversial crossbow.

Crossbow season opens in the Southern Zone big game seasons on Nov. 3, giving sportsmen the opportunity to chase deer and bear during the early archery season. Even though it’s in the early archery season, hunters are still required to have a muzzleloader stamp before they can hunt. No one wants to admit that this is archery equipment. And even though it requires a muzzleloader stamp, it’s not counted as firearms for the special youth hunt held over Columbus Day weekend. Yes, crossbows are banned from the youth hunt.

If crossbows were considered archery equipment, 12- and 13-year-old hunters would be able to use them. Why is that not a good thing, getting more kids out in the field pursuing big game? Based on the current definition, you must be at least 14 to use a crossbow for big game.

Anti-crossbow factions want to dictate to others what you can and can’t use for big-game hunting, even if it’s on your own land. Without realizing that they are contradicting themselves, they insist that crossbow users should be required to take a bowhunting education class before being able to use one in the field. I thought they weren’t archery equipment?

Ohio has the right idea – include crossbows within the archery season and let hunters choose what they want to use to take their one buck for the season. Yes, one buck. If you want to use a compound bow, go for it. If you prefer the crossbow, have at it. The Ohio deer season runs from the end of September to the beginning of February. It’s about opportunity.

Legislation continues to be proposed every year in the state to allow for an expansion of crossbow regulations, including the opportunity to use these management tools at the start of the early archery seasons. It would allow DEC to manage the use of crossbows accordingly, as archery equipment. This would be great news for physically-challenged folks, as well as senior citizens. Warmer weather would certainly be more inviting for those segments of the hunting fraternity.

However, the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee won’t even let the proposed legislation to the floor for a vote. Chairman Steve Englebright of Suffolk County has corralled the crossbow, just like his predecessors before him. Somehow, pressure needs to be applied. Managing our natural resources should not be in the hands of our downstate politicians.

If you would like to see the crossbow as a viable hunting tool with an expanded season, the best thing you can do is to join the New York Crossbow Coalition ( They currently have more than 1,100 members, but it really should be 10 times that based on the feedback I get at sportsmen’s clubs, through social media and at sport shows around the state.

Another important thing to do is to write letters, especially when the time is right. That’s where the crossbow coalition is invaluable. Timing is everything and a personal letter carries more than its weight in gold.

Finally, get out there and vote. During the last major election in this state, fewer than 50 percent of sportsmen pulled the lever at the voting booths. It’s not just with issues like the crossbow; it’s across the board. As our Second Amendment rights continue to be subverted, it’s up to us to let our voices be heard. That’s the only way that we stand a chance at repealing things like the SAFE Act.

Before you make any decision to oppose crossbow use, you owe it to yourself to take the time to shoot one. You will see its potential as a tool, but also see its limitations. Time and energy can be better spent than fighting against one another.

Some bowhunters are opposed because they see it as a lazy man’s tool. They won’t keep an open mind to its potential for seniors and youth, women and handicapped. We need all the numbers we can muster if we want to continue to hold on to our outdoor heritage.

Crossbows can also be a gateway to hunting with a compound or longbow, too. If they wanted more of a challenge, that opportunity is there for them.

Let’s all work together to make this happen, allowing for the use of crossbows and make the regulations and requirements more accepting for today’s standards. It’s time.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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