The push for kids and crossbows
Discussion has started to allow 12- and 13-year-old junior hunters to take the next step to hunt big game with firearms here in New York. Currently, young nimrods can only hunt small game with firearms at that age class. However, 12- and 13-year-old archers can hunt big game with a bow, which does not include crossbow. That is because the crossbow is not considered archery equipment. You need a muzzleloading privilege to use a crossbow during the archery season. It has long been a big, convoluted mess and it is time to resolve it all.
New York State is among the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to hunting big game with a firearm. Some states have no minimum age while others are age 12 or less. All include adult supervision. Lowering the age for big game firearms hunters will get junior hunters more involved at an earlier age, before we lose them to other activities – such as with the use of electronic games and the Internet. Getting more people purchasing hunting licenses will mean more money for the Conservation Fund, a dedicated source of funding in the state that all sporting licenses are earmarked for.
An increased number of sporting licenses also means more Federal dollars that New York will receive from excise tax collections through Wallop-Breaux, Pittman-Robertson, and Dingell-Johnson. The more people buying licenses, the bigger the benefit on the home front. It is a win-win for everyone.
This does not even touch on the tourism benefit. A fair number of fathers and grandfathers will head out of state to places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky to hunt big game with their kids and grandkids because they cannot do it here. And if that were an option in the Empire State, would we see some people coming in from out of state to hunt here with their 12- and 13-year-old hunters?
Once again, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced these things in his State of the State address in January, it appeared in his executive budget shortly thereafter. That was how we wedged our foot in the door nearly 10 years ago when crossbows were finally allowed in the early archery season as part of the governor’s executive budget then. However, before it was all said and done after haggling and amendments, in 2014 it was set for only the last two weeks of the early archery season in the Southern Zone and the last 10 days of the early archery season in the Northern Zone (where it overlaps a week of muzzleloading hunting). That was when crossbows changed from an archery privilege to a muzzleloading privilege once downstate politicians got involved. Crossbows should be archery equipment.
When crossbows needed a muzzleloading privilege, it took bowhunter education off the table as a requirement. You only needed a firearms hunter education program to use a crossbow. Should the crossbow be classified as archery equipment, everyone using a crossbow will need to take a bowhunter safety course to use one during any archery seasons. There will be no grandfathering in if you have already hunted with them before in New York.
A recent announcement was made that the online Hunter Education Program for both bow and gun will remain available indefinitely. For more information on how you can take an online safety course check out www.dec.ny.gov.
Moving crossbows into the archery equipment classification will also open the door for hunting any archery-only areas in the state. However, you will need a hunting license and a bowhunting privilege to take advantage of it.
Technical changes will also take place relative to the crossbow, such as limitations on maximum crossbow poundage and width of the hunting tool. These will all be overseen by DEC for everyone, as it should be. DEC will have the regulatory authority for everything that we have mentioned here.
In addition, crossbows will be legal for use to hunt small game and wildlife upland birds, including use by junior hunters. And once 12- and 13-year-old hunters can hunt with firearms, they can participate in the youth deer hunting weekend in October with the 14- and 15-year-old hunters. To complete the puzzle, crossbows will be allowed during the youth hunt weekend if they so desire. Previously they were not allowed. Right now, you can use a rifle or a shotgun during the youth hunt but not a crossbow. Crazy!
Youth big game hunters will also be allowed to hunt from elevated stands should the proposal package from the governor go through. From a hunting safety standpoint, shooting a firearm from an elevated area will be in a downward trajectory, making that safer to use.
It is time to apply some political pressure. Write your letters in support of the new proposals to your elected representatives in Albany. The easy button is to go on the New York Crossbow Coalition website (www.nycrossbowcoalition.com) and click the letter-writing tab. Fill out the appropriate fields (including a specific address, not a Post Office Box) and submit. Do it sooner rather than later. Every letter counts.