You'd think the weather on Saturday, April 16, was arranged by anti-crossbow hunters.
Rain driven by strong, bitterly cold winds in temperatures just above freezing and rain-soaked grounds around Wilson Conservation Club made for less-than-comfy outdoors conditions for checking out crossbow features and functions.
Nonetheless, about a dozen crossbow makers and accessory reps, and Department of Environmental Conservation officials gathered for a day of informative, enjoyable outdoors enlightenment indoors.
After more than 20 years of failed attempts to legalize crossbow hunting in New York, the state legislature passed a bill allowing big-game hunting with crossbows during the open gun seasons only.
Lobbying by crossbow hunting opponents saw to it that the device will only become legal during the firearms big-game season.
Ohio legalized the device about 30 years ago; Pennsylvania recently adopted legislation and recently extended crossbow hunting once it was recognized and accepted across the state.
Finally, that same acceptance level had a chance to make a showing in New York through programs such as the one Chris Schotz, coordinator of the Wilson Club's Crossbow Demo Day program, set up last year.
The nasty conditions did not keep interested hunters and shooters from checking out the many models and new features of crossbows at Wilson. About 300 visitors dropped by during the day to learn more about the device and its legalization.
Ken Baginski, DEC Region 9 Sportsmen Education Program coordinator, was on hand with info sheets and a draft copy of a "Crossbow Training/Use Field Certificate," which he shared and explained to all interested in hunting with a crossbow this coming season.
"The final form of the certificate will be issued after a public-input period ends and officials can publish the format for crossbow use," Baginski noted.
The draft form indicates users will need a current big game hunting license, but not an archery license to hunt deer and bear during the gun season.
After reading a list of requirements and safety rules, a hunter can complete a signed certificate that includes one's back-tag ID number and date of signing. Hunters will not be required to attend additional hunter education or archery certification classes.
> Crossbow options
Exhibitors at this demo day brought two basic types of crossbows, models with recurve (bent limbs with a single string) or compound (limbs with crossing cams to increase speed and power with less overall width).
Two companies, Kodabow and Excalibur, produce recurve crossbow models only.
Kodabow is fast gaining a reputation as a solid product during its two start-up years of marketing. Chuck Matasic, CEO at Kodabow in West Chester, Pa., points out that the company chose its name "Koda," from a Native American word meaning "Friend."
"All parts and assembly of our bows is done in the U.S., and mainly in Pennsylvania," Matasic explained, noting the ease of assembly and take-down of all five models.
All five shoot arrows above 300 feet per second (FPS), with draw weights up to 225 pounds. Matasic added, "With a single string and recurve bow limbs, a hunter can easily take down the bow and store it in a small case that's about 7 inches high." To check out this crossbow line, go to kodabow.com.
Excalibur Crossbows, made and distributed out of Kitchener, Ont., have a successful 28-year presence in horizontal bow making. Owner Bill Trowbridge has hunted with Excalibur bows across the world, taking many big-game trophies in Africa.
Smoothness and remarkable FPS numbers around 350 in the 225-pound pull models make Excalibur a reliable and basically simple model to shoot and hunt with anywhere during any hunting season. They can be seen at excaliburcrossbow.com.
TenPoint Crossbows have made it big across the U.S. as a reliable and simple compound-bow-type device during its 17 years of development. Along with its exceptional accuracy, a handy one-hand cranking mechanism makes it easier to load an X-bow on the ground or in a tree stand.
Jeff Pippard at Niagara Outdoors has the new line of 2011 TenPoints and can highlight key features at his archery shop in North Tonawanda. Call him at 695-5873 or check out models and options at tenpointcrossbow.com.
Darton, a name familiar to vertical bow hunters, has developed a wide variety of both wide-limb and compact models. The Darton top-end model has been clocked at 364 feet per second.
The various model offerings and modest pricing at all entry levels make Darton a good prospect for veteran and new-entry crossbow hunters.
The Ohio company Horton is probably the more familiar name to area hunters. The company has been around since Ohio legalized X-bows some 30 years ago. Ever the innovators, Horton staffers put together one of the first working and marketable reverse-limbs models of crossbow -- the Vision 175.
Many designers worked on this narrow-profile model, appealing to hunters moving through brush and brambles.
As with major manufacturers of vertical bows, crossbow makers enter marketing competition that requires reliable design, structure, endurance, and consistent shooting performance. The shooter has to find what fits individual handling needs.
For now, the law is in place, and crossbow hunters can get set for a season concurrent with firearms hunting.