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Crossbows soon will be allowed throughout state

By law, the crossbow will become a legal hunting device in New York State sometime this year.

After years of legislative attempts to make crossbows legal during the bow and gun-hunting season, it took an item in Gov. Cuomo’s budget to finally allow hunters the crossbow use during most gun hunting seasons and part of the big-game archery season.

Turkey hunters will be able to use bows during the spring season, but the budget agreement did not grant the Department of Environmental Conservation management of crossbow regulations. Factions compromised to establish steps for its legalizations.

“But it’s now a law,” said Rick McDermott, with the New York Crossbow Coalition, a group formed less than three years ago mainly to “expand recreational and hunting opportunities” for hunters who would like to use a crossbow.

Legions of individuals and groups have supported crossbow efforts for decades. The late Francis “Frank” Hartmann, leading NYS Conservation Council officer, advocated for its use before anti-crossbow factions formed after the Crossbow Coalition was formed in 1991.

Bill Hilts Sr. and later Bill Hilts Jr. gained national prominence in their efforts to legalize the device. Legislators in the past such as Sen. George Maziarz and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte continually proposed bills that were stalled in environmental committees headed by anti-crossbow legislators.

More recently, Sen. Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Sean Ryan held public hearings and established that a majority of the hunting public supports its use. Along with Gallivan and Ryan, Assemblywomen Aileen Gunther and Donna LoPardo and Assembly minority leader Brian Kolb were key movers in bringing the crossbow onto the table for discussion and consideration.

Groups statewide that joined with Crossbow Coalition in support were virtually every county federation in the state, the Safari Club International, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, the NRA, leading DEC officials who chose to remain unannounced, and virtually every outdoor writer across New York State. The NYSS Outdoor Writers Association does not take a position on pending state legislation.

“But it’s now the law and does not include a sunset clause,” McDermott said. Previous crossbow legislation that did not allow its use during any open archery season ended in December 2012.

The current legalization authorizes the DEC to open hunting seasons to crossbow during all gun hunting seasons in upstate New York and during the last two weeks of the archery season for hunters in the Western New York area.

McDermott noted that the DEC will accept public comments some time in mid-May to July 1 and the regulations established in between legislators in the governor’s budget will be established for 2014 hunting season. The “NY Hunting and Trapping Guide” typically goes to print in March, so special regulations will have to be issued prior to the opening of the fall hunting season.

Licensing stipulations for crossbow use vary, but the new law also includes reduced range distances for the discharge of bow-type hunting gear.

The 500-foot distance from an occupied dwelling remains for firearms, but the distance for a conventional bow will be 150 feet and for a crossbow will be 250 feet.

Look for DEC announcements in May or June about public comments and final crossbow regulations.