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Changes on horizon as crossbow season opens Saturday

Big game hunters in the Southern Zone will be allowed to start chasing deer and bear with a crossbow as of Saturday, continuing through Nov. 15. Before you head out, though, remember you must purchase a muzzleloader tag, not an archery tag. You also must fill out the Crossbow Certificate of Qualification located on Page 23 of the regulations guide or find one online at, print it and sign it. Carry it with you when afield.

Every year, this “opening day” for crossbow seems to get a little more attention in hunting circles. According to Rick McDermott, membership in the New York Crossbow Coalition rose by 33 percent in 2019. And, in an effort to push for expanded coverage for crossbow usage, the group has sent nearly 2,500 support letters to both the Senate and the Assembly each in New York. Next year could be a pivotal year for crossbow hunters and it’s important to jump on the bandwagon to show your support and acceptance of this effective hunting tool.

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner from Saratoga Springs is sponsoring A7627 and Senator Jen Metzger from the Catskills is sponsoring S5818.

"Both bills would make some additional common-sense changes to crossbow hunting in our state in 2020,” McDermott said.

Those changes include:

  • Changing the crossbow to a bowhunting privilege. Currently, a muzzleloader privilege is required. It would replace “special longbow season” with “special archery season” and add the crossbow as an allowable hunting implement.
  • Authorizing those 55 years old or older to use a crossbow in the special archery season.
  • Authorizing those physically unable to draw a longbow (or compound bow) as determined by a physician to use a crossbow in the “special archery season.”
  • Allow junior hunters ages 12 to 15 to hunt with a crossbow. Currently only ages 14 and 15 can hunt with a crossbow. It would allow junior hunters to hunt small game with a crossbow.
  • It would change the term “bolt” to “arrow.” It would remove the 200-pound maximum draw weight and the minimum 17-inch width restrictions.
  • Repealing the prohibition on the use of a mechanical device with a bow and authorization (permit) for disabled hunters to use a crossbow, which may be discharged only with one’s breath.
  • Authorizing DEC to adopt regulations allowing for the taking of wildlife using a crossbow and to include the summary of such regulations in the hunting syllabus.
  • Reducing the setback to discharge a crossbow to 150 feet (from 250 feet) from a building consistent with a longbow.

“We are truly making a difference,” McDermott said. “We have five assembly democrats in the Capital District alone that have signed on to the crossbow legislation. We have our current season because of NYCC. Expansion of the current season needs additional support from the hunting community. If you haven’t sent in a support letter since January of 2019, do it again. We need a copy for our records and send one in yourself to your local state legislator. It’s a full court press in 2020.”

The current crossbow season was put into place in 2014 and it’s time for modifications to expand this opportunity for senior and junior hunters, as well as physically challenged sportsmen and women.

Ernest Gatlen of Orleans County connected on this trophy buck with a crossbow. (Photo courtesy of NYCC)

Last minute tips for the crossbow opener

Jeff Pippard at Niagara Outdoors has a quick check list to prepare for the Nov. 2 opener:

Check all string and cable servings for separation or excessive wear, wax the strings, and apply lube to your cable slide and flight rail.

Check your trigger box for any obstructions or corrosion; check the arrow retainer and make sure it works properly.

Check your scope rail and scope to see if it is solid and there are no loose parts; check all your settings, clean your lens and covers. Then check your battery if you have an illuminated scope.

Check all your bolts for cracks or damage; then test shoot them with the actual broad-head design you intend to use. Test shoot and number them by rank of true flight, you will need to use a true practice style head or select a real head from the pack to use for this test.

Number your best bolt and broad-head combination for the hunt and keep practicing with the rest as you use your rangefinder for final verification. Good luck in the field and stay safe.

Hunting Whitetails by the Moon

The late Charlie Alsheimer of Bath was a firm believer in the influences of the moon when it came to establishing rut behavior in the fall. This year, according to his popular book “Hunting Whitetails by the Moon,” the rutting moon (the second full moon after the autumnal equinox) will be Nov. 11. This means that the prime chase period will be from Nov. 8 to 17. The breeding window will be Nov. 18 to Dec. 1.

This year’s lunar forecast conforms nicely with crossbow season and the start of the regular season. Starting next week, it could be a perfect time to be in your ground blind or tree stand to try and catch that big buck by surprise. If it’s the latter, take every precaution to stay safe, including wearing a body harness when securing yourself in a tree.

Not everyone agrees with the lunar theory. However, no matter how you look at the rut influence, there’s no denying that early November is an important time to be afield. Get out there and spend some time in the woods.

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