June 30, 2013

Crossbow legislation again misses target date

By Dan Ladd

---- — How is it that our state’s political system allows the actions of one politician to have a sweeping effect over the entire sporting community?

This is the situation with crossbow legislation and Long Island Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney, who is the chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee (Encon). His inactions, actually, have again left crossbow legislation stalled.

The legislative session ended June 21 without the crossbow bill A283B, which would’ve put crossbow management in the hands of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, even making it to the floor. This task is the responsibility of Sweeney. The companion bill S1699 passed the Senate on June 12 by a margin of 49-12 and most sportsmen believe it would see similar success in the Assembly, if it could just get there.

This now leaves New York without any crossbow season at all as a two-year package that allowed its use during rifle and late muzzleloading seasons expired in 2012. Unless the Assembly reconvenes and the bill is brought to the floor, crossbow hunters in New York are helpless.

This is not the first time Sweeney, who tends to side with southern zone bowhunters who oppose crossbow usage, has brick-walled crossbow legislation.

In 2012, a bill that would’ve offered very limited opportunities would also have made it illegal to have an open hunting season prior to or during an early archery season that allowed usage of crossbows or firearms. If passed, this bill would have prevented last year’s inaugural youth hunting season.

You can’t blame Sweeney for serving his Long Island bowhunting constituents. But as Encon chair, Sweeney’s constituents are all the sportsmen and women of New York state. With the exception of New York Bowhunters Inc., numerous sportsmen’s groups support crossbow usage in New York.

The crossbow debate is nothing new and usually centers around the device’s definition as a hunting implement. Another concern with crossbow opposition is that if legislation was passed, DEC would allow crossbow usage during all or part of current archery seasons.

Some say that crossbows are not archery tackle because of their gun-like characteristics, especially the ability to fully cock the device until it is ready to shoot. Others say a crossbow arrow or “bolt” is projected just like an arrow and like a bow the crossbow is simply a “stick and a string.” Recent advancements in both crossbow and compound bow design make crossbow enthusiasts quick to point out that mountable rangefinders and better limb design for compounds has leveled the playing field. Both implements are now shooting their projectiles at 350 feet per second, some even faster.

I don’t think anyone would argue the fact that it takes time and practice to shoot a compound bow. Archery is an athletic activity that, like a golf swing, requires much time and effort to develop form and even more practice to keep it. Crossbows can almost be shot out of the box. Does this, however, make the crossbow an unjustifiable hunting implement?

My only experience shooting a crossbow is either at a demo booth or in a store. I’d like to get my hands on one and spend some time at the range with it. Otherwise I don’t know what my personal interest in hunting with it will be. Although I have an excellent compound bow, I’m becoming more addicted to my recurve bow every day. I like to travel and still-hunt and enjoy doing so with my recurve very much.

I’ve always felt that the DEC should be the ones making these types of decisions. Their fish and wildlife staff are more than qualified to decide game seasons rather than politicians. It’s a shame that we have to attempt to pass legislation to give DEC the authority to manage crossbow usage (and other fish and wildlife seasons) when they should have it in the first place.

One thing for sure is that the crossbow is here to stay. It’s becoming a huge part of the hunting industry and it is only a matter of time before New York will have to accept it. It’s hard to say how popular it would actually be at first because crossbows are expensive. But, those who can’t shoot a bow would benefit greatly. The fear here in New York with crossbow’s opposition is the competition from other hunters. To me that’s part of hunting.

Finally, my biggest issue with this crossbow debate is the wedge it is driving between hunters. I was never really sure if we would get a crossbow season off the ground but now that we have I feel the sooner it gets fully approved, the better. Then, as a group, hunters can quit arguing and move on to more important matters.

Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at