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Rod, Gun and Game: New York state budget brings good news for crossbow fans

AIM, READY — Western New York resident Debbie Godfrey receives crossbow instructions, with her husband Chuck and their grandchildren, from Senior New York State Safety Hunting Instructor Frank Miskey, during National Hunting and Fishing Day celebrations at Elma Conservation Club, last year. Crossbows were legalized for NYS hunting in the 2014-2015 budget bill. Photo by Forrest Fisher.
SPRINGVILLE —  When New York State Department of Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens met with outdoor media last September in Lake Placid, he was asked, “Is there any chance that the crossbow will ever be returned to New York state, as a legal hunting implement?” The person asking the question added, “It seems the 99 percent majority of the state Senate and Assembly, less one man, Assemblyman Sweeney from Long Island, are in favor of crossbow, including all of the Upstate legislators, but Sweeney controls the Assembly and refuses to allow the crossbow bill to be brought up for a vote because he is afraid it will pass. What can we do?”

Martens turned to his chief of staff personnel, who were also attending the media convention, and asked Doug Stang, assistant director of the Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources, “How can we best answer that question, Doug?”

In front of about 100 outdoor columnists from some of the largest newspapers and outdoor publications in the country, Stang replied, “We are working hard to draft new ideas on how else the crossbow bill might be introduced, to meet the needs and demands of New York state outdoor hunting enthusiasts.” Among other comments made at the briefing, NYSDEC staff members discussed that not having the crossbow here in New York was costing the state money, since many folks go hunting in Ohio and Pennsylvania because, even when New York allowed crossbow as a legal hunting implement, it could only be used during firearm seasons and not during archery season.

After the budget meetings last week, the controversial crossbow issue for New York that has lasted about 15 years came to an end. New legislation approving the budget spending plan legalizes the crossbow for hunting small game and big game (deer and bear) for hunters. Exceptions for the use of crossbow include Suffolk and Westchester counties, where many restrictions on hunting already exist.

Elderly hunters, women and youth hunters are among the most excited about the future of crossbow hunting in New York, which brings high accuracy with very little practice. The use of crossbow during the archery season was officially opposed by the New York Bowhunters Organization in Central New York, the West Falls Conservation Society and Hawkeye Bowmen in Alden.

These groups largely felt that the archery season is about skill, to some degree, and it should be left to the use of more traditional archery equipment, where the user has to physically draw his bow to shoot. The argument among elderly hunters was that the use of modern compound bows was hardly traditional archery, since modern compound bows allow as much as an 80 percent let-off after drawing the arrow, allowing a hunter to hold a 60-pound bow with less than 15 pounds of force. The friendly arguments will continue for a long time, but already, area archery supply shops have many calls from sportsmen who want to buy a crossbow.

Next, NYSDEC will draft up new regulations with a public comment period, in the near future, before adding the new crossbow to the NYS hunting syllabus. At this time, anyone who holds a current archery license will be grandfathered in for certification and new archers will learn about crossbow, in future archery course certification classes. The details still need to be defined.

The crossbow took a route around the consistent opposition of Sweeney, when Gov. Cuomo allowed the idea to be part of the budget package.

The budget language on crossbows will allow their use for small game and big game, including in the last 14 days of the Southern Zone early archery season and the last 10 days of the Northern Zone early archery season. In addition, the archery set-back legal distance from a dwelling is reduced to 150 feet, for archery, and 250 feet, for crossbow.

The budget also allows $4 million for NYS fish hatcheries to make infrastructure repairs that are sorely needed, at several rearing ponds and facilities, across the state. Among improvements are plans to purchase 16 new fish-stocking trucks with fish life-support systems essential for safe delivery of hatchery-reared fish.

The budget also provides $6 million for 50 new access projects for fishing, hunting, canoeing, hiking, bird-watching and other forms of outdoor recreational activities, throughout the state.

Some wonder how all these new additions and available money are possible, with free taxes for new businesses coming to New York and with the large segment of the population that has left New York, in the last two years. Rough estimates say that about 1.2 million people have moved from New York since 2011. Sportsmen have conjectured that Gov. Cuomo is trying to appease the economic impact engine of the New York hunting and fishing sportsmen population, since his push to pass the NY SAFE Act during midnight legislation last year is largely opposed by the majority of license-buying sportsmen.

Lastly, New York state will reduce the price for a seven-day non-resident fishing license from $31-$28 and from $13-$12 for NYS residents, as well as increase the number of free fishing days from two-eight, allowing folks to fish for free, on designated days, throughout the year.

New York is streamlining online access to purchase fishing and hunting licenses, allowing charter captains and bait shops to provide instant license purchase at their business sites, which might be on a boat at your local waterway.

For more information on crossbow or any of the new changes reported in the 2014-15 budget, contact the NYSDEC Region 9 office in Buffalo at 851-7200.

3-D archery shoot

Open to the public, the Hawkeye Bowmen will sponsor a “Wild Animal” archery shoot, this Sunday, April 13, with registration open from 7 a.m.-noon, and the course is open through 2 p.m. There will be three courses and participants can shoot all three for one price. The kitchen is open from 6 a.m. For more information, call 998-4857 or visit

New York SAFE Act Forum in Springville

The public is invited to learn the latest on court cases dealing with the NY SAFE Act and future of this law. There is much misinformation about the new law and its implementation. Join Assemblyman David DiPietro, Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, Senators Patrick Gallivan and Cathy Young, and other local officials, as they discuss the SAFE Act and the Second Amendment. The meeting will be held at the Joylan Theatre, located at 11 West Main St., Springville, on Monday, April 14, from 6-9 p.m. For more information, call 655-0951.

Outdoor calendar

April 12-13: New York State Hunter Safety Training, Bison City Rod & Gun Club, located at 511 Ohio St., Buffalo, 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. Register at the first class.

April 12-13: Extreme 3-D Archery Competitive Shoot, cash prizes, Glen Coe Conservation, located on Foote Road in Glenwood. For more information, call 909-3441.

April 13: 3-D Archery fun shoot, Hawkeye Bowmen Wild Animal Shoot, located at 13300 Clinton St., Alden, 7a.m.-noon, three courses, breakfast and lunch available. For more information, call 998-4857.

April 18-19: New York State Hunter Safety Training, Wolcott Guns, located at 3052 Walden Ave., Depew. Register at

Send information for the outdoor calendar to Forrest Fisher, 10 days in advance, via email to


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