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Crossbow bills resurrected in state Legislature

Staff Report

Thursday, April 29, 2010 10:14 AM CDT
Albany - Legislation that would legalize hunting with a crossbow has resurfaced in Albany and will almost assuredly rekindle the debate over the state's longstanding prohibition on crossbow use.

Previous legislative attempts to allow crossbow use in some form have died natural deaths in Albany, and it's unclear whether the newest efforts will gain traction.

And at this point, virtually no legislation is progressing as lawmakers focus on putting a state budget in place and dealing with the state's massive financial crisis.

But legislation proposed this session would legalize the crossbow in New York and leave decisions on when the weapons could be used and by whom in the hands of DEC officials.

Among the bills offered include:

� S307, introduced by Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane.

� A924A, introduced by Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, a companion bill to the Maziarz proposal.

� S6973, introduced by Sen. David Valesky, D-Oneida.

� A00740 and A7100A, both introduced by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh, which would allow crossbow use for those with physical disabilities.

� S2204A, introduced by Sen. Dale Volker, R-Depew.

� S2943, introduced by Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, which would allow crossbow use by hunters with physical disabilities.

Most of the bills are proposals reintroduced from last year's legislative session. Those bills never moved out of the Assembly and Senate environmental conservation committees.

Whether they will in this legislative session remains to be seen, but some sporting groups - notably the Western New York Chapter of Safari Club International - are pushing a letter-writing campaign to state lawmakers appealing for passage of crossbow legislation.

Support for crossbow use seems to be strongest in western New York, where some hunters visit Ohio to hunt with a crossbow in that state, which has a popular crossbow season for deer.

The Safari Club's form letter pushing for crossbow approval points to the DelMonte and Valesky bills, and notes that New York is one of just two states in the U.S. (Oregon is the other) which don't allow crossbows for hunting under any conditions, including for the physically challenged.

The letter touts lifting the crossbow prohibition as a way of "getting more hunters out into the woods, helping to reduce car/deer collisions, helping to reduce farmer crop damages, etc."

Maziarz and DelMonte, in their legislative proposals, point to other states such as Ohio and Georgia where crossbows "appear to be an important recruitment and retention tool for hunters. Many people start out hunting with crossbows and eventually switch to longbows or compound bows."

The western New York lawmakers also said other states have not seen an impact whitetail numbers or an increase in poaching incidents as a result of allowing crossbows, and that the weapons "create hunting opportunities for people with disabilities and those who cannot use a longbow or compound bow."

New York's DEC has taken a position that favors allowing crossbows for hunters with physical disabilities that prevent them from using traditional archery equipment.

"I think it would be fair to say the department would consider any viable bill that would provide crossbow hunting opportunity," DEC_Chief Wildlife Biologist John Major said. "But what DEC put forward a couple years ago would limit (crossbow use) to seniors and people with disabilities. Other crossbow advocates would go further than that."

New York Bowhunters, Inc., the statewide archery group with about 3,000-4,000 members, has been unwavering in its opposition to allowing crossbows.

"New York Bowhunters is opposed to the use of any weapon, other than those bows drawn, held and released by hand in any archery season or archery only area," the group's Web site states.
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