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Rod, Gun & Game: Crossbow bill under NYS review

Forrest Fisher writes a weekly outdoor column for The Sun.
There is much interest and much debate about the New York Senate Bill SB1699A, which would allow the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to establish the necessary requirements for a legalized crossbow hunting season in NYS.

At present, the use of crossbow is not allowed for hunting in New York, as the official legal use of the implement as a hunting tool ended with the close of the 2012 big game season, having gained popularity for use with a temporary trial period over the last two years.

The SB1699A bill was introduced by Senator Patrick M. Gallivan and is co-sponsored by several members of the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, including Senators Andrew J. Lanza, George D. Maziarz, Thomas F. O’Mara, James L. Seward, and Senate Co-Chair of the Caucus, Senator David Valesky, among others. The bill was opened for discussion via the New York Senate Environmental Conservation Committee this past Tuesday. This committee is chaired by Senator Mark Grisanti.

Many proponents of crossbow comment that the incorporation of crossbows as a hunting implement in New York is likely to increase hunter recruitment and retention. Many say that offering another facet of bow hunting (crossbow) may draw more people into the sport of hunting and may allow older hunters to remain outdoors for longer. Adversaries of the bill comment that use of crossbow is more like the use of a firearm and does not really fall under the term “bow” or “archery” as outdoors folks have come to understand it.

In Erie County, the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen conducted a formal vote of 45 sportsmen’s groups and only two groups chose to oppose. These two groups are the Hawkeye Bowmen and the West Falls Conservation Society, and they join forces with the New York Bowhunters, an organization from central New York State that has opposed the idea of crossbow during the archery season since the idea began about 15 years ago.

Jack Bouquin, president of the West Falls group, said “The current trend in our society has been to find “the easy way” or to look for a “right now” fix. Our current NYS Early Archery Season offers the one season devoted to promoting and fostering patience, practice and going the extra yard to achieve one’s goals. Adding the crossbow to this season erodes this type of thinking and promotes the opposite. The crossbow is fine in the other seasons and the late season, but only diminishes the NYS Early Archery season. It works on the weakness of “the easy way out” attitude.”

Bouquin speaks from his experience, as he is a proven master outdoorsman, having volunteered services in NYS teaching safety and ethics in the state sportsmen education classes for firearm hunter safety, bow hunter education, trapper training, Boy Scouts and other activities for the last 25 years. Bouquin is also co-chairmen of the Region 9 Archery youth camp since its inception (about 20 years ago) and is dedicated to the passion of maintaining youth education and the outdoors.

In previous discussions on this topic, Dave Reed, a long-time acquaintance of many outdoors folks and a prominent member of the Hawkeye Bowman archery group in Marilla, concurs with Bouquin, as do the members of the Hawkeye Archery Club. My childhood scoutmaster was the former president of Hawkeye, the late Dick Zawacki, and he loved the wilderness idea too – that would mean no crossbows today. Everyone has their solid point to make and it is noteworthy and healthy for all to share in the discussion.

Studies in other states show that crossbows, like compound bows, are accepted and recognized as a useful tool for the management of wildlife populations in suburban and urban areas, where there are concerns for human-wildlife conflict and damage to the ecosystem.

If the bill ultimately passes, it would not only allow crossbow to again be legalized for hunting in New York, but NYS would join some 21 other states that currently allow use of crossbow during the entire (early) archery season (49 states currently allow some form of crossbow use).

A recently released report by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources titled Crossbow Deer Hunter Survey (January, 2013) supported the claim that crossbows are a useful tool to recruit and retain archery hunters. The study found that about 19 percent (18,731) of the hunters using a crossbow in 2011 [in Michigan] had never hunted with anything other than a firearm prior to the expanded use of crossbows.”

Additionally, the study showed that at least 77 percent of the crossbow hunters agreed that in comparison to other types of bows crossbows were easier to use, took less time to become proficient with crossbows, they were more accurate with crossbows, and they were more confident they could harvest a deer with a crossbow. About 50 percent of crossbow hunters agreed that using crossbows allowed them to hunt more often and, interestingly, they would not hunt during the archery season if crossbows could not be used.

So there is diversity for thought. According to opponents of the bill, crossbow during the archery hunting season makes it too easy, little effort is required. According to proponents of the bill, crossbow makes them more proficient and some of them admit to not being strong enough to pull back a real bow, or are physically otherwise incapable.

If you’re like many others, you may feel even the use of a compound bow makes archery hunting too simple and easy. As a younger man, I would have been in that camp, too, having hunted small game and big game with a long bow and recurve bow for many decades before the compound ever came into my world of hunting. I called the compound bow hunters, “yuppie hunters,” still do, but now I’m older and not as strong or coordinated as I once was 50 years ago.

Most will admit that the proficient use of a compound bow allows near perfection in hitting the target bullseye nearly 100 percent of the time, and at distances of 30 to 50 yards. Hunting from a fixed or climbing tree stand, the deer never see the archer draw in any case, being far above the deer sight level in many cases, removing the challenge of drawing the bow “on the ground” and being detected. For me, this type of effort requires far less skill, sort of “yuppie hunting.”

As a recurve or long bow hunter, most folks would not take that long a shot and if they did, would not be as totally confident as a compound archer would be to hit the bullseye. This is where the patience idea comes in, the idea of developing skill, stealth, silence — in the woods.

Wouldn’t it be great if legislation could satisfy all these groups? While it’s not likely that they will all ever agree, maybe the answer to avoid confrontation among the three groups (crossbow, compound, long bow/recurve) is to allow each a two week season during the pre-firearms hunting period, rotating them each year for which part of the early season is “theirs.” Now that would probably upset everyone! But, what’s fair is fair.

At least it appears that the compound bow users and the long bow/recurve folks agree they should be able to use their implements for hunting big game jointly in the early archery season – not sure how that happened. From the official polls taken across the state, about nine out of 10 archers agree they would not object to crossbow during the early archery season, if it were allowed.

One thing for sure, it is usually impossible to get all groups to agree on any one point at any time in history, time changes that, after all, us recurve hunters let the compound bow folks into “our season” way back when. Whatever way you feel on this issue, understand that the decision is in the hands of our legislators in Albany. Voice your position on NYS use of crossbow, please contact NYS Senate Environmental Committee Chairman, Senator Mark Grisanti, and the other members of the committee.

Weekly Fish Report

oreline on Monday afternoon, streams were beginning to clear as they turned that familiar greenish color that usually indicates good fishing ahead, but Lake Erie was more brown that green, with the high winds and heavy runoff that has occurred in the last two weeks.

There were about 20 anglers casting spinners, spoons, and bobber lines with minnows or grubs from the Dunkirk City Pier on Central Avenue. Another 10 anglers or so were trying their luck from the NYSDEC fishing pier at the Dunkirk Power Plant outflow, where recently some brown trout approaching 30 inches in length have been caught using simple bobber and minnow rigs.

Anglers are also catching decent numbers of steelhead from these two places and by boat too, as the city launch ramps are in the water on one side of the launch, but the low lake level s could make launching larger boats a challenge.

DEC reports that natural baits such as minnows or small jigs tipped with a grub or worm (fished under a float) have worked best. DEC biologist Mike Todd says, “Gizzard shad are very thick in the harbor, making it tough to cast and retrieve spoons and spinners without foul hooking shad. Trout often show in early spring at Barcelona Harbor as well. The warmer weather will soon draw bullhead into Dunkirk Harbor, if not already. The bite is generally best behind the Clarion hotel at night.”

While Erie Basin Marina boat ramps are not open yet, they soon will be and anglers fishing early in the season looking for perch will find the fish in 40 feet of water, or so, as they do every year, by running straight out the north gap toward Seneca Shoal. The ringbacks seem to like that area in the early season and during other years, perch between two and three pounds have occasionally been taken there.

In the Upper Niagara River, the yellow perch and sunfish will soon move into harbors, bays and inlets along Grand Island and along the Tonawanda shoreline. These shallow, quiet waters warm quicker, attracting both bait and panfish.

At Chautauqua Lake, I counted over 100 anglers looking to test crappie in the canals of the south shoreline from Jamestown to Mayville, including Burtis Bay, Lakewood, Hadley Bay, Bemus Bay, Ashville Bay and off Mayville. Many Amish anglers working minnows or small jigs (1/32 ounces) with a minnow under a float works for crappie, and succeeding.

If you like to fish for bullhead, these fish move into the same canals at night. Worms, leeches or chicken livers fished on the bottom at night, hot dog pieces work well too, especially for bullhead.

At favored inland trout streams, the rain has made most creeks throughout western New York high and muddy, with stocked fish being washed far downstream.

Of course, there are the popular inland trout lakes in Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties that could be better options, including Case, Harwood, Quaker, Red House, Allen and New Albion Lakes, as all have received generous stockings of yearling and two-year-old trout.

Outdoors Calendar

April 18: Southtowns Walleye Association monthly meeting, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, 7pm.

April 19-21: Hawkeye Bowmen Spring Thaw Primitive 3D Archery Shoot, Camping weekend, wood and self-bows only, $15 for weekend, 13300 Clinton St., Marilla, call 998-4857.

April 20: Fishing Seminar – Walleye and Perch, Lake Erie, noon–3 pm, Forrest Fisher/Ted Malota/Jim Plinzke, West Falls Conservation, 55 Bridge St., call Ted Malota at 627-3763.

April 20: Southtowns Ducks Unlimited, Sporting Clay fun shoot, Hamburg Rod & Gun, Hickox Rd., 9am-4 pm, call George Rockey at 674-3075.

April 20: NYS Hunter Safety Training, Town of Hamburg Recreation, 2982 Lakeview Rd., 8am-4 pm, home study course, pre-register on site, 9 am-5 pm.

April 20/21: NYS Hunter Safety Training, Bison City Rod & Gun, 511 Ohio St., Buffalo, 8 am-2 pm, Simon Manka instructor, register at first class, limited to 60 students.

April 20: Southtowns Ducks Unlimited, Sporting Clay fun shoot, Hamburg Rod & Gun, Hickox Rd., 9 am -4 pm, call George Rockey at 674-3075.

April 20: NYS Hunter Safety Training, Town of Hamburg Recreation, 2982 Lakeview Rd., 8 am-4 pm, home study course, pre-register on site, 9 am-5 pm.

April 20/21: NYS Hunter Safety Training, Bison City Rod & Gun, 511 Ohio St., Buffalo, 8 am-2 pm, Simon Manka instructor, register at first class, limited to 60 students.

April 20/21: NYS Spring Youth Turkey Hunt weekend, ages 12-15, 30 minutes before sunrise to noon: bag limit: 1 bearded turkey.

April 7/28: King of the Lake Spring Salmon Fishing Tournament, Port Dalhousie, Ontario, Port Pier Marina, Lake Ontario, 5/day for/ 2 days, email:

April 28: 9th Annual Jimmy Griffin “Teach-Me-To-Fish” for kids/parents, Bison City Rod & Gun, 511 Ohio St., 2 -4 pm, register upon arrival, includes lunch & rod/reel prizes, all free, call 652-2256.

April 28: NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame, Induction dinner, open to WNY public, Rusty Rail, 3231 Seneca Turnpike, Canastota, NY, call Scott Faulkner at 315-829-3588 or

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