Outdoors With Craig Robbins

After years of give and take, misinformation and cases twisting of the facts by many well-serving hunters from across New York, crossbows are now a legal hunting tool.

Hunters are now allowed to hunt small and big game with a crossbow under conditions established by the New York State Legislature. The New York State DEC has established regulations to implement provisions of the new law.

There has much information about hunting with a crossbow in New York State, but following are guidelines have been adopted by the DEC.

Crossbows may be used only by licensees who are 14 years of age or older. Without landowner permission, crossbows may not be discharged within 250 feet of any home, school building or playground, public structure, farm structure in use, or occupied factory or church.

A crossbow may not be possessed in or on a motor vehicle unless it is uncocked.

While on lands inhabited by deer or bear, and in or on a motor vehicle using artificial lights, a crossbow may not be possessed unless it is unstrung or taken down or securely fastened in a case or locked in the trunk of the vehicle. Crossbows may not be used for hunting in Suffolk, Nassau, or Westchester counties.

There are three options to choose from in order to complete the required crossbow qualification and safety training.

All must accompany a NYS hunting license and in some cases a muzzleloading privilege.

Review the DEC online crossbow qualification training and complete the Crossbow Certificate of Qualification.

Review the DEC crossbow qualification training found in the 2014-15 Hunting & Trapping Regulations Guide and complete the Crossbow Certificate of Qualification.

Complete a Hunter Education or Combination Education course to receive a Hunter Education Certificate of Qualification. Certificates must be dated on or after April 1, 2014 to meet crossbow qualification and safety training.

This is important to remember: The Crossbow Certificate of Qualification from 2012-2013 is no longer valid.

A legal crossbow consists of a bow and string, either compound or recurve, that launches a minimum 14-inch bolt or arrow, not including point, mounted upon a stock with a trigger that holds the string and limbs under tension until released. The trigger unit of such a crossbow must have a working safety.

The minimum limb width is 17 inches, outer tip of limbs, excluding wheels and cams, uncocked. The minimum peak draw weight is 100 pounds and maximum peak draw weight is 200 pounds. The minimum overall length is 24 inches from butt-stock to front of limbs.

The new law essentially treats crossbows as a muzzleloader. Hunters must possess a muzzleloader hunting privilege to legally hunt with a crossbow during any muzzleloader season or during open portions of the early bowhunting seasons. Muzzleloader privilege is not required when hunting with a crossbow during the early bear season or the regular firearms seasons.

Bowhunting privilege is not required for use of a crossbow at any time.

Crossbows can be used at this time during these following seasons and in these zones: crossbows may be used to take bear during the early bear season, early muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone, regular firearms seasons in the Northern and Southern Zones, and the late muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone.

Also, crossbows may be used to take deer during early and late muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone and late muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone using Bow/Muzz tags, DMPs, DMAP tags or an unfilled Regular Big Game tag with a late season only, regular firearms seasons using a Regular Big Game tag, DMPs, or DMAP tags.

Here is the one that is getting some folks the most upset. Crossbows may also be used to take deer or bear during limited portions of bowhunting seasons, during the last 14 days of the early season and during the last 10 days of the early bowhunting season in the Northern Zone this season, Oct.15-24. This includes the seven-day early muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone. Only Bow/Muzz tags, DMPs or DMAPs may be used during these times.

The current regulations state that crossbows can not be used to take deer or bear in the following areas of the state: Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 4J in Albany County, WMU 8C in Monroe County, in the counties of Suffolk, Nassau or Westchester.

Junior big game hunters age 14-15 may not use a crossbow to take a deer during the Youth Deer Hunt weekend, Oct.11-13. Adult mentors who accompany a junior big game hunter on the Youth Deer Hunt weekend may not possess a crossbow or firearm while afield on those days.

For small game hunters the current regulations are: Only a hunting license is needed to use a crossbow to hunt small game species. All crossbow specifications remain in effect.

Crossbows may be used to take the following small game species during their respective open seasons. That includes wild turkey, any other small game or upland game birds, unprotected wildlife for example red squirrels and woodchucks at anytime.

Crossbows may not be used under the following conditions. To take waterfowl or other migratory game birds while hunting with a dog for small game (except for coyotes) in the Northern Zone.

The current regulations state that crossbows may not be used to take carp or any other fish species.

While these regulations may seem different or difficult, if one takes the time to look at each one separately you’ll see that they make sense and are in the best interest and safety of hunters and wildlife.