The crossbow will be a legal hunting tool this fall, and has really stirred up the hornets’ nest. While at Lincoln Pond hydrating one afternoon after cutting firewood, I had a discussion with a friend, John. I realized many of us don’t know a whole hell of a lot about crossbows and DEC laws concerning their use. So, I started researching them a bit. Confusion abounds!
The crossbow has been controversial to many traditional bow hunters, due to the season and because a crossbow is cocked and ready to shoot, while a traditional bow must be drawn back and held manually until the shot.
The season issue dealt with it cutting into either traditional bow hunting or muzzle hunting dates. That has been settled and is now in the law.
There is also a concern about jacking. But the way I see it, if they are gonna jack deer, it doesn’t matter if crossbows are legal or not, jacking is illegal, no matter what they use. Just like guns, criminals will use them if they are illegal or not, and registering guns or banning them is not going to solve the problem.
Like many changes in hunting equipment, this is one of personal preference. A traditional long bow was replaced by the recurve, then the compound bow, just like the flintlock, the muzzle loader was replaced by the percussion cap and then again by the in-line using a 209 primer ignition. Round balls replaced by sabots. To me, it’s a hunter’s personal preference.
I am looking into crossbows because of the way I like to hunt deer. I am not a sitter. I have tried sitting in a tree stand, but it’s just not for me. After an hour or so in a stand I start to seize up and need to move, besides, I like to wander, find sign and discover new places. I would prefer to move, find a spot to sit awhile, move again if needed. The crossbow would allow me to do that easier than a traditional bow. It’s my style and I’m sticking to it!
Crossbows may be used during the following seasons:
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.
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/Muzzle tags, DMPs, DMAP tags, or an unfilled Regular Big Game tag (late season only) ; regular firearms seasons using a Regular Big Game tag, DMPs, or DMAP tags.
Crossbows may also be used to take deer or bear during limited portions of bow hunting seasons as follows, provided that the hunter possesses the muzzle loading privilege:
During the last 14 days of the early bow hunting season in the Southern Zone (i.e., November 1 - November 14, 2014);
During the last 10 days of the early bow hunting season in the Northern Zone (i.e., October 15 - October 24; this includes the 7-day early muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone);
Only Bow/Muzz tags, DMPs or DMAPs may be use during these times.
A muzzle loading stamp is required, not a bow stamp. A “Crossbow Certificate of Qualification” card must also be carried along with your license. See the NYS DEC HUNTING guide for all of the crossbow season dates and legalese! I don’t want to lead you down the wrong road. Do your homework!
The crossbow choices are enormous. There are draw weights, width and length of the bow, speeds, all of which must be considered, and meet DEC law. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation law is now out regarding the crossbow construction, size and draw weights required. This is directly from the DEC website: A bow, a string, and either compound or re-curve limbs with minimum width of 17 inches (tip of limbs, uncocked). Mounted on a stock with a trigger and working safety that holds the string and limbs under tension.
A minimum peak draw weight of 100 pounds and a maximum peak draw weight of 200 pounds.
A minimum overall length from the butt of the stock to the front of limbs of 24 inches.
A minimum arrow (bolt) length of 14 inches. (For big game, the arrowhead must be non barbed, 2 or more cutting surfaces at least 7/8” wide).
The interesting part about all of this is now choosing a crossbow to purchase. Like everything else it’s a learning process about whether to choose a recurve or compound crossbow. Both have pluses and minuses.
I am a MacGyver type that likes to fix things myself. I also like keeping things as simple as possible, so I want something I can work on and is bomb proof. I want the workhorse cake, and not the frosting. I haven’t decided what to get yet, I am still researching, but there are many considerations to look into.
There is the manufacturer and warranty, speed of the bolt in feet per second, noise factor, weight, along with cocking aids like rope versus crank. After that, you get to choose scopes, red dot versus optical. Then there are package deals with slings, extra bolts or arrows and of course you need the broad heads and case and other assorted gadgets and goodies. More decisions to make and more fun to have in the field this fall.
So if you are considering a crossbow this hunting season, check out the NYS-DEC regulations first, do your homework, and then research the crossbows available. I stopped at Norm’s bait shop in Crown Point and chatted with Brian. I got to hold one and feel the weight and compare a couple they had on hand. If you want to see, touch and smell them before buying, stop in Norms to check out one. I don’t know of any other place in Essex County to get one, it may take a trip to Glens Falls, Plattsburgh or Vermont, it sure isn’t Wally world.
For older guys, the disabled, and especially our disabled vets, this is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy deer hunting once again. By having more access to state land, and the use of crossbows, many of the barriers that stopped folks from hunting can be torn down. Our Vets earned that!
Traditionalists can use a longbow or a flintlock muzzle loader, that’s their choice, but for me, I like a good shotgun for birds, a bolt action rifle and now, maybe a crossbow to do my hunting. This is America, live free!
Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.