Crossbows legal this year
by Ron Kolodziej

I’m a bit curious as to how many deer (and perhaps even bear) will be taken by crossbows this season here in New York state. Not very many at all I’d guess, though as the three-year sunshine clause on these weapons approaches in 2013 we may ultimately see a loosening of restrictions on crossbows, permitting them to be used more easily and more often.

There are several directions in which the state Department of Environmental Conservation could go regarding crossbows after the initial three-year test period ends. Which one it goes with depends largely upon its experience with the weapon’s use and how many hunters avail themselves of this opportunity.

Right now, using crossbows only during portions of the regular firearms season isn’t any real bargain, but at least it’s a start. Even that caused a bit of rancor among bow hunters. At the conclusion of the aforementioned three-year period the DEC could leave crossbow use the way it is, expand its use or eliminate it altogether.

I suspect expanding its use will be the way they’ll go, but I don’t know what form that expansion will take. However, I suspect we may eventually see it used for small game hunting and perhaps even bow fishing.

Time will tell and there’s still resistance to the crossbow, primarily from inveterate bow hunters who see the possible use of crossbows during the regular archery season as usurping their right to have a lengthy season exclusively for their weapons.

I doubt many hunters will forego the use of their favorite shotguns or rifles during the firearms seasons and use crossbows instead, but I’m certain there are some who would like to say they took their deer with this weapon during its first year of legal use.


Crossbows are effective (I took a bear in Quebec with one several years ago) and I suspect they’ll find their place in our big game seasons here. The DEC has altered its online and phone-reporting system to help track hunter success with crossbows, and it is likely there will be some hunters who chose to use those weapons.

I’ve owned and used one for over a dozen years, though I’ve only used it in Quebec and Ohio, where they’ve been legal hunting implements for some time. Still, though I’m proficient with it, I doubt I’ll use my crossbow here this season.


For a number of reasons I’m operating under substantial time constraints this season and will probably just stick with my shotgun and/or rifle for my deer hunting, at least for this season.

I suggest you carefully read page 12 in your new 2011 - 2012 Hunting and Trapping Guide for more information on the subject. You’ll also find a copy of the certificate you must carry when crossbow hunting. It’ll also refer you to a few locations on the web where you can get additional information on crossbow use.


On a related subject, don’t forget that you can use air guns to hunt certain species of small game. Specifically, the Hunting and Trapping Guide states: “Air guns may be used to hunt squirrels, rabbits, hares, ruffed grouse and furbearers that may be hunted (racoons and coyotes) and unprotected species.” Air guns may not be used to hunt waterfowl, pheasant, wild turkey or big game.

Air guns are defined as a firearm that uses spring or compressed air, but not gunpowder, to propel a single projectile that is .17 caliber or larger and produces a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second. Smooth or rifled bore air guns are allowed.


As Bob Dylan wrote, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” and sometimes it can actually be tough to keep up with those changes in relation to hunting and fishing here in NYS.

For those of you fortunate enough to have some older copies of the NYS Hunting and Trapping Guide - say a dozen or more years old - check them out and compare them to this year’s copy. There are a lot of changes, and some of them are considerable as DEC works to keep up with changing times, populations and preferences.

A dozen years from now you can compare this year’s Guide to the one that’s issued then and those changes will be even more pronounced.