A column by Oak Duke

Governor Cuomo shouldn't sign the controversial crossbow bill that landed on his desk earlier this month (A10583) for a number of reasons, one being that the expertly crafted piece of legislation does the opposite of its surface intent, and two, it carries a toxic, anti-hunting message in its belly like a deer tick carries lyme disease.

    The New York state Assembly's crossbow bill is written to extend the use of a crossbow during the regular firearms deer season through 2014. As of now, the legal right to use a crossbow to hunt deer expires December 31, 2012, after most of the New York deer seasons conclude this year (all but on Long Island,) where the author of the bill, Assemblyman Robert Sweeney D-Suffolk County, resides.)

    Crossbow proponents were hoping and pushing for a bill to allow the use of a crossbow during the bow season, claiming  that for one, the crossbow is a bow and that many states including Pennsylvania and Ohio have both traditional archers and crossbow hunters regulated in the same archery season.

    Crossbow opponents who object to the use of crossbows during the archery deer seasons are for the most part traditional bow hunters and they were able to get a bill to quote "extend" the use of crossbows during the regular season for another two years.

    So through legislative craft, the law that appears to "extend' the use of the crossbow during the next couple deer seasons, in fact limits the use of the crossbow only to the firearms season. And locks any further expansion in the bow season for a couple more years. In practical terms, relatively few deer hunters in New York state will buy a crossbow to hunt deer during the regular gun seasons. Crossbow proponents realize that if crossbows were made legal in New York to hunt whitetails, there would be an explosion in crossbow sales. There would be, if not thousands, tens of thousands of crossbows sold because of its efficiency and ease-of-use compared to modern compound bows.

    But harder to stomach than the legislative trickery about the crossbow bill is the hidden agenda, stuck in the very last sentence of the bill…and nowhere else (except in my craw.) This sentence kills the Youth Deer Hunt, set by the DEC through meetings and an extensive system of sportsman surveys. Youth hunts are not new creations. They have been successfully carried out in many other states and the results are overwhelmingly positive for recruiting new hunters.

    The New York State Youth Deer hunt (follow the link to the DEC site for times and specifics: www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/81317.html ) is set for the Columbus Day weekend, October 6, 7, and 8 in both the Northern Zone and Southern Zone. This is the sentence in the crossbow bill that kills the Youth Hunt:  "8 S 8. The only junior hunter days for big game hunting the department 9 of environmental conservation may authorize during archery seasons are 10 junior archery days."   Quite subtle, you have to admit. A simple sentence that does not come out and squash the youth hunt on the surface, but does exactly that by only allowing the DEC to authorize junior archery days (which has been the law for many years.)

    So A10583 is not forthright and honest. The way the legislation for the crossbow and youth season is being presented to Governor Cuomo is misleading. He does not need to sign the bill. He can simply ignore it and allow the Youth Season to occur and then next year, deal with an upfront crossbow bill so everyone knows what we are getting.

    To me, a great irony is that Assemblyman Sweeney (the crafter of the bill) and Gov. Cuomo recently got together on the Free Fishing Clinics early this summer and passed a wonderful bit of legislation to further the experience of fishing for New York state residents. (The bill originated in Dansville!) But that same spirit of expanding the opportunity for us to interact with nature has not been been extended into the hunting community as it was so recently in fishing.

    The DEC is part of the Executive Branch of the New York state government, as Governor Cuomo is its head. In this case, he should acquiesce, or defer to the findings and recommendations of his agency and allow the New York state Youth Hunt to be a reality and not sign this boondoggle of a crossbow bill. Drop it in the shredder.

Oak Duke is the author of several books on hunting and an award-winning columnist for "In the Outdoors." You can reach him at oakduke@wellsvilledaily.com