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Crossbow legalization for hunting has been an arrow in the air for more than a decade. A two-year trial period ended in 2012 for crossbow use while hunting, and hunters this past year could not use this device for anything but target shooting.

But the crossbow became a legal hunting device last week when the governor’s budget was filed.

For decades, anti-crossbow factions worked to either continue the ban or only allow its use during firearms seasons. Pro-crossbow advocates looked for the use of crossbows in all hunting seasons. “It ended up in a compromise,” Assemblyman Sean Ryan said after hours of discussion. Basically, the pro-crossbow faction won, considering the passage of its use, but stipulations still impose some limitations.

State Sen. Patrick Gallivan has sponsored crossbow legislation. Gallivan held public hearings/forums during the last three years and submitted a Senate bill that accompanied Ryan’s Assembly bill to establish the crossbow as a legal hunting device with seasons regulated by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Previously, Sen. George Maziarz and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte had proposed legalization bills that were either held in committee or did not reach the floor of both houses. Years earlier, the late Francis “Frank” Hartman had been a leading advocate for crossbow legalization along with Bill Hilts Sr. of Sanborn. Hartman’s name, along with eight other recipients, will be entered in the New York State Outdoorsman Hall of Fame in Canastota on April 26. “The new regulations will be included in the game laws for this coming season,” Ryan said. Along with an inclusion during the last 14 days archery season in the Southern Zone, which includes all of Western New York. Ryan said the rules will also allow for small game and turkey hunting.

Rick McDermott with the NYS Crossbow Coalition was impressed that along with pro-hunting groups such as the NRA, SCI, NYS Conservation Council, many other groups not associated with archery hunting supported the NYSCC crossbow legalization. “Organizations that partnered with our coalition also included the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and the New York State Farm Bureau,” McDermott said. Hilts praised all the individuals and groups that worked to legalize the crossbow but made this statement: “The Legislature has ignored the needs of the physically challenged sportsmen, especially severely disabled people of our state. I have been told countless times, that the disabled need warm weather to function in the forests. A late season for crossbows is fine for most hunters, but not those who struggle with life.

“We must provide time for them to utilize the crossbow and enjoy the grand sport of hunting in our state.”

A more detailed column on crossbow legalization, hunting permits, season setting, and anti-crossbow advocates’ responses in a column on the Outdoors Page next Sunday.

email: odrswill@gmail.com