Each bill would do the following:
1. Require crossbow hunters to receive the additional bowhunter training needed for the bow privilege.
2. Eliminate the 200lb draw weight limitation on crossbows.
3. Allow Junior hunters, ages 14-16, to use crossbows during the Columbus Weekend Youth Deer Hunt.
What the Bills do not do:
1. They do not change the crossbow seasons
2. They do not lower the age required for archers to use a crossbow.
In a recent letter emailed around the state, New York Bowhunters made it clear that they oppose the proposed changes to the current crossbow legislation. They see requiring the bow privilege for anyone to use a crossbow as a step backward. The letter explains that the current regulation requiring a muzzleloader permit "assures its users have attended a firearm safety class". However, this is an odd argument, since all hunters in New York State must take the same hunter safety course, which includes firearms safety. The two bills on the table would require bowhunter safety training in addition to the standard hunter safety course.
This may be the only thing clear in the New York Bowhunter's email. The letter was somewhat rambling, citing tired arguments in general opposition to crossbows, which have swayed few to their side over the last several years.
The letter states their objection to removing the 200lb draw weight restriction currently imposed on crossbows. They cite the extreme draw weights of today's crossbows, the fact that crossbows require mechanical assistance to draw the string, and safety concerns. But unfortunately for their cause, none of this holds water.
As bowhunters, the members of New York Bowhunters surely know that even minor changes to their arrow or broadhead can dramatically alter accuracy or penetration power of their arrows. It’s a physics thing. Many, including myself, cannot begin to fully grasp the concepts involved. But the laws governing arrow flight and the transfer of energy in the process of releasing it is something that is unavoidable and often counterintuitive. Crossbows, with their shorter limbs, string, and draw length must draw more weight to obtain the lethal performance common in compound bows. A direct comparison between the two is misguided.
Rick McDermott, from the New York Crossbow Coalition, refutes the New York Bowhunters draw weight argument this way:
The 200lb draw weight is an arbitrary number chosen to attempt to equate draw weight to energy and trajectory. Because of the short powerstroke of a crossbow, the limbs must transfer the energy from the bow limbs through the string into the arrow in a shorter distance than a vertical bow, thus the necessary increase in draw weight. The fastest production crossbow shoots a 400 grain arrow at 410fps (Barnett Ghost 410 @185lb draw weight) and the fastest production compound bow (PSE Full Throttle @70lb draw weight) shoots a 350 grain arrow at 370fps (IBO Specs 30in draw length, 70 lb. draw weight, 350 grain arrow). The Ghost 410 has 2.6 times the draw weight, however it does not shoot 2.6 times faster or 977.8fps? Draw weight is not directly proportional to any bows energy, vertical or horizontal. Need more?
An Excalibur Matrix Mega 405 has a draw weight of 290lbs. The specs on the Matrix Mega 405 are 405 fps with a 350 grain arrow. With 1.5 times the draw weight why does the Matrix Mega 405 shoot 5fps slower than the Ghost 410? The Ghost 410 is a compound bow and the Matrix 405 is a recurve bow. With a draw weight 4.1 times greater than the PSE Full Throttle, the Matrix produces an additional 35 fps while the Ghost 410 is 40fps faster with only 2.6 times the draw weight. Draw weight does not directly relate to speed, energy or trajectory. The physics behind this is complicated, but the data shows this to be true.
Now, current regulations allow Junior Hunters, ages 14 to 16, to hunt big game with bows, after obtaining the same bowhunter training required by all archers. They can hunt with their crossbow in the last 14 days of southern zone archery season, the last 10 days of northern zone archery season, all of the regular firearms seasons, and any late muzzleloader/archery season. However, these same hunters are not allowed to use their crossbow during the Columbus Weekend Youth Hunt. The bills proposed by Gunther and Gallivan would remove this limitation. New York Bowhunters object to this change as well.
New York Bowhunters keep finding themselves stuck between two conflicting points of view. First, they argue that crossbows are more gun-like than bow-like, citing their trigger mechanisms, stocks, and scopes, while also comparing the draw weights of crossbows to that of compound bows. But if crossbows are guns, why is there any comparison to compound bows? Second, they stand in the way of additional training for crossbow hunters, while simultaneously arguing on behalf of safety.
New York Bowhunters: If you want to win your battle, stop trying to define the implement. Crossbows may have more mechanical similarities to compound bows, but I would argue that they are neither guns nor bows. The physics are simply too different to be compared to either effectively. Instead, if you can convince others that crossbows are dangerous to the user, dangerous to other hunters, or more likely to wound game than kill it, you will have a flood of converts. Until then, you will always find your arguments falling flat.
More Info / Taking Action
If you're a supporter of these bills, the New York Crossbow Coalition is urging immediate action. They expect A8021 & S5817 to come up in session starting today, possibly continuing through the end of the week. There you will find a clear explanation of the issue and links to key state representatives.
If you're interested in even more information regarding the comparison between Crossbows and Vertical Compound bows, check out this article from 2009 on Bowhunting.com.