Long Island’s expanding deer population has caused a quite a stir in modern white-tailed deer management, which has brought much needed attention to how the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, local municipalities and lawmakers will regulate deer hunting in the future.
Instead of focusing on the true numbers of white-tailed deer on the East End of Long Island (WMU 1C), we have seen a shift in policies focusing more attention on where deer and human conflicts exist and how to address them. Over the past few years there have been many scientific advancements in non-lethal deer management methods, but only hunting has proved to be the most effective. What has also changed is how hunters are perceived by the general public. Meat hunters are becoming a commodity on Long Island and homeowners and farmers looking to protect their plantings are finding that relationships with successful hunters are beneficial to both parties.
The overpopulation of deer is not spread across WMU 1C evenly. What is happening is that there are pockets of deer that are becoming a nuisance to humans, mostly in areas where hunting is not allowed or is challenged due to thick woodlots, protected preserves and expansive farmland. These areas tend to harbor deer, creating safe havens for them which are virtually inaccessible to hunters.
Recently, New York State has tried to address access issues for hunters by reducing the archery hunting setbacks, which opens up more land in suburban areas. Although this is a great step forward, it is only one element that is needed for Long Island hunters to really be effective at keeping the local deer populations in check. The previous setbacks dictate that a hunter cannot be within 500 feet of a dwelling or public structure—but as of April 01, 2014, bow and arrow hunters will experience a 150-foot setback and crossbow hunters will see a 250-foot setback. Crossbows?
XBOWS! Also approved in Cuomo’s budget is the authorization for crossbows to be used as a hunting implement in NYS as of April 01, 2014, but will not be fully utilized in a hunting season until the 2014–2015 start. As most people are aware, rifles are illegal on Long Island (unless you work for the USDA), because it is predominately flat here and rifle bullets travel very far. WMU 1C does have a special firearms season in January that runs during the weekdays, allowing hunters to use shotguns or muzzleloaders on 10-acre parcels or larger. (No weekend hunting—how ridiculous?). This in return creates deer safe havens on smaller parcels that are not pressured by these hunters and this is why we need an archery season to run through the firearms season. Did I mention that Suffolk and Westchester counties were excluded from the crossbow authorization?
What? It seems incomprehensible that Suffolk County would be excluded from crossbow use, especially since Suffolk County has a “major deer problem”, right? So bad, that the Long Island Farm Bureau was able to secure a grant from NYS in excess of $200,000 to hire the USDA Wildlife Services to have their sharpshooters kill deer under the cover of darkness, utilizing techniques more associated with “poachers” than wildlife managers. But yet, another contradiction was observed, when crossbows were authorized in 18 deer damage permits (nuisance permits) in 2014 in Suffolk County by the NYSDEC and no one was the wiser. Those who had the opportunity to use crossbows were successful and not one resident complained about the usage, not one person was injured and no properties were damaged. So what’s the problem? The NYSDEC publicly supports crossbows in their Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State 2012–2016, and even the famous Dr. Anthony DeNicola of White Buffalo, a Connecticut based 501(c)(3) nonprofit wildlife management and research organization, is a fan of the crossbow. In an email to Jim Stanek of Solon, Ohio, Dr. DeNicola stated that archery hunting has its limitations and he supports crossbows as the best archery tool. White Buffalo recently worked with North Haven as an “adviser” this year, as Mayor Jeffrey Sander performed his own cull on the deer population in his area, using volunteer hunters with crossbows, shotguns and bait stations. So, if crossbows were being used on nuisance permits in WMU 1C successfully, then why were crossbows excluded from Long Island in the recent legislation? The answer is simple, it’s politics!
The main opponent to crossbow passage for Suffolk is the chairman of the NYS Environmental Conservation Committee, Assemblyman Robert Sweeney from Lindenhurst, who has stated that he does not want crossbows in his own backyard. Funny thing is, the only open space that Sweeney has in his district is a King Kullen parking lot. The sad thing is, that because of out of touch politicians like Sweeney, the East End towns are denied a management tool that can turn around the “mismanaged” deer population. But it isn’t just the politicians who squashed crossbows for Long Island; it was actually hunters that either remained quiet or had no opinion whatsoever. Then there are the “archery elitists.”
Most archery elitist groups that oppose crossbows shun the crossbow mainly because they want to keep gun hunters out of the woods. In discussions with the opponents to the crossbows, they feel that the woods would be overcrowded with hunters that normally would not have the skills to use a bow. They believe that the crossbow is a deadlier weapon, more accurate, have more ft. lbs. of kinetic energy and takes away the “fair chase” element of the hunt. The archery elitists want people to think that crossbows are more similar to guns, but the ballistics are not comparable. Both crossbows and compound bows can be matched categorically, with crossbows having a slight edge in every category except for reloading. But keep in mind that both crossbows and compound bows are still considered to be subsonic weapons.
The truth is, with the implementation of crossbows in WMU 1C, hunters who do not have the skill to handle a bow and arrow, or never archery hunted, would be able to hunt in smaller wood lots with a crossbow, just like a bow-and-arrow hunter. The difference is, crossbows will enlist more new archery hunters into the woods, which in turn translates into more deer being taken by an arrow. Most modern compound bows have all the same elements as a crossbow or can be tweaked to be a vertical twin. Compound-bow shooters use a release, which is similar to a trigger. Modern optics now allow compound bows to have magnified sights. Both compound bows and crossbows have a string, cams, limbs—and both shoot arrows! Only medieval crossbows shoot bolts. To note, a compound-bow user can shoot 10–12 arrows per minute, whereas a crossbow user can only shoot 2–4 arrows per minute. Compound bows are also quieter when fired. One characteristic that truly makes the crossbow a superior weapon is that it can be steadied allowing for more accuracy. But the big check mark of approval for me, is that crossbows introduce hunters with disabilities and wounded veterans into an archery season, giving them the opportunity to put meat on their table and help the community control deer populations. This is a win-win.
Long Island deer hunting has nothing to do with sport anymore; it has to do with management and the NYSDEC needs to be able to regulate it that way. Most people would rather see a crossbow season in WMU 1C instead of a rifle season. Long Island hunters are part of a growing archery community and crossbows would not only make a great addition to our choices during the hunting season, but they will also help grow our local economy. NYS hunters that come to participate in a crossbow season for Long Island white-tails would spend money at the local delis, pizza shops and local stores. For the archery hunters who don’t like crossbows because they feel they give an unfair advantage to the hunter, I say, “Don’t use one.”
If you support crossbows please sign our petition at ipetitions.com/petition/authorize-crossbows-for-hunting-in-suffolk-county
If you want to get more involved in protecting the rights of hunters visit us at huntersfordeer.org
Founder, Hunters For Deer LLC.