As bowhunters by the thousands prepare to head to the woods and mountains in coming weeks, they’ll experience a number of changes that will affect their hunts – and more important – maybe the equipment they carry afield.
A pair of major U.S. deer-hunting states – Wisconsin and New York – will see crossbows legal during the archery deer-hunting season for the first time in history for the 2014-15 season. Indeed, considering the popularity of hunting there and sheer number of hunters involved, the addition of crossbows looms large.
Gov. Scott Walker in December signed Assembly Bill 194, which creates a permanent crossbow season with a no sunset provision. But it also includes a non-statutory provision for the DNR to collect crossbow deer harvest data through the 2015-16 hunting season. It is expected the department will make a report on the crossbow harvest information and an assessment of the crossbow season impacts.
Under previous regulations, only hunters with physical disabilities and those ages 65 and over were permitted to hunt deer with crossbows.
Annually, Wisconsin usually ranks among the top three leading deer-hunting states, leading deer-kill states, firearm-hunting states, and bowhunting states. Around 615,000 licenses were sold for 2013-14 deer gun season, and around 280,000 bowhunters hunt each year.
With Gov. Cuomo’s signature on April 1, crossbows are now permitted during a portion of the 2014 general archery season and through the entire general firearms season in New York. Crossbows may be used in the final 14 days of the Southern Zone early archery season and the final 10 days of the Northern Zone early archery seasons.
In addition to crossbows, another major change will be seen as hunters in Virginia head afield this year, as they’ll be permitted to hunt on Sundays for the first time since colonial days. The repeal of the ages-old “blue law” allows Sunday hunting on private land during designated hunting seasons by hunters who have the written permission of landowners.
Other new laws and regulations of note:
- Bowhunters in Western Maryland who are otherwise authorized to carry a handgun may carry for protection while hunting in Deer Management Region A.
- In May, voters in West Virginia approved ballot measures in Braxton, Calhoun, Nicholas, Webster, and Wirt counties to allow hunting to take place on private property on Sundays.
- Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation permitting Sunday hunting for deer and other game species on private lands in Allegany, Garrett and Washington Counties. Another measure expanded the number of Sundays deer hunting is permitted in Frederick County.
Are you planning to bowhunt for deer in the approaching season? If you live in Wisconsin or New York, will you use a crossbow for the first time? Please comment below.