(NY) Young bowhunters may catch a break


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Drizzt
February 18, 2003, 05:11 PM
The Times Union (Albany, NY)


February 16, 2003 Sunday THREE STAR EDITION

SECTION: SPORTS, Pg. C13

LENGTH: 684 words

HEADLINE: Young bowhunters may catch a break

BYLINE: Rob Streeter

BODY:
As a kid, there was one thing that I absolutely could not wait to do, and that was to go bowhunting for deer with my dad.

My bro- ther and I bugged our dad to get us bows and arrows at an early age, and the sport has stuck with us throughout our lives.

Back in those days, New York was just starting to sell a junior-archery license. I think I was 15 the first time I got to go hunt deer with the bow. Today, the laws are still the same. Currently, a 14-year-old can hunt under adult supervision in New York. Trouble is, there are only two states where the age limit is this high. With the exception of Utah, New York is the only state that does not allow 12-year-olds to hunt with archery tackle for big game.

That may change this legislative season.

Bills have been drafted in both the Senate and the Assembly that would seek to allow junior bowhunters to hunt big game at 12.

If the bills are passed and become law, junior archers would be able to hunt under adult supervision, with a couple of restrictions.

First, they would have to successfully complete a bowhunter education course. They also would have to be capable of shooting a bow that meets the minimum legal requirements for hunting.

The bowhunter education course is a key part of the program, and the youngsters would have to pass the same written test required of adults. The education program would teach them bowhunting safety and ethics, giving them a great start in the sport.

Currently, youngsters can hunt small game with firearms at age 12 in New York. The 12-year-olds small-game program came to be with a change in the previous minimum age of 14, and the safety record of the young small-game hunters has been excellent.

If the new legislation passes, it would put our state on similar terms as others for the minimum age for archers. It would also provide youngsters who are interested in bowhunting with the chance to experience the outdoors.

While this worthwhile legislation is being proposed, the controversial crossbow also is back. A Senate bill for legalizing crossbow hunting throughout the state also is part of this year's legislative agenda.

Bowhunting takes a specific set of skills, and it takes practice to master shooting a bow. The fact that it is a demanding sport is much of its charm. Legalizing the crossbow would diminish this.

Waterfowl hunting: It looks like waterfowl hunters are about to have even more choices when it comes to the type of shotshells they will be able to use this fall.

On Jan. 10, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave approval to Hevi-Shot (a tungsten, iron, nickel and tin formulation). This type of shot was previously given a temporary approval, but has now received a permanent place in duck blinds throughout the country.

Getting approval for one of these non-toxic shotshells from the USFWS is an exhaustive process. Environ-Metal, the company that produces Hevi-Shot, had to complete toxicological studies, chemical studies, provide production data and furnish volumes of other information to the federal government in order to win approval.

Lead shot was banned in the United States in 1991. In measuring the effects of banning lead shot, studies done in 1996 and 1997 in the Mississippi Flyway determined that banning lead shot reduced waterfowl deaths considerably.

In mallards alone, there was a 64 percent reduction in lead-poisoning deaths.

Banning the lead has meant that millions of more ducks and geese make their way down the flyways from Canada each fall.

While the ban on lead has been effective in preventing lead-poisoning deaths, the early steel shotshells did not perform well. Since this time, manufacturers have come up with several different formulations of non-toxic shot, including steel.

The newest types have performed far better, although they are more expensive. The approval of Hevi-Shot gives duck and goose hunters another alternative. Rob Streeter's outdoors column is published Sundays and Thursdays. He can be reached at robertstreeter@sprintmail.com, or send items to 961 Stoner Trail Road, Fonda, NY 12068.

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