Come September, hunters in New Jersey will have a new weapon to shoot one that has been around since the Dark Ages, but is still illegal in New York State. The mechanized crossbow can now be used by all when the NJ fall bow season opens on Sept. 12. Once feared by armored cavalry as far back as the Crusades, the crossbow is the state's newest weapon in a battle on two fronts: a declining number of hunters and a growing deer problem, particularly in suburban areas.
"If it puts more people in the field, then that's good," said Larry Herrighty, assistant director of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. "This isn't just a recreational issue; it's a deer management issue."
Herrighty said the decline in the ranks of bowhunters has been noticeable. Fifteen years ago, the Division of Fish and Wildlife sold about 50,000 bow hunting permits a year; last year, that figure was down to about 35,000, he said. The New Jersey situation basically mirrors New Yorks a growing deer population and declining hunter numbers.
Allowing crossbows in is part of the Division of Fish and Wildlife's strategy of getting more hunters into the woods to control the deer population and to raise more revenue. Herrighty estimated that bow hunting permits might increase by about 10 percent this year.
I find it rather ironic that a state like New Jersey, with a history of anti-hunting proponents, is positively reacting to a building wildlife management crisis well before New York has reacted to similar failings. Last licensing year (2008-09 YTD), of the total 720,781 resident big game licenses sold in New York, only 50,794 resident bowhunting stamps were sold. By comparison, 68,826 muzzleloader hunting stamps were sold. While NY muzzleloading licenses have kept increasing, other sporting license numbers, including bowhunting, have been declining. That indicates, at least to me, that hunters who once bowhunted are turning to another primitive tool, but have only a single choice here in New York the muzzleloader