General Crossbow Regulations
Age Requirements for Crossbow Hunting
Crossbow hunting is permitted for individuals based on age and target species:
- Deer Hunting: License holders aged 12 or older can use crossbows.
- Bear and Other Wildlife: To hunt bears, unprotected wildlife, and most small game species, licensees must be at least 14 years old.
Safety and Usage Restrictions
Crossbow usage is governed by strict safety measures to protect the community and environment:
- Proximity to Buildings: It is illegal to discharge a crossbow within 250 feet of any residential home, school, playground, public or farm structure, factory, or church unless explicit permission is obtained from the landowner.
- General Rule: A crossbow must not be carried in or on a motor vehicle unless it is un-cocked.
- Specific Conditions: In areas with deer or bear populations, and when using artificial lights in a vehicle, the crossbow must either be unstrung, dismantled, securely encased, or locked in the vehicle’s trunk.
- Regional Restrictions: The use of crossbows for hunting is prohibited in Suffolk, Nassau, and Westchester counties.
Crossbow Hunting Qualification and Safety Training Options
To legally hunt with a crossbow, individuals must complete a qualification and safety training program. This requirement complements a New York State (NYS) hunting license and, in certain instances, a muzzleloading privilege. There are three distinct paths to fulfill this obligation:
- Process: Engage with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) online crossbow training.
- Certification: Complete and obtain the Crossbow Certificate of Qualification.
- Process: Review the crossbow qualification training provided in the current DEC Hunting & Trapping Regulations Guide.
- Certification: Acquire the Crossbow Certificate of Qualification as detailed in the guide.
- Requirement: Complete a Hunter Education course.
- Certification: Earn a Hunter Education Certificate of Qualification, which must be dated on or after April 1, 2014, to satisfy the crossbow qualification and safety training requirements.
- Certificate Validity: Be aware that the Crossbow Certificate of Qualification issued for the years 2012-2013 is no longer valid.
Crossbow Specifications for Legal Use
Essential Components and Requirements
A crossbow must meet specific criteria to be considered legal for hunting:
- Basic Structure: Comprises a bow and string, which can be either compound or recurve.
- Bolt/Arrow Size: Must launch a bolt or arrow that is at least 14 inches long, not counting the point.
- Stock and Trigger: Features a stock and a trigger mechanism that holds the string and limbs under tension until released.
- Safety Mechanism: The trigger unit is required to have a functional safety feature.
Physical Dimensions and Draw Weight
- Limb Width: The minimum width of the limbs should be 17 inches. This measurement is taken from the outer tip of the limbs (excluding any wheels and cams) when the crossbow is uncocked.
- Minimum: The peak draw weight must be at least 100 pounds.
- Maximum: The peak draw weight should not exceed 200 pounds.
- Overall Length: The crossbow should measure a minimum of 24 inches in length from the butt-stock to the front of the limbs.
Crossbow Regulations by Hunting Season
Big Game Hunting Regulations
- Muzzleloader Equivalence: Crossbows are treated similarly to muzzleloaders. Hunters need a muzzleloader hunting privilege to use a crossbow during any muzzleloader season or the early bowhunting seasons. This privilege is not required for the early bear season or regular firearms seasons.
- No Bowhunting Privilege Needed: Hunters don't need a bowhunting privilege to use a crossbow at any time.
Usage During Specific Seasons
- Early bear season
- Early muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone
- Regular firearms seasons in both Northern and Southern Zones
- Late muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone
- Early antlerless season in mid-September
- Early and late muzzleloader seasons in the Northern Zone and late muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone using Bow/Muzz tags, Deer Management Permits (DMPs), Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) tags, or an unfilled Regular Big Game tag (late season only)
- Regular firearms seasons using a Regular Big Game tag, DMPs, or DMAP tags
Limited Bowhunting Season Use: Crossbows are also permitted during certain parts of bowhunting seasons, with the muzzleloading privilege:
- Last 14 days of the early bowhunting season in the Southern Zone
- Last 10 days of the early bowhunting season in the Northern Zone, including the 7-day early muzzleloader season
- Prohibited Areas: Crossbows cannot be used to hunt deer or bear in certain Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) and in Nassau, Suffolk, or Westchester counties.
- Youth Deer Hunt: Junior hunters (ages 12-15) cannot use crossbows during the Youth Deer Hunt weekend. Adult mentors accompanying them are also prohibited from possessing a crossbow (or firearm) in the field during these days.
Small Game Hunting Regulations
- General License: A hunting license is required for hunting small game species with a crossbow.
- Turkey Hunting: Additionally, a turkey permit is necessary for hunting turkeys.
Permissible Game and Conditions
- Game Species: Includes wild turkey, migratory and upland game birds, other small game species, and unprotected wildlife (e.g., red squirrels, woodchucks).
- Restrictions: Crossbows are not allowed while hunting with a dog for small game (except coyotes) in the Northern Zone.
- Prohibition: Crossbows are not permitted for fishing, including taking carp or any other fish species.