Why It Matters: Airbows continue to gain popularity among deer hunters across the nation. With this popularity has come growing calls for the legalization of airbows as a method of take in states in which their use is not currently allowed. CSF and others support the use of airbows so long as such use is limited to firearms hunting seasons and includes a mechanism by which airbows can contribute to the American System of Conservation Funding as is currently required for all other methods of take through the Pittman-Robertson Act.
- Following their approval in several states in 2022, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) continues to track airbow legislation during the early portions of 2023 legislative sessions around the Lower Midwest.
- In Iowa, CSF submitted testimony regarding Senate File 138. This letter supported the limitation of airbows to firearm hunting seasons while urging an amendment that would require airbow users purchase a conservation stamp.
- In Oklahoma, several bills have been prefiled ahead of the 2023 session that would undermine the success of last year’s Senate Bill 1571 by removing the airbow conservation stamp requirement or allowing airbows to be used during archery hunting seasons.
- Requiring hunters to purchase an airbow conservation stamp or permit ensures that airbows contribute to conservation funding in a manner similar to other methods of take.
For those who have never handled an airbow (also known as arrow-shooting airguns), this novel technology uses pneumatic power to fire an small arrow, or bolt, out of a barrel at a high rate of speed. Given their effectiveness on deer-sized game, many hunters (and state legislators) have called for their inclusion in state deer hunting seasons across the nation. However, airbow use brings important considerations that must be taken into account.
First, because they lack the basic components of archery equipment (i.e., limbs and a string), the Archery Trade Association does not consider an airbow to be archery equipment. Therefore, many agree that their use should be limited to firearm deer hunting seasons. Further, under current federal law, airbows do not contribute excise taxes under the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (Pittman-Robertson) Act the way other methods of take (e.g., firearms and archery equipment) do. As such, they fail to contribute to the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding without the inclusion of a special fee, permit, or stamp.
This latter consideration served as the primary point of discussion in a letter of testimony submitted by CSF to members Senate Natural Resources and Environment Subcommittee recommending amendments to Senate File 138 ahead of their January 31st meeting on the bill. As written, SF 138 would limit airbow use to firearm deer hunting seasons, but current language lacks the inclusion of an airbow conservation stamp or permit. Following this meeting, members of the subcommittee recommended the passage of SF 138 with amendments, though those amendments have yet to be announced.
Meanwhile in Oklahoma, a number of bills have been pre-filed that would either remove the current conservation stamp requirement or allow airbows to be used during all deer hunting seasons. Following the hard work of CSF and now-retired NASC EC Member and Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Mark Allen to pass a widely supported Senate Bill 1571 last year, CSF will work closely with partners and Caucus members to ensure that Senator Allen’s legacy introducing the use of airbows is protected.