March 7, 2022

NASC Executive Council Member Leading Airbow Bill in Oklahoma

Contact: Kent Keene; Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy

Why it Matters: Opportunities to permit the use of new technologies among sportsmen and women are exciting. However, such opportunities also carry considerations that must be addressed to ensure that the integrity of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and the American System of Conservation Funding are protected. SB 1571 highlights the importance of collaborative efforts to ensure that well-meaning legislation is thoroughly evaluated and potential challenges are addressed.

Entering the 2022 legislative session, Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member Senator Mark Allen introduced Senate Bill 1571 (SB 1571). This legislation seeks to permit the use of airbows (also referred to as arrow-shooting airguns) during certain hunting seasons in Oklahoma. After working closely with colleagues at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, SB 1571 was recently amended to address potential challenges and was passed out of the Senate Agriculture and Wildlife Committee last week.

Presently, airbows are not recognized as archery equipment among many in the hunting and shooting sports communities. As such, one important amendment to SB 1571 was the specification that airbows would only be permitted during certain firearm hunting seasons, rather than during the state’s archery hunting seasons. Though not archery equipment, their inclusion in certain firearm seasons may provide an opportunity to benefit R3 efforts, particularly among noise-sensitive hunters who would benefit from this “hearing safe” technology.

Another major consideration addressed by SB 1571 is the current lack of contributions of airbows and airguns to the federal Pittman-Robertson excise tax levied on other firearms and archery equipment. This self-imposed tax makes up one of the three pillars of the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), the “user pays – public benefits” framework through which sportsmen and women continue to provide the bulk of funding for state fish and wildlife agencies. In a state like Oklahoma in which the ODWC is solely funded through the ASCF, this consideration is especially important. Fortunately, SB 1571 now includes the creation of a one-time $20 stamp that would allow airbows to contribute to conservation funding efforts until they are included under the Pittman-Robertson Act.  

CSF recently submitted a letter of support for SB 1571 to members of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus highlighting the importance of the bill and its recent amendments. SB 1571 now awaits further action in the Senate.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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