By Brent Miller, Senior Director, Northeastern States
Recently, two members of the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, Senators Mike Ranzenhofer and Pamela Helming, conducted constituent surveys to gauge support for several key hunting-related policy issues.
Two of the primary topics in the surveys focused on Caucus-priority legislation to lower the hunting age for big game with a firearm to twelve years old, and to expand crossbow allowances to the entire archery season.
Both surveys showed strong support for expansion of crossbow hunting, with 74% of respondents in the Ranzenhofer survey, and 67% of respondents in the Helming survey supporting it.
The surveys also included a range of options for expansion, and the majority of respondents in both (63% in Ranzenhofer and 56% in Helming) supported the maximum expansion possible (considering crossbows as archery equipment and allowing their use for the entire length of the archery season).
Looking at the issue of reducing the age for big game hunting with a firearm to 12 years old, the Ranzenhofer survey showed strong support (62% in favor), while the Helming survey showed that respondents in that district were split on the issue (46% in favor and 46% opposed). Currently, New York has the highest hunting age in the nation (14 years old for big game with a firearm) and this is widely recognized as a barrier to participation by both in-state and national sportsmen’s organizations.
The two surveys shed light on other issues as well. New York is presently one of the only states in the nation that still requires their hunters to wear back tags visible on their outermost layer of clothing. The Ranzenhofer survey showed that 53% of respondents were in favor of eliminating the back tags, and only 31% opposed it, while the Helming survey also showed that more respondents were in favor of eliminating the back tags than were opposed (44% in favor and 41% opposed).
Both surveys also showed that respondents were generally opposed (61% in Ranzenhofer and 60% in Helming) to implementing state-wide antler restrictions through the legislative process.
“Sportsmen and women share their opinions with me throughout the year, and last year’s 10-question survey was another opportunity to learn where many of my constituents stand on hunting and wildlife management issues in New York State. Now, these survey results serve as an important resource when legislation is being discussed at the State Capitol,” said Sen. Ranzenhofer.
“Hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities are longstanding traditions shared by families and communities all across the Wayne-Finger Lakes region,” said Sen. Helming. “Since taking office, I have made myself available to my constituents and encouraged them to share their views with me. This hunting and fishing survey was just one of many ways to hear from our outdoorsmen and women about issues that are important to them and our region. As State Senator, I will use their feedback as I continue to fight for outdoorsmen and women throughout our region.”
Sen. Ranzenhofer and Sen. Helming have successfully found an innovative approach to hearing from their constituents on these critical issues, and both have expressed that they are ready to assist other members of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses in conducting similar projects in the future.
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?