November 20, 2023

The Ongoing Effort to Expand Crossbow Use in the Empire State

Article Contact: Kaleigh Leager,

Why It Matters: Currently in New York, a crossbow is classified as a firearm and requires the purchase of a muzzleloader privilege to use a crossbow during the specified seasons. This classification and requirement have created a lot of confusion for hunters. The Federal Government has defined a crossbow as a “bow” and the Internal Revenue Service classifies crossbows, accessories, and their arrows as archery equipment that is subject to the archery excise tax (10%). The tax generated from the sale of these items, is ultimately distributed to state fish and wildlife agencies to fund their conservation efforts, which is a part of the American System of Conservation Funding.


  • Thanks to CSF, the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council (NYSAC) and the New York State Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, crossbows became a legal hunting implement (other than disabled hunters with disability permits) in the 2014-2015 Enacted State Budget, but the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) ability to fully utilize it as a game management tool is currently limited.
  • In 2018, the DEC sent email surveys to 10,000 random licensed hunters and more than 2/3 of the respondents stated that they hunt big game with a bow (compound, longbow, or recurve). By more than a 3-to-1 margin, respondents were in favor of purchasing a bowhunting privilege rather than a muzzleloader privilege to hunt with a crossbow.
  • The DEC’s current2021-2023 Deer Management Plan includes strong support for expanding crossbow use and recommends a legislative change to the current laws.

The overwhelming majority of the state’s sporting organizations and their respective members support the DEC regulating the use of crossbows as a legal hunting tool in all seasons and for all game where archery equipment is authorized. More than 81,000 deer have been taken in New York with a crossbow since 2014. This clearly demonstrates the interest in hunting with a crossbow as well as it being a viable deer management tool. In addition to deer population management, crossbows give veterans, the disabled, seniors, youth, and others who may be physically unable to draw a bow, an opportunity to participate in archery hunting. All hunters should have an equal choice and option of archery equipment regardless of their physical abilities.

In addition, the increasing trend towards the elimination of crossbow restrictions has been a source of controversy among some traditional bowhunters. These traditional hunters contend that crossbows provide some hunters with an unfair advantage. However, when observing the harvest and success rates of crossbows and vertical bows in various states, it appears that the rates are similar. For example, in Wisconsin, during 2014 and 2015, the success rates for a crossbow were 25% and 26%, respectively and standard bows had a success rate of 25% each of those years.

With the support of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, CSF looks forward to working with the New York State Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council (NYSAC) to champion legislation that would change the law to classify crossbows as archery equipment and allow them to be utilized under the bow hunting privilege during any season that allows game to be harvested with the use of archery equipment.

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