By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL
OBSERVER Staff Writer
Saturday, Nov. 19 is the start of regular hunting season for big game. Along with shotguns and pistols, hunters this year in most of Chautauqua County will be permitted to use rifles and crossbows.
JJ Guns Owner Jeffrey Jankowiak is pictured holding a rifle. Top: an artist’s rendition of a crossbow. New this year, both weapons can be used for hunting beginning Nov. 19.
The legislation bill was supported by Catharine Young, Assemblymen Andrew Goodell and Joseph Giglio and was passed over summer. The bill authorizes hunters the ability to use rifles south of Route 20 for hunting.
Chautauqua County will join neighboring counties, Cattaraugus and Allegany, as well as Pennsylvania. The number of counties in upstate New York that allow rifle hunting, including Chautauqua, is 36 counties.
The reasoning behind south of Route 20 is due to the more hilly and not flat terrain compared to north of Route 20 along Lake Erie shoreline, Goodell said.
A rifle bullet will travel further distance than a traditional shot gun bullet. This is a main reason why hunting is not permitted on the more flat terrain of Chautauqua County. With hilly terrain, the bullet has more obstacles. Also, a rifle bullet is spinning once it leaves the gun's barrel having a more likely chance of being imbedded into a tree, according to Goodell.
The legislation was put forth by the Chautauqua Federation of Sportsmen which drew up a resolution to be presented to the legislature, according to OBSERVER columnist Gene Pauszek, who is also a member of the federation. This was not the first time that this law was brought up. In years past, the bill was brought up but never passed in the legislature, he said.
Andrew Nixon of the Chautauqua County Visitor's Bureau believes that the new rifle law will attract individuals to the area.
"I guess the main difference will be hunters who are used to hunting with rifles can now come to our county to hunt with rifles," Nixon said.
"There are a lot of people who prefer to hunt with a rifle. (The law) will bring those who (hunt with a rifle) into the area as well as an economic impact on the county," he said.
Hunters in Chautauqua County will also be able to use a crossbow for hunting during this and next season. A crossbow can be used during regular gun season for deer and bear hunting. It is not, however, permitted during bow and arrow season.
Hunters do not need to possess a special license for crossbow hunting but do have to complete a certificate of qualification available on the Department of Environment Conservation's (DEC) website. Crossbow hunting is subject to all rules and regulations as fire arms. Junior bow hunters who are ages 12 and 13 may not use a crossbow to hunt. Hunters ages 14 and 15 may use a crossbow only after taking a safety course. Crossbows may not be used during regular bow hunting seasons.
Local businesses have seen an economic impact regarding the new law. JJ Guns, located at 3175 East Main Road, Dunkirk, has seen an increase in the sales of rifles.
"At this time, we usually sell out of shot guns but this year we're selling more rifles than shot guns. The rifle sales have doubled compared to last year due to the rifle law. ... We can't keep them in stock. As fast as they come in, they're out of stock," JJ Guns Owner Jeffrey Jankowiak said.
There have been concerns regarding the new rifle law. Since a rifle bullet can travel farther and is more powerful compared to a shot gun bullet, safety is a concern. County Legislator Robert Duff has concerns about it.
"It's not going to make Chautauqua County any greater. It's really a shame ... a bad thing," Duff said.
Duff believes that since rifle bullets travel further, the new law will make it more dangerous for the general public.
"It's a shame and I'm coming from the fact that the shot gun is one thing but when you start talking about rifles and how far their capabilities are ... a rifle will go for a mile and a half. A shot gun probably wouldn't go a quarter of mile. It's just the idea the way the land is in Chautauqua County isn't the place for (rifles). We don't have huge mountains ... there's a lot of open lands," Duff said.
Duff, who used to be a rifleman in the military, is concerned that hunters are going to be hurt due to the new law based on his knowledge of rifles.
"I was in the military and I was a rifle\man and I know what a rifle can do and it's just not something for us. If we were out in Iowa or Texas, yes, I'd say go ahead. But this isn't Iowa and this sure as heck isn't Texas and they (rifles) just don't belong here," Duff said.
"My job and my responsibilities are for the safety of all of Chautauqua County. That's what they pay me for - to make this a better county and a better town and a better city," Duff continued.
Goodell believes that safety will not be an issue regarding the new law. More counties in New York already have this law in place. Data has been collected. According to the data, hunters using a rifle are more likely to take one third fewer shots than with a shot gun.
"Allowing a more accurate gun to be used where the data shows is safer and fewer shots as opposed to more shots from an inaccurate gun seems like a good idea," Goodell said.
The data shows that there has been fewer accidents involving rifles while hunting. The data also shows that those with a rifle are going to be more accurate with their aim and be more precise compared to a shot gun.
Duff would like to see increased fines for those who break the law. Currently, fines vary by town and the law states any person who fires a gun 500 feet from a dwelling will be charged. Duff would like to see an increase of a fine up to $2,000.
The legislation is on a two-year trial basis, according to Goodell. In 2013, the legislature will look back and evaluate the law. At this time, the legislature will have to vote on renewal of the law.
The regular hunting season runs Nov. 19 through Dec. 11 for deer and black bear.
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