Hunters will be allowed to hunt big game with a crossbow during the 2011 and 2012 big game hunting seasons. Reading and understanding the information on this page will serve as qualification for crossbow use.
- Crossbows may only be used to hunt deer and bear.
- Crossbows may only be used during the early bear season, regular firearms seasons, late muzzleloader seasons, and the special firearms season in Suffolk County.
- Crossbows cannot be used during bowhunting seasons or in ‘Archery Only’ areas of the state (for Suffolk County, see bowhunting).
- The hunter needs a current year’s license to hunt big game.
- If hunting with a crossbow in the late muzzleloading season, the muzzleloading privilege is also required.
- The hunter needs to read and understand the information in this document.
- The hunter needs to complete the certificate below and carry the completed certificate while afield with a crossbow.
Crossbow Safety Rules
- Before shooting your crossbow, read and thoroughly understand your crossbow owner’s manual.
- Always identify your target and the area beyond it before shooting.
- Make sure your crossbow’s limb tips are free of obstructions before shooting.
- If hunting from a tree stand, always cock the crossbow on the ground before climbing into the stand.
- Do not place the bolt on the crossbow until you are safely in your stand.
- Never raise or lower a cocked crossbow with a bolt in it from a tree stand.
- Keep ALL fingers below the crossbow’s rail when shooting a bolt.
- Never carry a cocked crossbow with a bolt in it while walking.
- Never dry-fire (cock and fire without loading a bolt) a crossbow.
- Never use a cocking device to uncock a crossbow.
- To uncock a crossbow, shoot a bolt tipped with a field point into soft ground or a target.
- Always observe a maximum effective range for hunting of less than 40 yards to prevent wounding game.
- To understand how bolts function, though not mandatory, consider taking a bowhunter education course.
Legal Requirements for Crossbows
- A bow, a string, and either compound or recurve limbs with minimum width of 17 inches (tip of limbs, uncocked).
- Mounted on a stock with a trigger and working safety that holds the string and limbs under tension.
- A minimum peak draw weight of 100 pounds and a maximum peak draw weight of 200 pounds.
- A minimum overall length from the butt of the stock to the front of limbs of 24 inches.
- A minimum length of the bolt of 14 inches. (The arrowhead is to be nonbarbed, 2 or more cutting surfaces at least ⅞” wide).
- A crossbow is considered unloaded if the bolt is removed, regardless whether it is cocked or uncocked.
Suggested References to Review
- NYSDEC Crossbow
Frequently Asked Questions
- North American Crossbow Federation:
Crossbow 101 (video)
- NYSDEC Sportsman Education
Practice safely, practice often, and learn the capabilities and limitations of the crossbow and the bolt it shoots.