Every year I read the New York Hunting and Trapping Guide.
Not every word of it, and not in one sitting, but I go back and reread certain things, and dig out things I figured I missed. After a few rounds, I’m pretty confident that I’ve covered everything I need to know. Every hunter should do the same.
I always used to get a kick out of the admonition, under “Manner of Taking” (Page 14 in this year’s guide), that “It is illegal to take or hunt wildlife with a spear.” I always wondered who, in the last couple thousand years or so, would hunt with a spear. Well, it turns out there are people who do, and that hunting certain animals with a spear is legal in at least four states – Alabama, Hawaii, Alaska, and Oklahoma – and, formerly, in at least one Canadian province.
Spear hunting in Alberta came to an end after hunting and fitness fanatic Josh Bowmar circulated a video of himself killing a bear with a spear in 2016. Some people were outraged, charging that the method was inhumane (some also seemed to feel Bowmar showed too much joy at his success); provincial officials considered prosecuting Bowmar, but didn’t in the end because he had broken no laws; Bowmar lost a contract with Under Armour because of it, and the province eventually outlawed spear hunting. However, the province said, the new rules would not interfere with the rights of indigenous people to practice traditional hunting methods. That proviso seems problematic, because you would think a hunting method would be either acceptable or not based on its own merits and not because of who uses it.
I’m not sure that hunting with a spear is any less humane than any other hunting method, and it might be the most challenging way of taking an animal, unless you’re talking about using a knife or your bare hands. (I don’t endorse either of those techniques, by the way.) It also probably takes more courage or nerve than most any method. If you’ve hunted for a number of years, you’ve probably been close enough to a deer or even a bear to reach out and touch it. That’s a thrill in itself, but to stick such an animal with a spear at close range, at least from the ground? I’d have to think twice. Or twenty times. You have to be pretty close indeed to get the necessary penetration with a spear.
Then, there are atlatls. An atlatl is a throwing stick that can be used to tremendously increase the speed, power, and distance of a spear or dart. They are believed to have been developed about 40,000 years ago, which hints that early man – or early woman – was smarter than you might think. Two states allow the use of atlatls – Missouri and Alabama – to hunt deer, and some other states allow them to be used for small game. And people do kill deer with them.
If you are going to hunt with a spear – where legal – you are going to have to be very dedicated and practiced. Like falconry or archery, you can’t just run out and do it. You have to put in the time. Not that it makes much difference. New York State isn’t likely to take that prohibition against spears out of the guide any time soon. However, you can take fish with a spear – a different kind of spear, generally – in certain waters, including suckers on certain waters in Otsego County. Details can be found on Page 52 of the New York Freshwater Fishing Guide.
Other regulations from the guide that jump out at me:
Back tags must be visibly displayed on the middle of your back while hunting, except in the Northern Zone and Catskill Park. (Why? I should know, but I don’t. If you do know, let me in on it.)
It is illegal to refuse to show your license on demand to a law enforcement officer or the owner, lessee or person in control of the lands or their designees while on their property.
New York does not recognize handgun permits issued by other states.
It is illegal to discharge a firearm, crossbow or bow so that the load or arrow or bolt passes over any part of a public highway. (I’m sure that means the shoulder of the road, as well.)
Nearly all wildlife in New York are protected by regulations. Unprotected species include porcupine, red squirrel, woodchuck, chipmunk, English sparrow, rock pigeon, and monk parakeet. (I have seen all but monk parakeet in my neighborhood – although I wouldn’t know what one looks like – some of them in higher numbers than I’d like).
It is unlawful to cut or injure trees on state forest land, or to construct permanent tree stands or natural blinds, or to clear shooting lanes, or place nails or other hardware in trees or to use live trees as targets.
A legally antlered deer must have at least one antler that is three inches or longer. Antlerless deer are those without antlers and deer with antlers less than three inches long.
Intentional feeding or baiting of deer or bear is prohibited at all times of year. (This does not include agricultural plantings, wildlife food plots, or cutting of trees or brush to provide winter forage.)
There is a lot more in the guide, and you are responsible for knowing it. Give it a read. Then read it again.
Write to John Pitarresi at 60 Pearl Street, New Hartford, N.Y. 13413 or [email protected] or call him at 315-724-5266.