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Village of Lansing Trustees Monday set a public hearing date for an amendment to the Village firearm and bow safety law that will allow approved hunters in its deer population control program to use crossbows.  The amendment is in response to a request by the program's leader, Dr.Bernd Blossey, in August, arguing that some  of the hunters in the program are aging and finding it more difficult to use compound bows.  Mayor Donald Hartill said he supports the amendment as a way to keep responsible, qualified hunters in the program.

"We have a group of hunters who are becoming more aged," Hartill said. "A 75 pound pull on a compound bow might be a little difficult.  Crossbows are a way of enabling that continuation.  We're in a fortunate situation here where we have a good group of hunters that are continuing to be interested (in participating in the Village deer population control project).  It's important that we continue to manage the deer population."

Hartill noted that when the program began 13 years ago  between 30 and 40 deer were typically killed by cars within Village borders every year.  This year Highway Superintendent John Courtney reported that only one has been killed colliding with a car.

"That's an indication that either the deer are much smarter about crossing the road, which, maybe is possible. But we've also managed to control the population better than we have in the past," Hartill said.  "I used to have five or six deer camping out in my back yard. This year there's been one doe that had a fawn.  So that is another indication that the population is down.  And we want to keep it that way.  Right now we're at the point where oak trees are beginning to survive the first year.  Maple trees also are beginning to survive the first year.  So it's a good position to be in.  My feeling is that enabling crossbows as a supplement to our compound bow situation will maintain that control."

Village Attorney William Troy noted that crossbows are already allowed in Village law, but only to uniformed wildlife officers.  The law explicitly prohibits the use of any firearms in the Village.

The law states, "Except as expressly provided to the contrary hereinafter, the discharge of a firearm, shotgun, rifle, air gun, compound bow or crossbow within the Village of Lansing is prohibited."

It then lays out lays out exceptions for licensed wildlife officers, which do include crossbows in the list of approved weapons, and licensed and approved hunters in the Deer Management Program approved by the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) and authorized and adopted by the Village.

"Crossbows are already allowed in the Village if it's a wildlife control officer wearing a uniform," Troy said. "They circulated a memo to this board outlining what our statute permitted, so we're extending this by going into this exception paragraph, saying that if you're part of our deer management program and not otherwise in violation of the law, and have written approval from the Village, you could then use crossbows."

Trustees Ronny Hardaway and Randy Smith both said their concerns had been assuaged by Blossey, who manages the program for the Village, at the August 19th Trustee meeting.  Hardaway in particular had concerns about the longer distance crossbows travel, and that lost crossbow bolts might become a hazard to people walking on properties approved for the hunt.

Blossey explained that hunters in the program shoot down from deer stands, making the distance issue moot.  He also said that crossbow bolts are equipped with lights that help hunters retrieve them, also noting that the bolts are expensive, which motivates hunters to find them after they have been shot.  Hardaway said he was satisfied that crossbows would not present an additional hazard.

"His answers to my questions were adequate," he said. "Adding crossbows to our law will allow some of the older hunters who are more experienced, and probably a lot more accurate, to hunt is a good thing."

A public hearing will be held October 17 at 7:35pm, after which the Trustees will vote on whether or not to include the amendment to Village law.

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