For swans, ducks, geese, gulls and solitary herons, it is the season of peace, a respite from the guns of winter. Unafraid, sords of mallards rest on our beaches, the hens and their little ones a life-affirming delight for children and parents alike.
Unless we citizens act by June 30, next winter will bring unusually cruel punishment for our feathered friends. The New Jersey Fish and Game Council has proposed removing the longstanding prohibition on crossbows, once feared by armored cavalry during the Crusades, so that shooters may use the archaic weapon against 16-ounce “game” birds.
The proposed regulation is inhumane and should be withdrawn.
Blunt-tipped arrows for shooting birds “in flight” carry “tremendous hitting power.” A hunter boasted of “throughing [sic] a squirrel ten feet.” Blunt arrows cause “tremendous damage” to the bird. Blunts are outfitted with unsporting paraphernalia: special bird points entangle the bird as she flies into a wire harness attached to the end of the arrow. It is legal to shoot birds resting on water and land. For shooting sitting ducks, razor-tipped broadhead arrows presumably may be used (the regulation is silent).
“How hardening to the heart it must be to do this thing,” wrote novelist Iris Murdoch of bird shooting, “to change an innocent soaring being into a bundle of struggling rags and pain.” Crippling rates are high with guns, and higher with bows.
Hunter-caused crippling losses, or unretrieved kills, range from 20 to 40 percent of all ducks hit by gunfire. (Norton and Thomas 2006). This major mortality factor, write the authors, has been largely ignored by waterfowl policy makers and managers.
Archery hunting is “commonly perceived” to result in higher wounding losses than guns, and increased travel distances before deer, a larger species, succumb to injury (Kilpatrick and Walter 1999).
Crossbow killing and crippling of birds is gratuitously cruel. According to the Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Fish and Game Council voted for the change, including the current waterfowl proposal, as a “way to get new bow hunters into the sport and reverse the trend of people leaving it.” The Division’s target clients: people who can not handle a longbow-- the aging, children, women, the disabled.
The National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses is an industry sponsored lobbying organization that works for expanded methods of kill, however inhumane. Among its sponsors is the Archery Trade Association, a Division of Fish and Wildlife partner. On page 24 of the association’s “Issue Brief,” or direction for state action: “(Item No. 23): Crossbows: incorporating crossbows may increase hunter recruitment and retention.”
In 1842, the United States Supreme Court ruled that wildlife is to be held in trust for all citizens – not Washington, D.C. trade associations.
Those suitably appalled by the gruesome and distinctly unsporting prospect of crossbows against unarmored birds stand little chance in appeals to the Game Council. Public ownership remains thwarted by a rapidly shrinking minority. Six of the Council’s eleven members are nominated by the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs; the Council nominates its own regulator, the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Do not look to New Jersey Audubon. The association is partnered with the Division, and “teamed” with ammunition, gun, and archery interests looking to retain clients.
Our State legislators, however, can influence the Council. The 99.4 percent of New Jerseyeans who view birdlife as more than gun fodder can restore a semblance of democracy by insisting that our legislators contact the Game Council and the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection to withdraw the crossbow against birds regulation from the 2011-2012 Fish and Game Code.
To contact your legislator today, go to www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp. Kindly ask that he or she immediately (deadline: June 30) ask the Council and DEP to withdraw the proposed crossbow regulation for birds as egregiously cruel to New Jersey’s birdlife, held in trust for all citizens.
To oppose crossbows for birdlife, contact:
Dave Chanda, Director
New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife
PO Box 420
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0420
Bob Martin, Commissioner
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
401 E. State Street
PO Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402
 Michael R. Norton and Vernon G. Thomas, “Economic Analyses of ‘Crippling Losses’ of North American Waterfowl and Their Policy Implications for Management. Environmental Conservation”, 21: 347-353 doi:10.1017/S037689290003366X.(2006).
 Texas Wildlife Department, “Deer Management within Suburban Areas,” April 2006.
 “New Jersey will allow hunters to arm themselves with crossbows,” Press of Atlantic City, 6 August 2009.