For outdoorsmen in New York, 2013 has been rocky year thus far.
It began with the passage of the NYSAFE Act in January and continues with an announcement last month about sporting license fee and structures changes.
I’ve been trying my best to keep up and I was in Albany on Feb. 28 for the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association’s annual sportsmen’s lobby day.
The size of the crowd for the event has been debated throughout the media. I’ve heard reports from 5,000 up to 12,000.
A City of Albany police officer told me there were more than 100 buses. When you consider that each bus, if full, carried 56 passengers, you have well over 5,500 people. Parking garages were also full. A friend of mine who worked in Albany near the Capitol for 30 years said it was the biggest demonstration crowd he’d ever seen.
I spent the morning in the Legislative Office Building trying my best to speak to legislators to get their thoughts on the NYSAFE act. One of those was freshmen Assemblyman Dan Stec of Queensbury. Stec grew up in a household with guns — his father was a N.Y.S. forest ranger — and has an appreciation for the outdoors. He’s an Adirondack 46er and a supporter of the Second Amendment.
“The courts are aware of this battle,” he told a group of North Country sportsmen who visited his office. “Is it likely that the legislature will have a change of heart and the governor is going to say, ‘You know what, I want a do over on this?’ I don’t think so. But let’s make it harder, make them accountable for all their votes. Let’s make them answer those questions. Let’s say, ‘why is your solution to the crime problem and the mental health problem to take my Second Amendment rights away from me?”
Stec’s concerns were repeated outside later that afternoon not only by himself but several other speakers at the event, including National Rifle Association president David Keene. I’ll be honest with you here and tell you that with all the echo and the crowd, I had a difficult time deciphering some of the speeches and therefore will not attempt to quote them here. But they are all over the Internet.
The crowd was well behaved. They cheered, chanted, prayed and even cried at times as they listened to the speakers. Most interesting was the numerous signs and flags that many hoisted high above their heads. Photos of such are also circulating the Internet and I have posted some photos on my own website, www.ADK
When it was over, many of us retraced our steps across the Empire State Plaza back to Madison Avenue to wait for our bus. I counted 54 in the first wave and another 20 came through and picked up their passengers before the one I was on did the same. I should add that many of these buses were sponsored by county sportsman’s groups, including mine from Warren and Washington counties.
Those who were there were proud to have been. Yet we, and even those who weren’t there, are now wondering if it did any good.
“They’re going to be making amendments. Certainly I think they’re going to want to talk about the law enforcement option,” said Stec, who then didn’t hesitate to weigh in with his own thoughts.
“I think the background checks on ammunition purchases is just insane,” he said. “And, I think the seven-round limit is laughable.”
Sportsmen who have had some time to think about the recent announcement of sporting license restructuring that includes, among other things, fee reductions and a change in the license year, are not entirely happy.
While many approve of things like making fishing licenses valid for one year from the date of purchase, they were quick to criticize fee reductions and a likely smaller Conservation Fund.
“If we reduce the license fees in New York state that’s going to have an adverse impact on public access to lands and on renewing the infrastructure of the fish hatcheries,” Franklin County Federation of Fish Game Club’s Bill Gutersloh said. “Right now the state is planning on releasing fewer fish.”
Gutersloh’s concerns are shared by sportsmen who feel a depreciated Conservation Fund, even if by a few million dollars, would result in fewer sportsman’s programs.
Another part of the package, which is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget, is changing the hunting and trapping license year to begin Sept. 1 rather than Oct. 1. This will affect northern zone big-game hunters who can currently use a previous license year’s tag during the early bear and archery seasons in September.
If approved, the package is slated to take effect in 2014.
Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at www.adkhunter.com.