The Empire State is cracking down on hunting contests and tournaments.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D.) signed legislation S.4099/A.2917 into law last Friday. The new law will make it illegal for any person to organize, sponsor, conduct, promote, or participate in any contest, competition, tournament, or derby with “the objective of taking or hunting wildlife for prizes for other inducement, or for entertainment.”
“Protecting wildlife is critical to fostering the integrity and resilience of our environment and our outdoor recreation economy,” Hochul said in a press release. “This legislation establishes strong safeguards for our state’s precious wildlife species and protects our important fishing and hunting traditions.”
The law is the latest attempt by New York to restrict the use of firearms. But it isn’t the first to ban certain hunting contests. The Governor’s signature makes New York the tenth state in the country to restrict or outright ban hunting contests, which typically involve cash prizes for hunters who can take the greatest number or heaviest game animal in a certain period. California was the first to do so in 2014. It was subsequently followed by Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, Arizona, and Oregon all in the last five years in what has been a successful legislative push by animal rights activists looking to quash forms of hunting they oppose.
The Humane Society of the United States, one of the most prominent backers of hunting contest bans, celebrated New York’s bill becoming law.
“With Governor Hochul’s continued commitment to environmental stewardship, New York is now the tenth state to end wasteful cash-for-wildlife competitions,” the group’s New York state director said. “We thank and appreciate Governor Hochul for upholding sound policies that protect and celebrate our state’s precious wildlife resources.”
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), a pro-hunting advocacy group opposed hunting contest bans, has called legislative efforts to ban hunting tournaments “emotionally-driven” and the result of “blatant misinformation” about how to properly manage certain species.
“Hunting tournaments can be effective management tools for localized issues of overabundance of predator species or invasive species and can help mitigate a variety of human-wildlife conflicts in specific areas,” the group said in a policy guide on its website. “It has been proven that short-term removal mechanisms, such as tournaments, can provide immediate relief to farmers and ranchers by helping reduce livestock losses due to depredation.”
The law targets contests related to hunting coyotes, crows, squirrels, and rabbits. But it also creates an exception for contests involving white-tailed deer, turkeys, and bears, as well as fishing contests, which the Governor’s office said are “carefully regulated by the state.”
The CSF rejects the notion that hunting tournaments are unregulated, calling the idea a “misnomer” on its website.
“A misnomer that the anti-hunting community commonly spreads is that participants of hunting tournaments are not required to abide by wildlife regulations,” the group said. “Hunting tournament participants are held to the same state regulations as every other sportsman and woman in the state. In preparation for hunting tournaments, sportsmen and women are required to purchase any necessary licenses, and often support the local economy by purchasing additional hunting-related equipment, such as ammunition – which contributes to the American System of Conservation Funding.”
However, the group did not respond to a request for comment on New York’s law in particular.
Once the law goes into effect, violators would face fines ranging from $500 to $2,000 per violation. Wildlife killed during any unlawful contest would also be seized by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The law is set to take effect on November 1, 2024.