One would allow airbows; the other covers donated deer meat

Bills that could be considered by the Delaware General Assembly would legalize airbows and limit liability for donated deer meat.

Two state legislators have sponsored a bill to legalize airbows for hunting deer.

Now illegal in Delaware, an airbow fires arrows using compressed air rather than pulling back strings.

Rep. Jeff Spiegelman (R-Clayton) is the primary sponsor of House bill 157 which allows “the use of airbows for hunting deer in place of a shotgun during any shotgun deer season,” according to the bill’s synopsis.

The bill cleared the Agriculture Committee last year and it’s been placed on “ready list” for voting by the full House. Both the House and Senate ended their session on Jan. 25 and won’t reconvene until March 6.

Sen. Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna) is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 117 which allows a “pellet gun, airbow, and most other air guns to be possessed and utilized for hunting in Delaware,” the bill said.

That bill was approved by the Senate June 20, 2017, by 20 votes in favor. The House hasn’t acted.

Ennis, who says he’s a hunter, said he favors the legalization of airbows because “we have to keep up with technology,” and he said hunting is needed because of deer damage to crops, particularly in Sussex County.

The state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) supports legalization of airbows for deer hunting to expand hunting opportunities and to better manage Delaware’s robust deer population, said a statement from the agency.

It’s illegal to hunt in Delaware with an airbow, punishable with fines for the first offense from $50 to $100 plus court costs. One person was cited last year for illegally hunting with an airbow, DNREC said.

“DNREC has received a few requests from hunters for airbows to be legalized,” the agency’s statement said.

An organization online, called Airbow Hunting, provides a description of the weapon, its use, and beneficial attributes. The group is also on Facebook.

The airbow is not a bow, and it’s not a gun, but instead uses an air rifle platform to fire arrows at high rates of speed. “It’s closer to a crossbow than anything, but there’s no string to draw or limbs to flex. That makes airbows immediately more attractive to those who have issues drawing the heavy draw weight of a crossbow,” said the website.

One new model on the market fires 26-inch arrows at 450 feet per second.

The other legislation sponsored by Spiegelman is about people donating deer meat to organizations without fear of liability if something is wrong with the meat.

Spiegelman is co-chair of the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Caucus, which includes representatives and senators.

“If I shot a deer and don’t want it, don’t want the meat, I can drop if off to a butcher who will donate the meat to a needy organization…It can be done now. Some butchers may choose not to participate because of liability concerns,” he said.

The Sportsmen Against Hunger program allows hunters to donate deer meat to either private butchers under contract with the department or to drop off their donation at the department’s refrigerated containers, with the processed deer meat distributed by DNREC to food charities.

Spiegelman is the prime sponsor of House Bill 27, which “extends to those who, in good faith, donate food to state agencies the same immunity from civil or criminal liability that is granted to those who, in good faith, donate food to nonprofit organizations.”

Also, the bill “specifically includes within the definition of ‘food’ both perishable food and wild game to make it clear that food, in all of its forms, is covered by this Act.”

“Thus, under this Act, those donating deer to the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program would be immune from civil or criminal liability as it relates to the donation,” said the bill.

The bill, which also makes the butchers immune from liability, is still being reviewed by the Health and Human Development Committee and no vote has been taken by the House. It’s been amended twice.

Butchers under contract with the department to process donated deer into ground meat are required by state law to meet specified liability limits. Some butchers have chosen not to participate in the program because of the costs of meeting the higher liability limits.

Spiegelman represents House District 11 which covers southwestern New Castle County and northwestern Kent County, from the Middletown area to Townsend, Hartly and Marydel.

Ennis represents Senatorial District 14, which stretches from the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and including most of the Middletown area to just north of Dover.