State-owned land at Pack Forest in Warrensburg has been popular with area small game and big game hunters for decades.
But a quirk in state law has prompted the college that owns the land, SUNY-ESF, to ban firearms from the 2,500 acre preserve. Non-firearm hunting will still be allowed, as will trapping.
The so-called SAFE Act bans firearms on college campuses, but there was an exception in the law to lands owned by the state and used by SUNY-ESF.
However, Pack Forest is actually owned by Syracuse University and loaned to SUNY-ESF and Syracuse officials are concerned that the law does not make an exception for its property.
"The state doesn't own Pack Forest. It is held in a trust by Syracuse," said Joseph Rufo, SUNY-ESF's vice president for administration.
SUNY-ESF issued a news release this week about the issue and the new rule.
The same change is taking affect at the land around the state Forest Ranger academy in Wanakena in the north-central Adirondacks.
“Traditionally, the college has allowed the use of firearms for hunting on our properties,” said Robert Davis, director of forest properties at SUNY-ESF. “But changes in the law now prohibit that use. Hunting that does not involve rifles, shotguns, or firearms, as defined in section 265.00 of the New York state Penal Law, is still permissible.”
Those who violate the new ban could face a felony count of criminal possession of a weapon.
Chris Nemec of Nemec's Sport Shop & Farm & Garden Center said Pack Forest has been popular with some deer hunters over the years.
"There are a few locals who go in there and they do get some good ones," he said.
A shooting range area on the property is quite popular with those looking to sight their rifles in before big-game season, and 4-H Shooting Sports has also hosted events on the Pack Forest property.
He said the reason for the ban made little sense in light of the circumstances.
"I can see if you're in the middle of a college campus, but (at Pack Forest) you're out in the woods," he said.
-- Don Lehman