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The Crossbow Is Here To Stay!

By C.J. Winand

If there’s one subject that sparks heated debate among bowhunters it’s the use of crossbows, specifically if it’s within their archery season. The venom some anti-crossbow folks advance verges on feelings we have toward the anti-hunting groups. In 2004, Alabama’s Conservation Advisory Board passed a sweeping change that implemented the use of crossbows during the entire archery season. When the law was signed a Birmingham News writer said, “For those traditionalists who believe anything makes hunting easier is a sin, this year Alabama’s great outdoors went to **** in a hand basket.” So far in 2005, Kentucky and Virginia are the latest states to pass a law allowing crossbows into the entire bow season.

Whether we like it or not, crossbows are here to stay. In an attempt to look at this controversial topic I decided to give crossbows a try and look at their impact on our deer herd. Along with being a wildlife biologist, for the last 25 years I’ve been a dyed-in-the-wool compound hunter and five years prior, a recurve hunter. Like most folks, change doesn’t come easy for me. Instead of criticizing something I never tried, I decided to give the crossbow a chance.

The first deer I shot with a crossbow was a unique experience. After a mature doe and two fawns walked out of my shooting lane, I flipped over my Primos “Can.” The bleat call worked like magic and the doe came back within 20-yards. Within a second my hunting instincts took over and I raised and fired my TenPoint crossbow. After an easy 50-yard tracking job I said, my customary hunter’s prayer. But the best word to express my feeling right then was guilt. Why did I feel so guilty with my first crossbow deer? Maybe it was admitting that I was changing my thoughts about crossbows.

The following day I shot my first buck with a crossbow. I then realized that nothing really had changed in my heart. I still enjoyed the challenge of getting close to the buck and being able to judge the distance. In fact, the excitement of taking these deer with my TenPoint crossbow was as fulfilling as any hunt. Yes, it was awkward to hold and raise a horizontal bow, but comparing a crossbow to a firearm was definitely not the case for me. If nothing else, I learned that crossbows are more like my compound than I ever realized.

Why then, do many folks feel that the crossbow is the anti-Christ of all weapons? The best I can come up with is plain and simple . . . Greed! Like it or not, crossbow hunters are increasing and seem to be the way of the future throughout North America. As of 2005, 11 states allow crossbows for able-bodied hunters during their traditional archery season and seven states do not allow them at all, even for physically challenged bowhunters. In New York, crossbows are illegal for handicapped hunters unless they are modified with a breath tube trigger. After a hard fought battle in 2004, Alabama allowed crossbows during the entire archery season, while Pennsylvania allows crossbows in the Urban Zones and during their firearm seasons.

Arguments for keeping crossbows out of the hunting season are varied. The more prominent arguments include: Permitting crossbows in the bow season will decimate or severely reduce the deer population; allowing crossbows will reduce the length of the archery-only seasons; crossbows are unsafe and a preferred poaching weapon; crossbow hunters are less ethical and less dedicated than conventional bowhunters; and allowing crossbows will decrease the success rate of conventional bowhunters.

Let’s look at these aforementioned arguments and compare them to the facts and figures from states that have a crossbow season and the biological impact they have on the deer herds.

Permitting crossbows in the bow season will severely reduce the deer population by increasing harvest rates and success rates.
The states of Arkansas (1973) and Ohio (1976) have one of the longest running crossbow seasons. Both states allow vertical bow and crossbows within the same archery season. In 1989, the crossbow deer harvest in Ohio exceeded the vertical bow harvest for the first time. This same trend has continued. In 2004, crossbow hunters took about 29,000 deer (58 percent) and vertical bowhunters took 21,000 (42 percent). Additionally, both crossbow and vertical bow hunters enjoy about 1.8 millions recreational days each.

In 1994, Ohio established urban deer units. Deer in these urban areas were prone to under-harvest and overabundance. Typically, these areas account for five percent of the total deer harvest. Once established, crossbows accounted for about 35 percent of all deer harvested in these urban areas. By comparison, crossbow hunters take 15 percent of the total deer harvest outside the urban areas, while vertical bowhunters take 10 percent. Overall, the success rate between crossbow and vertical bowhunters are similar, averaging about 14 percent.

In Arkansas, the latest survey indicates a success rate of 12 percent for crossbows, while vertical bowhunters enjoy a 17 percent success rate. Last year’s data shows that Arkansas crossbow hunters only took 3.3 percent of the total deer harvest, while vertical bowhunters took 6.6 percent. Interestingly, this data has been consistent through the last number of years. Participation rates for Arkansas and Ohio have also been similar, increasing from less than five percent in the early 1980s to over 35 percent of all deer hunters.

Data from deer biologists in both states say, “Contrary to claims by anti-crossbow groups of herd decimation and severe restrictions on hunting opportunity and harvest, neither one of our states have modified our respective regulations as a result of the crossbow. Modern firearms have and will always account for the majority of the harvest and have the greatest impact on deer populations in both Ohio and Arkansas.”

Although each state has large differences in crossbow harvest, the data clearly states that crossbows are not causing any negative impacts on their deer herds. In fact, the opposite is true, especially in the area of urban deer management. Data from Ohio also suggests that about 20 percent of all bowhunters hunt with both vertical and crossbows. It’s believed many of these hunters use their vertical bows in the early season and then switch to the crossbows for the late season.

The state of Georgia made crossbows legal during the archery season in 2002. Wildlife biologist, Nick Nicholson of the Georgia DNR reports that during the second year of crossbow use an estimated 9,300 new archery hunters participated in the archery deer season. The vast majority of these new crossbow hunters, or over 6,900 hunters, indicated that they were new to archery hunting. Additionally, Nicholson reports a large portion of these crossbow hunters were over 50 years old. Many of these folks were most likely retired archery hunters who came back to archery hunting through the use of crossbows. The Ohio data also reflects a crossbow preference among older hunters. They found that among regular (non-senior) archery hunters, participation mirrored the harvest. Approximately 55 percent of archers hunted with a crossbow and 45 percent used a vertical bow. However, among senior hunters, the split was closer to 80:20 in favor of crossbows.

The Georgia data from 2003-04 indicates that the number of crossbow hunters comprised 24.8 percent of all archery hunters (or, 1 crossbow hunter per 4 compound / traditional bowhunter) and 9.1 percent of all hunters. The Georgia DNR also calculated the success rate of crossbow hunters. Crossbow hunters took 21.8 percent of the total archery harvest and only 2.6 percent of the total deer harvest. When you compare the success rate of crossbow hunters (.49 deer per hunter) with compound / traditional hunters (.51 deer per hunter) the data is almost identical. These results suggest whatever additional deer are taken with crossbows are not significant on a statewide basis. In fact, with the very liberal deer season limit in Georgia, any additional deer taken with whatever weapon is most welcomed.

In addition to Arkansas, Ohio and Georgia the states of Alabama (2004), Kentucky and Virginia (2005), and Wyoming (no one knows the actual year crossbows were legalized crossbows, evidently, it’s always been on the books as a legal weapon) allow crossbows during the entire archery season. In these states the bow season has not been shorten or restricted. In fact, some of these states have increased their archery season length and bag limits due to burgeoning deer populations.

Crossbows are unsafe and are a preferred poaching weapon.
When we consider the millions of days of field hunting, it isn’t surprising that some accidents will occur. Still, hunting is among the safest of almost all recreational activities. A report from the National Safety Council in 1999 determined that you have a better chance of being injured in a ping-pong game than in a hunting accident! Although many would question this fact, think about it. Because hunting accidents are so rare, this makes them more newsworthy. Thus, the perception that’s given within newspapers or television is totally different than reality. The bottom line is, on a per capita ratio all hunting is safe!

Everyone agrees that one accident is one too many and organizations such as the National Bowhunter Education Foundation and the International Hunter Educational Association have been reducing hunting accidents for years.
Dave Wilson is an Outdoor Skills Supervisor for the Ohio DNR, Division of Wildlife. Wilson states, “Since Ohio legalized crossbows in 1976, there have been 18 incidents involving them. Fourteen of these incidents were self-inflicted. There were also 12 longbow incidents during the same period with seven of these being self-inflected.” On a per capital basis, when you compare the accident statistics of hunters using crossbows versus other bow types, one is just as dangerous as the other.

Anecdotal data from Wildlife Conservation Officers (WCO) in Ohio and Arkansas also reflect that poachers still prefer firearms over crossbows. This makes sense when you consider a poachers’ motive is to drop an animal on the spot, so no tracking is necessary. Poachers surely don’t want to use flashlights when tracking at night or risk trailing a deer during the day on property where they may not have permission to cross. Are deer illegally taken with crossbows? Probably so, but information from WCO suggests the illegal kills with crossbows are very few. If you still don’t believe this, just try to shoot a crossbow inside a truck. Besides being dangerous, the width and recoil of the bow limbs can easily knock out a window.

Crossbow hunters are less ethical and dedicated than conventional bowhunters.
Many anti-crossbow groups suggest that crossbow hunters are less ethical, lazy and dedicated than conventional bowhunters. Not only is this very judgmental, but no data exists to prove this. Why are hunters so critical of crossbows? Maybe it’s because they’re jealous of anyone’s prowess and any attempt to lessen their chance of taking a deer is viewed as hostile. Maybe some of these awfully self-righteous individuals can remember back in the mid to late 1970’s when traditional bowhunters were saying the same thing when compound bows were brought into the market place. Not only was this incorrect, but to judge another hunter because of his weapon choice is simply wrong. Additionally, many would argue the technological leap from traditional bows to compound bows is much greater than moving from compound bows to crossbows.

Allowing crossbows will reduce the length of the archery-only seasons or restrict the number of deer a hunter can harvest.
Although this is a valid concern, no state has ever reduced or cut back on the total days a bow hunter can hunt or the deer season limit because of crossbows. In fact, with burgeoning deer populations the reverse has occurred in many of the states that currently allow crossbows. Will the success rate increase for states consider making crossbows legal? Most definitely, and if all bowhunters don’t start taking more deer, specifically more antlerless deer, the state DNR's will have no other option but to bring firearms into the archery season. Many states are already starting to do this with early season muzzleloader seasons. More radical is to extend the firearm season into the archery seasons.

It must be remembered that gun hunters are the ones who significantly manage our deer herds. Excluding some urban areas, our firearm friends are the real management tools that control deer populations. And although success rates for compound bow hunters have increased throughout the years, like it or not, state deer biologists will always depend on firearm hunters to control burgeoning deer populations. In areas where firearms are not allowed, data suggests that crossbow hunters have done nothing but help the existing deer herd.

Conclusion:
Many argue the real reason why so many archery hunters dislike the crossbow is because they don’t want anyone else reducing their chance of shooting a deer. Not only is this self-centered, it’s counter productive to the deer herd and those who have dedicated their lives to manage deer. Since there isn’t any biological evidence for not adopting crossbows into the deer season, maybe everyone in the hunting fraternity should welcome these hunters?

Hunters should know wildlife biologists are very conservative folks. We have a responsibility to the deer herd and their habitat. Hypothetically speaking, if hunters wanted a sling-shot season for deer and it reduced the deer herd, biologists would support it. As most hunters would agree, there surely doesn’t seem to be a shortage of deer.

Since wildlife agencies manage our deer herds, crossbow opponents will have a very hard time arguing they will have a negative impact on our ever-growing deer herd. Like it or not, crossbows are coming to your state. Personally, I’d share the woods with anyone, but I would much prefer welcoming our crossbow brethren into the archery season than to see wildlife agencies introduce earlier season firearm days. As states continue to attempt to trim deer herds, bowhunters must do a better job of harvesting more does or other hunting methods will surely replace bowhunting. Either way, more hunters introduced to various types of hunting are good in the long run. There’s power in numbers and since only 8 percent of the country hunts, our sport needs everyone to participate as team players.

Past data indicates the majority of bow hunters in this country started out as gun hunters. This progression could be significant as the potential crossbow recruitment of youngsters, women and older hunters will undoubtedly increase hunter participation. With all the anti-hunting rhetoric in today’s society, any and all hunters are a valued commodity we shouldn’t take for granted. Thus, it makes sense to embrace these new crossbow hunters to be part of the fraternity we call hunting. Even though I’ll still hold onto my trusty Mathews compound bow, I surely won’t discredit anyone who hunts with a crossbow. Maybe you should too.

I’d also suggest that we forget about all the nomenclature on whether or not a crossbow is a gun or bow. In short, this simply divides hunters. And isn’t this what the anti-hunters want? Maybe all hunters should walk down the path of solidarity and stop trying to divide our ranks. Using crossbows and my love for bowhunting sure hasn’t changed because I use or share the woods with them. Whether your state allows crossbows or not, all hunters will still be able to hunt with their weapon of choice and isn’t that what it’s all about?

If you disagree with this article I can appreciate that. Let’s just agree to disagree. But, one bit of advice, if you decide to fight this issue, let’s be professional. Recently, I finished editing a PowerPoint presentation by Larry Schwartz of the Maryland Bowhunters Society (MBS). This presentation is an excellent way of expressing the MBS concerns over crossbows. Although I may not agree with everything in the presentation, it’s put together very well. If you are interested in viewing this web site, check out their web site. Remember, if you choose to fight crossbows, all your objections should be well grounded, defendable, factual and grounded in truth, not emotional hyperbole.
 

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The Crossbow is here to stay ( Good Article

Good read,thanks jh45gun.You know the bow hunters here in Bama are still t-off about the xbow.They says it's unfair;will kill off all the deer.That couldn't be futher from the truth.I was reading an article awhile back about deer hunting in Alabama.It said if "every"licensed hunting in Alabama last year had killed one deer each;we would still have an over-population problem.Just think about the ones (self included :cry: ) that didn't get one...................Rick
 

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Discussion Starter #3
The Crossbow is here to stay ( Good Article

Rick I have come to the Conclusion that some not all but a lot of bow hunters are a selfish lot and do not want any competion or any one in the woods that may compete for what they think are their deer though I have always said it is not YOUR deer until you tag it. Jim
 

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It will be interesting to see how many

It will be interesting to see how many greedy whiners will be using a crossbow in two years.
Mike H
 

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The Crossbow is here to stay ( Good Article

If I want people to give me something and they don't can I just call them greedy until they give in? Could you think of a better strategy?

You could use a fully auto .50 cal and it wouldn't affect where I hunt.

Strangely, your argument is very similar to the gay marriage debate. They say, "how will gay marriage hurt you?" and you says, "how will my xbow hurt you?"

The answer is the same too. "Marriage is between a man and a woman." Or "bow season is for bows".

Sometimes it isn't about greed, but rather traditional views. I suggest you stop calling people greedy and start considering a more rational approach. Most people will be turned off of your quest by being called "Greedy" just because they believe bow season is for bows.
 

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duk you must be confused about the subject

duk you must be confused about the subject or are you trying to change the subject. Frankly with your opinion of crossbows why do you keep coming to this part of the site.
you already explain this once is that not enough. Still you can not tell me why you should care if somebody is in the woods with a crossbow at the same time you bow hunt. What somebody else uses is not your concern as long as it is legal.

I don't need a strategy or want you to give me anything!
 

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The Crossbow is here to stay ( Good Article

Dukkillr is just trolling (my opinion). He lost his argument when he said
bow season is for bows
.

Time now to drop the thread.
 

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The Crossbow is here to stay ( Good Article

Anytime you want to accomplish something you need a strategy.

I keep coming here to defend myself and my opinions from your, "you're selfish" argument.

You don't want me individually to give you something but you do want people who have the opinion I represent to support your version of "bowhunting".

I'm not changing the subject, but rather showing the same line of logic in two different instances. I bet you buy it on one hand and not on the other. Interesting. You see it isn't about hurting or helping anything. It's about tradition and drawing a line.
 

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Ray you are exactly right I have already sent a pm

Ray you are exactly right I have already sent a pm to one of the moderators, with an idea.

Mike H

Wow I just realized the ignore feature is not just for pm's. Thats great.
 
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