This past February I had the opportunity to go to south Texas and participate in an off-season hunt for Axis deer with some other industry folks. The purpose of the trip was to test out the latest crossbow from Browning, the OneSixTwo from the line of ZeroSeven crossbows.
Crossbow? Really? You hunt with one of them?
Yes, I do. Unashamedly so.
Back in 2006, I thought crossbows were nothing more than a toy, or maybe a relic from the days of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Then I was invited on an early-season Ohio whitetail hunt with a leading crossbow manufacturer, so off I went.
The man who invited me was Rick Bednar. At the time, Rick’s father Bill — an Archery Hall of Famer — operated an Ohio archery pro shop and in his spare time he coached Rick as an elite tournament archer. Competing at the highest collegiate, national and international levels, Rick traveled the world as a member of the USA Pan Am, World Target and World Field Archery teams; qualified for the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team (which boycotted the games for political reasons, so Rick never had a chance to compete at that level); and won the NCAA Championship three times at the University of Akron. Rick Bednar was the head honcho at TenPoint crossbows back then and, given his background, I figured if there was something to this crossbow stuff a lifelong hardcore “conventional” archer like Bednar would show me. It was an education.
“More and more states are permitting crossbows to be used during regular archery seasons, or allowing them to be used during firearms seasons,” Bednar told me. “There are several reasons for this. First, with whitetail deer numbers exploding throughout their range, biologists see the crossbow as another way to help shoot more deer, especially in urban areas where firearms hunting is not allowed. Second, the crossbow is a way for a whole lot of people to extend their hunting season even if they are not able to effectively use a compound bow, such as having a physical problem that keeps them from drawing a compound back. So you’re going to see crossbow hunting opportunities expand more and more as the years go by.”
How right he was. As of December 2015, it was legal to use a crossbow during an archery-only season in 25 states, and during a portion of archery season in three other states. Florida allows their use in archery season on private land. Wisconsin made it legal during bow season in 2014, but will review that after three years. In the rest of the states save one crossbows are legal for hunters with physical impairments, over a certain age or during firearms seasons. Only Oregon bans crossbow hunting completely.
That’s not to say that opposition to the use of crossbows during archery-only seasons isn’t out there. Some state bowhunters’ associations oppose their use. In February 2016, Executive Director of the Pope & Young Club Joe Bell, wrote that the club “does not accept a crossbow as a real archery tool. For this reason, we are against them for use in archery-only hunting seasons. Are we against the person using the crossbow? No, absolutely not. This is foolishness. We are simply against the ‘tool’ for use during archery-designated seasons.”
I am not sure the bulk of the archery industry agrees. At the 2016 Archery Trade Association (ATA) trade show, crossbows and crossbow accessories were prominently displayed, and many major manufacturers of compound bows build and sell them. The reason is simple. The public likes them so much that the crossbow is a major factor as to why the archery industry is as strong as it is today. They’re a big reason why bowhunting is in a growth mode.
Having hunted and shot crossbows just enough to be familiar with what they can and cannot do, I respectfully disagree with the Pope & Young Club’s stance on this issue. (Full disclosure, I am a regular member of Pope & Young). The crossbow has three big advantages over a compound bow, the main one being that it is pre-cocked and, thus, you do not have to draw the bow as an animal approaches. You also do not have to use muscle power to hold it all full draw and you can rest the crossbow’s forearm to give you a stable shooting platform. The use of an optical sight is another advantage. On the downside, crossbows are big, bulky and unwieldy, especially in a tree stand. They are no fun to use in most spot and stalk situations if you have to carry them for any length of time. It also takes a lot of time and a lot of movement to cock and load one, making quick follow-up shots out of the question.
I am old enough to remember when old-school recurve and stickbow hunters vehemently opposed the inclusion of compound bows in archery-only seasons. While some die-hard traditional archers still feel compounds are not “real” hunting bows, the vast majority have gotten over it and the bowhunting community is stronger for it. I am hoping the same will soon be true for crossbows. After all, a crossbow is neither a traditional bow, nor is it a compound bow — it’s simply a crossbow. Crossbows are fun, they’re an ethical hunting tool and they are here to stay.
What’s your opinion? Drop me a note here at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.