Crossbow Controversieson May 1, 2013
Even though the sky hasn’t fallen or Armageddon unleashed on the 19 states that now include crossbows without restrictions during archery season, we still hear dire predictions and gloomy forecasts of buck overkills and crowded woods in the years ahead. Pfft. Stop it. Critics need to start offering some facts and figures to support their predictions if they desire any credibility. In the meantime, their fears make me think of this quote by Mark Twain: “I’ve seen many troubles in my time, only half of which ever came true.”
Crossbows such as the new Carbon Express Intercept are an effective hunting tool; despite mixed emotions regarding their use during archery seasons.
The fact is, even though bowhunting license sales are climbing or relatively stable in most states, overall hunter numbers are stable or declining. Further, no matter how much deer hunting opportunity states offer, few hunters shoot more than one deer annually. As a result, hunter numbers and deer harvests will not skyrocket as more gun-hunters or lapsed archers take up crossbows. Sure, we’ll see some increases at times, but not enough to notice, except in our imaginations. (carbon express crossbow)
Performance differences between compound bows and crossbows aren’t as obvious as those between compound bows and traditional longbows or recurve bows.
Consider the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ recent assessment of the crossbow’s impact on the 2009-2011 deer seasons since it was legalized in 2009. Even though Michigan’s bowhunter numbers increased 13 percent and the state’s archery kill increased at the same rate, the overall number of gun and archery hunters declined 7 percent and the total deer kill fell 12 percent. True, the proportion of archers using crossbows increased from 19 percent statewide in 2009 to 37 percent in 2011. Also true, the number of crossbow hunters more than doubled from 57,000 in 2009 to 119,000 in 2011. Further, the deer kill by crossbow hunters increased from about 25,000 in 2009, to 38,000 in 2010 and to 55,000 in 2011. That accounted for about 21 percent of the 117,633 bow-kill in 2009, 33 percent of the 117,180 bow-kill in 2010, and 42 percent of the 131,615 bow-kill in 2011.
At latest count, 19 states and five of 12 Canadian provinces allow crossbows to be used during their big-game archery seasons.
Even so, crossbow hunters notched basically the same success rate all three seasons: 36.4, 35.6 and 38.8, respectively. In other words, the increased kill was basically the result of more bowhunters in the woods during archery season. But those aren’t extraordinary success rates. During Michigan’s 2008 season – the year before crossbows were legalized – bowhunters notched a 42 percent success rate when bagging 125,035 deer. But don’t lose perspective. Michigan’s bow kill actually declined in 2009 and 2010 before hitting 131,615 in 2011. Even then, that 2011 total is third in Michigan history. It fell short of a record 142,615 in 1999 and 132,130 in 1995. Likewise, Michigan’s recent archery buck kills didn’t blast into orbit. True, the buck bow-kill rose 9 percent from 64,580 in 2009 to 70,148 in 2011, but the antlerless kill rose 16 percent from 53,053 to 61,466.
Meanwhile, the crossbow’s overall impact on Michigan deer hunting remains modest. Consider:
-- In 2009, crossbow hunters killed 24,882 deer, or 5.6 percent of the 444,231 gun and bow total.
-- In 2010, crossbow hunters killed 38,310 deer, or 9.2 percent of the 417,850 total.
-- In 2011, crossbow hunters killed 54,902 deer, or 13 percent of the 422,014 total.
Likewise, Indiana didn’t implode when it fully opened its archery season to crossbows last fall. The result? Crossbow hunters shot 8,452 deer, or 6 percent of 2012’s overall statewide kill. Other Hoosier archers arrowed 27,580 deer in 2012, about 800 more than they killed in 2011.