Crossbow Impact On Michigan Hunters

A just-released survey analyzing the crossbow’s impact on Michigan’s 2009-2011 archery deer seasons found it expanded bowhunting opportunities and increased bowhunter numbers, exactly what proponents sought four years ago when the state legalized crossbows.

However, even though Michigan’s bowhunter numbers increased 13 percent those years and the state’s archery kill increased at the same rate, the state’s overall number of gun and archery hunters declined 7 percent and the total deer kill fell 12 percent during those three years. This 19-page report by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources also found that the proportion of archers using crossbows increased from 19 percent statewide in 2009 to 37 percent in 2011. Further, the number of crossbow hunters more than doubled from 57,000 in 2009 to 119,000 in 2011.


Most hunters feel more confident when hunting with a crossbow as opposed to hunting with a “vertical” held bow; which might explain their continued growth in popularity.

The deer kill by crossbow hunters also increased each year, from about 25,000 to 38,000 to 55,000. 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. Even so, crossbow hunters enjoyed 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. For comparison, bowhunters notched a 42 percent success rate when bagging 125,035 deer during Michigan’s 2008 season, the year before crossbows were legalized.


Although not everyone agrees that crossbows have their place in the deeer woods one thing is for certain…they offer the same platform for fellowship that any other weapon does when carried into the field with family or friends.

In fact, Michigan’s bow kill declined in 2009 and 2010 before hitting 131,615 in 2011. Even so, that total is third in Michigan history. It was 142,615 in 1999 and 132,130 in 1995. Likewise, Michigan’s recent archery buck kills didn’t trigger Armageddon for the state’s white-tailed bucks. 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 was 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.

Therefore, those who try making a scientific argument that crossbows overexploited Michigan’s deer herd or its bucks won’t get too far.

However, the survey’s data do the talking for those who argue that crossbows broaden hunting’s base and boost license sales. For instance, crossbows persuaded gun-hunters to try archery hunting. In 2011, about 25 percent of Michigan’s crossbow hunters (24,438) had not hunted the archery season from 2006 through 2008. In fact, about 19 percent of them had never before used anything except firearms for hunting. The survey also found existing bowhunters were willing to try crossbows. About 74 percent of 2011’s crossbow hunters (71,305) had hunted at least one archery season from 2006 to 2008.

Crossbows also seem to keep Michigan’s older bowhunters in the woods. The average age of those buying crossbow stamps was older than among all deer-hunting license buyers from 2009 to 2011. Also, the mean age of crossbow hunters was 50, while it was 42 for all deer hunters. And when Michigan removed the age 50 restriction after the 2009 season, the mean age fell only slightly into the high 40s. Other than the crossbow’s impact, Michigan’s deer hunting numbers haven’t been rosy since 2008. As bow-license numbers and the archery kill rose about 13 percent since then, gun-hunter numbers fell 10 percent and the gun-kill fell 27 percent during Michigan’s Nov. 15-30 firearms season. Further, crossbow hunters enjoyed their newfound opportunities.


What are your opinions of this weapon? Is it good or bad for the sport of hunting? Why?

Half of those surveyed said they would not hunt the archery season if they couldn’t use crossbows. That’s probably because 77 percent felt more confident they could kill a deer with a crossbow than other bows. Confidence levels were even higher for crossbow hunters with no archery background. Among “newly recruited bowhunters,” 84 percent felt more confident of success with a crossbow than other bows. Time will tell whether that confidence endures, but previous research shows confident hunters are more likely to keep hunting than discouraged hunters. Research also shows that the more diverse people’s hunting opportunities, the more likely we’ll keep hunting.

What do you think? We want to hear from you.


  1. Pretty good summary of the report. Thanks.
    I agree with Montec that crossbows may lead to overconfidence, and folks taking shots they shouldn't, but I hope sharing stories and more experience will help with that issue.
    I hunt public land in southern lower and we were worried about a mass influx of gun hunters with bows, but it hasn't been so massive, and the new people showing up have so far seemed as polite and friendly as the rest. Most are a bit older, and it's been touching to see them get out there. As they are new to our areas, we've let them have their choice of spots, and remind them we can help with the tracking or dragging.
    We hope this politeness is infectious. If you've ever had the friendly argument "no, it is you who should have this area to hunt, cause I know a different spot that's just fine over there", while the other guy insists that, no, it is he that should find a different spot, then you know how good that can feel.

  2. Nick Coheley says:

    Well as far as for the sport I think it is a great thing. It is a great tool to introduce new hunters and bow hunters. I also think you should use whatever you are more comfortable with using to get a good clean ethical kill. But from a selfish side being a Michigan hunter, we are already one of the highest hunting pressure states. Bow season was our best chance to be able to knock down a bruiser, but now with more hunters getting into bow hunting with a crossbow the chances slip away some more. Since most of our deer don’t get the chance to reach a mature age because of all the hunters we have I think they should change some of the antler restrictions so the bucks will have better odds to be able to reach some of their potential.

  3. Multi-edged sword here.We all need to stick together in the face of the anti-hunting movement but this crossbow issue is a dividing wedge.I believe crossbows should be left to gun seasons and only for the dis-abled during archery seasons. Most of us got into archery for the heightened challenge. Not to paint all crossbow users with the same brush, but in my area, more hunters are out there with crossbows that would never have with "verticle"archery.Now we are seeing and hearing of unethical shots being taken. Shots that no one would have taken with a compound bow. The speed and power of crossbows makes some think it's a short range rifle.Very few use crossbows for the "historical" aspect.

  4. I'm with Montec and Rork in that the crossbow should be for those who can not draw the minimum draw weight. As a resident of MN, a MN Bowhunters Inc board member and watching this in our own legislation, I find pieces like this very informative. Thanks for a very good summary as I don't want to read 19pages of legal G

  5. DrC from MN says:

    In MN, I would favor a cross bow season under a few circumstances. If used during the archery season, you pick a gun license or cross bow. Not both. You then could use the cross bow during the gun season also. Or allow cross bows during the late muzzy season. My group is transitioning to cross bow only during the gun season. No loud deer scaring shots any longer as well as sanctuaries should grow some bruisers. I just hope we keep the APR in Zone 3.

  6. Brandon T says:

    Jim Miller your an idiot !! First off crossbows still require the deer to be in close range. However within 40 yards a crossbow does shoot so much harder without a doubt. In IL they passed them for late season and IMO for the late season they are great. I killed 3 deer this past late season and to not draw a bow back in colder weather is the biggest advantage. I will continue to use a compound for rut hunts, but once the late season comes I have no problems switching to the crossbow. Anyone says crossbows are cheating have no clue. Does this mean we have to ban all gun hunting now too ?? Whether compound or recurve bows one cannot control a deer population with just these types alone. Gun hunting and certainly crossbow hunting has its fit in the deer woods.

  7. W. R. Crisp says:

    After medical problems with my shoulders I was very glad when my opportunities to hunt during the archery season where not ended. I have discovered that hunting with a crossbow still requires me to get close to make a good hit. I have found the only advantage is that I don't have to punish my older shoulders with drawing the bow. I do miss being able to bowhunt as I used to decades ago, but am glad I can still get out and at least try to bag some game.

  8. Elora Paul says:

    Crossbow is really impressive equipment for hunting but one has to use a good rifle scope to do the task. I didn't do hunting ever with such thing but want to try once. After reading this article, its seem like interesting to me. I purchased one "Nightforce C434 NXS 5.5-22×56 Zero Stop MOAR" from that claim to be a brand online Gun Dealer in USA.

  9. Hunting with a crossbow is NOT ARCHERY,it's a totally differnt sport.

  10. mi husker says:

    i hunt on state land and people come walking ind sit on the trail and shoot fawns weres the in that its like a gun that shoots 50yds


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