Is Crossbow Marketing Doing More Harm Than Good?

The popularity of crossbows – and the technology behind them – have seen an impressive boom in recent years.  With more states opening up opportunities for crossbow hunters and bows becoming lighter, faster and more accurate there’s little doubt we’re seeing the largest expansion of crossbow hunting in our lifetime.  With the increase in crossbow use we’ve seen an influx of new bow manufacturers all competing for sales.   Within this fierce competition to convert those using vertical bows to crossbows, and to lure firearm hunters to crossbows, we’ve noticed somewhat of a disturbing trend.

Where crossbows were once judged almost solely on the FPS (feet per second) they could achieve, nowadays a number of marketing programs are ranking crossbows by the yardage distance they can accurately launch an arrow. I’ll admit, the numbers being advertised are impressive. Any weapon easily capable of accurately launching an arrow at 100 yards gets my attention. But are these marketing strategies doing more harm than good for the future of crossbow hunting?

Arrows-in-target

Shoot or Don’t Shoot? Your new crossbow can easily handle 100 yards – should you try it on a live target?

Following the ATA show we received a letter encouraging media members to be aware of how we present the facts and performance of today’s top crossbows. The letter went on to say that the state of Wyoming is currently rethinking their laws on whether or not to continue to allow crossbow hunting in the same capacity as in the past due to the increase in technology and performance of the latest crossbows on the market.

Think about it. For the longest time crossbow advocates preached that crossbows were no different than hunting with a vertical bow, and any advantage above what could be achieved with a vertical bow was minimal.  And for many years this statement was relatively true.  Crossbows of just a few short years ago, while fast and accurate, were generally considered as 40 and 50 yard weapons.  Bowhunters, and perhaps more importantly game agencies, bought into the concept and crossbows saw adoption into archery seasons at a record pace.

Fast forward to 2018 and we find crossbows capable of shooting sub 1-inch groups at 100 yards.  We see crossbow commercials on TV that feature crossbows being shot side by side with rifles on a 100-yard rifle range and touted as “Your Next Rifle”.  This year’s ATA Show found even more crossbow manufacturers boasting of 100 yard accuracy abilities and shooting speeds well in excess of 400 fps.  As time goes on and crossbow innovations continue to push the limits of speed and accuracy the gap between compounds and crossbows certainly appears to be widening.

mission-sub-1-crossbow-limbs

The new Sub-1 is a phenomenal new crossbow from Mission Crossbows that will stack arrows as tight as any crossbow on the market.  However some legislators are now considering whether or not these long range weapons have a place in archery season.

Don’t get me wrong. The numbers put up by these crossbows are impressive and we wouldn’t expect a company to refrain from pushing the limits in technological advancements of their equipment. But the question remains, “Is the marketing strategy of crossbow manufacturers doing more harm than good for the future of crossbow hunting?”.

Think of is this way; a brand new Chevrolet Corvette is capable of hitting a top speed of over 200 mph which we all know is far in excess of the legal limit or what someone should safely attempt.  And while this is an impressive stat, the Corvette isn’t marketed as a 200 mph vehicle.  After all, why encourage something that the average driver should not be attempting and may in fact put their life in jeopardy?  Crossbows should be looked at the same way.  While shooting 100 yards accurately on the range is a blast, is marketing that stat to hunters doing more harm than good for the crossbow cause?

When we asked several crossbow manufacturers whether or not hunters should be attempting 80 and 100 yard shots on game animals with their bows, the answer is always “no”.  Manufacturers claim that while their bows are more than capable of shooting accurately as these distances they do not recommend shooting animals that far – for all of the reasons that we already know.  In short, there’s just too much that can go wrong under uncontrolled circumstances when shooting at live animals.  When pushed on the issue manufacturers fall back to their recommendation of shooting at long distances for fun or “recreational” purposes.  However in all of the advertisements we saw and read, there was no mention of “recreational” shooting.  Advertisements clearly aimed at hunters draw no line between what should be done on the range and in the field.  That’s left for the individual to decide on their own.

The unfortunate thing is that we live in a world that doesn’t read past the headline.  When hunters see headlines that include “100 yard accuracy” or phrases like “Your next rifle” they simply assume that hunting at these distances is acceptable, and even encouraged.  Few stop to think further on the topic or research why they should or should not be shooting animals at these distances. This is leading to the creation of an entire generation of crossbow hunters with ill conceived notations of what their effective hunting range is, and may even be hurting the future advancement of crossbow inclusion into archery seasons.

crossbow-shooter-in-stand

Will advancements in crossbow technology, and the way they are marketed, ultimately lead to their removal from archery seasons?

Here’s why it’s such a concern. The state of Wyoming is one of the few states out West which allows crossbows to be used during the archery season. It’s an incredible opportunity for crossbow hunters to take part in hunting the early season.  But now the Wyoming Game & Fish commission may consider changing that rule.  After all, should a weapon that can shoot 100+ yards be included in the same season as one which can shoot 40 or 50 yards?

A meeting last week was held to discuss the issue in Douglas, Wyoming. It wouldn’t be the first time the Commission has addressed controversial technology. Just a few years back, in 2016, the commission banned the use of drones as a hunting tool.

One report said that rapid changes in technology along with interest from lawmakers, the commission and the public, prompted the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to compile an extensive report on new hunting tools from trail cameras that track animals in real time (cellular cams) to rifles that shoot guided bullets like a jet fighter. The report outlines recommendations to department leadership, who will then make recommendations to the Commission.  In this report it was strongly recommended to remove the use of crossbows during archery season in Wyoming.

The main question the Commission always seeks to address is: Is using the new equipment fair to wildlife and other hunters?

“When it comes down to the balance between opportunity and fair chase, it becomes a public discussion,” said Brian Nesvik, the department’s chief game warden. “It’s different in different states. In Wyoming, it’s acceptable to use hounds to pursue lions. In some places that’s not allowed, but hunters can use dogs to chase bears. In Wyoming, that’s not acceptable. The public has a huge role in identifying what fair chase is.”

ravin-add

Will the impressive abilities of today’s crossbows come back to bite us?

Sources say Wyoming is revisiting the issue now primarily because of the new crossbows that allow average shooters to accurately launch arrows much farther than those with traditional bows.  In the desire to sell more bows and covert more people to crossbow advocates, it appears that the bar may have been pushed too far.

Fortunately for crossbow hunters, during last week’s meeting the idea of removing crossbows from archery season was tabled until a later date.  The Wyoming Fish & Game Commission asked for more public input on the matter, along with quantifiable data, before making any decisions.

“I’m not in favor of having crossbows taken out of archery season,” said Commissioner Gay Lynn Byrd. “We ought to see what the public thinks.”

This would be a huge blow to the crossbow hunters that fought so hard to have the opportunity to crossbow hunt during the archery season. I personally love the fact that my boys and I can go out during the archery season and have the chance to shoot a deer with a crossbow. It’s a great way for them to get into the woods and experience the hunt prior to growing into the opportunity to hunt with a vertical bow, and it’s a great opportunity for those folks who simply enjoy shooting a crossbow.

easton-ravin-crossbow

Crossbows create great opportunities for our kids as well. Let’s not lose it!

The message we received regarding how we promote crossbow performance served as a reality check for many of us. If we’re not careful, we will lose it.

We want to hear from you. Comment below and tell us your thoughts on these high-end crossbows capable of accurately launching arrows at 100+ yards. Should they be in a season of their own? Should they be limited to gun season?  Do product manufacturers have a duty to portray their product in a manner that promotes ethical shooting by their customers? Are crossbows hurting deer hunters?

Comments

  1. Edward Medvec says:

    Is this any different from traditional muzzleloaders and todays high tech muzzleloaders?

    Reply
  2. Lester D. Care says:

    There are too many unethical gun hunters who have taken up crossbow,only for the kill not the sport of hunting.They do not realize the difference in the kinetic energy of an arrow,compared to the killing power of a bullet.But how can you control what people will do?

    Reply
  3. T Bergey says:

    Any true bow hunter knows that cross bow hunting is not bow hunting. Since not every one agrees and we aren’t able to eliminate them , maybe their should be a limit to their poundage and a maximum bolt weight to counter act these long shots.

    Reply
  4. Miles Dykeman says:

    To go along with the idea that these new crossbows may need their own season, it only seems fitting that hunters wear orange in these seasons. With being able to shoot 100 yards accurately, we need to have humans visible at these ranges.

    Reply
  5. Mike Miller says:

    Marketing strategies could be changed / improved to influence potential customers. All hunters need to have a clear understanding of what their equipment is capable of (rifle, pistol, bows, spears, etc) and make ethical decisions when hunting. I read an account of Fred Bear killing a Tiger at 80yds with traditional archery equipment! Is that ethical? For Fred Bear it sure was. I have guided numerous crossbow hunters over the past 2 seasons and all of them had clear limits on the distances they were willing to shoot, typically 50yds was the max. One of these hunters was using a Raven and said he would not shoot an animal over 70yds because the arrow may not have the momentum necessary to make the kill. Ethical and informed decisions are hunters responsibility when choosing their equipment.
    Informed decisions should be used when deciding what weapons can be used for the taking of game. The question I would start with …….How many animals were harvested with Crossbows compared to Compound bows last seaso?

    Reply
  6. Zachary Grubach says:

    I agree with the state laws that allow hunters with specific disabilities to use them. Sadly, there are plenty of hunters who may not be able to pull back 40 lbs and would still benefit from going out for archery season. With that said, I also feel there are plenty of lazy people looking for the easiest harvest possible. It is a pretty tough subject because so many bowhunters have different opinions on it.

    Reply
  7. Mickey T says:

    It all comes down to common sense, just because you can shoot 100 yards doesn’t mean you should. Let kids use crossbows till they are 18. And shorten crossbow season for adults if its becoming an issue. I don’t think they should just up and ban crossbows for hunting or companies stop trying to make crossbows better.

    Reply
  8. Jerry Weatherman says:

    Articles like these are like a slap in the face to hunters. Not all hunters are gonna rush out and see just how far they can kill an animal with a crossbow…. just because it shoots tight groups out to 75,100, or 200 yds….No more than someone is gonna go out and drive a car 200 miles an hour , just because the speedometer says 200 on it. Just for the record , there are MANY guys out there capable of shooting a conventional compound bow out to 100 yds with groups of 3 – 6 inches….But they don’t go out shooting at every animal that comes within that range. Outlawing crossbows because of their CAPABILITIES…..Would be like outlawing rifles because they too can shoot way too far EFFECTIVELY. Hunters spend millions of dollars a year on hunting animals that they truly love. I think it’s about time we get the credit we deserve as Animal Conservationists…..Not as idiots out there running around shooting at animals….Just because our weapon will shoot that far at a stationary target. Technology will never stop , so why not be thankful that technology is allowing us to be more effective as hunters and at harvesting the animals that we pursue….. Instead of saying it’s bad for or hunting heritage. Stop being so quick to judge the people who put more money into conservation than ANYONE !

    Reply
    • Jerry – I think you’re missing the point a bit. The heart of the article is pointing out that crossbows have been being accepted into archery seasons in large part because they are perceived as a weapon of equal (or close to equal) effectiveness as a compound. As technology advances and they become significantly more capable than compound bows, and are marketed as such, it shines a light on whether the decision to allow them in archery season is still the correct one. So in essence the advancements in technologies and subsequent marketing that they are 100 yard weapons may in fact be hurting the push to include crossbows into archery seasons. As evidenced by Wyoming who is entertaining the idea of changing regulations that have been in place for many years. To your point about people rushing out to see how far they can shoot an animal with a crossbow – talk to any tech who works in a bow shop or store where crossbows are sold and I believe you’ll hear a different story. While this is certainly not true of all hunters who elect to bring a crossbow to the woods (myself included) the fact that these bows are being sold to people as 100 yard weapons certainly isn’t doing anyone any favors. Educating people on the effective range of a weapon under hunting conditions in order to make an ethical kill can be a difficult thing at times.

      Reply
      • Halonhunter says:

        Thought the crossbow archery allowance was because it is not a firearm. Why would it be forced into firearm season? 80 fps? There’s. A larger descrepency with compounds to stick bows than compounds to crossbows

        Reply
        • This has never really been about speed – it’s more about marketing crossbows as firearm replacements that can shoot accurately at 100 yards. When the gap between compounds and crossbows widens to the point that crossbows are generally perceived by game agencies as having closer capabilities to a gun than a compound bow, we may start seeing some regulation changes. Speed is only one piece of that puzzle.

          Reply
  9. Brad Suter says:

    I THINK CROSSBOWS ARE GREAT, I AM DISABLED AND I CAN’T SHOOT A REAL BOW. A CROSSBOW GIVES THE ONLY CHANCE TO HUNT EXCEPT FOR A GUN!!!! I LIKE TO HUNT WHEN IT NOT SO COLD,MY BODY CAN’T HANDLE REAL COLD WEATHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THANK YOU
    BRAD SUTER

    Reply
  10. D. Pakulski says:

    What about long distance rifles? Is 1200 yards a ethical shot? What about long distance turkey loads capable of 80 to 100 yards? I guess my point is that what one person calls ethical another person doesn’t. Why do some hunting shows only have long distance shooting of animals of 600+ yards. When they could easily get closer? But no one is crying to take their rifles away! It’s the same thing with compound bows I’ve seen plenty of hunting shows with people shooting 70+ yards. I guess my real question is when did it become more prestigious and or glorious to make long distance shots than instead of inside of 10 yards shots? I used a crossbow to kill a deer and a turkey at less than 8 yards in a blind. Was it easier than bow? Yes but at my age of 55+ years I think that the X bow is the most ethical solution for myself being that I have trouble seeing the pins on my bow.

    Reply
    • This post isn’t necessarily about the ethics of long distance shooting, as that’s a whole separate topic. But to answer your question the difference is the time it takes an arrow to travel 100 yards allows for the animal to move a significant amount before impact, where shooting a turkey at 80 yards does not. That shot is still traveling as speeds many times faster than an arrow. A turkey isn’t going to “duck” a shot even at 80 yards. Personally I agree with your take that bowhunting is all about getting close. That’s the allure for me and I’m sure a lot of other folks as well. I think people who shoot whitetails with a compound or crossbow at 70 yards are unethical hunters who value the kill more than the experience. The allure of killing an animal at further and further distances in order to punch a tag and post a pic on social media to get some “likes” is certainly a strong driving force in today’s hunting community. Personally speaking I have zero problems with crossbows – I’ve hunted with them for a few years now and hope to continue doing so for years to come. However as their effectiveness increases, and they are marketed as firearm replacements, you can continue to expect greater push back from those who oppose them in archery season and you could very well start seeing regulation changes because of it.

      Reply
  11. George olynyk says:

    I have experience hunting with both weapons. I also own both. Crossbows do not fall under the spirit of Archery. They are an entirely different class of weapon and should be treated as such. Human power and skill is what propels the arrows from vertical bows accurately. IMO the crossbow is purely mechanical. Very little skill is involved. Crossbows should have their own season and regulations just as firearms do.

    Reply
  12. Charlie Mouton says:

    I started my boys when they were very young (8 yrs to 10yrs) Bow hunting, they practuse every day after school work. they got to be very good, shot in touniment against grow men and beat them. Butt we never shot Crossbows, i was always told they were for diabled people, and People over 65. This is were the problem comes in , you can not let everyone that can but one, hunt. it needs to be like the old days when i was coming up hunting..

    Reply
  13. Crossbows being allowed during regular archery season for able bodied hunters was s Financial decision in most states rather than a sporting or conservation decision. Insurance agencies and the crossbow industry put big money behind crossbow legalization and it worked. All the comparisons and arguments equating crossbows with compounds would be dismissed as pure fantasy a few years ago now it’s mainstream. There is no going back now but in my opinion it’s a shame we now have a weapon that a 7 year old can use effectively available for grown non handicapped adults. They can parade around the woods for a 3+ month regular archery season and call it an archery kill. Crossbows should have their own separate season but that would not spur the buying frenzy the industry wants. I don’t blame the crossbow enthusiasts I blame the states DNR and lawmakers that’s allowed the change in the laws to make money. Just my opinion.

    Reply
  14. Colby Jacobson says:

    Having hunted with a traditional, compound, and a crossbow. I do believe that crossbows should have there own season. The tactical advantages of a xbow truly exceed that of a vertical bow. Kids of a younger age are now entering the woods fully capable of harvesting an animal. Which in turn means more animals can be harvested in a season. ( I am witnessing this personally ) Also the year I carry a xbow I noticed how easy it was to harvest my animals. And with little work and prep compared to my hunts with vertical bows. I equate my xbow hunts to muzzleloader hunts.

    Reply
  15. Rob Wilkinson says:

    Meanwhile you have the braniac state legislature of Virginia getting ready to legalize the “Airbow” in archery season. I have no issue with crossbows in archery season, nor do I have an issue with airbows being made legal…but I have a big issue with a weapon that is by all means an air gun firing bolts, being recognize as a type of “bow”. Legalize it for general firearm season, there is no bow or string to even qualify it as a “bow”.

    Reply
  16. I have a Barnett with a Hawke scope, synched to 100 yds. My problem was- when I got out to 80 yds, my 19 inch target looked like a DOT! So, now I’m trying to hit a dot with a dot! I hit the target, but anothet inch to the right and I would have lost the arrow! I never tried that distance again!

    Reply
  17. I am a vertical bow hunter from WI. In this state, the law was changed resently to allow crossbows duting archery season. Prior to the law changing, crossbows were allowed for the eldly and the handicap. I would personally like to see the law changed back and maybe include younger hunters as acceptable crossbow hunters. In my option, I do not think it is fair to have crossbows during the archery season. Maybe a new season could be created for crossbows much like our muzzleloader season, or maybe have crossbow use during the muzzleloader season.

    Reply
  18. If you hunt with a crossbow in any state where it is legal hunters owe it to the sport to take ethical shots. Sure some will try to take long shots, but many gun hunters do too. Look at statistics in states where they are legal. In Wisconsin where I live in there wasn’t a significantly more deer than was shot with vertical bows. I hunt with a Matthews and I honestly have to say based on the complaints of crossbows compounds and releases shouldn’t be allowed. I started hunting in the 60’s with a recurve bow so I’ve seen the same type of complaints for them. We are all hunters. Your duty as a hunter is to take ethical shots .Shooting a crossbow further than 50 yards is unethical to me. We all know gun hunters that take unethical shots and wound animals. Crossbow hunters have a duty to realize their limitations. If you hit a branch the bolt will still deflect like an arrow would. I could use a similar logic with a .308 Winchester. No one should be able to hunt with an AR-10 with a high capacity magazine? I am not looking for an argument. I’m just throwing some things to think about. In the end we are all part of the hunting brotherhood. Or as the Prime Minister of Canada would say peoplehood. If you hunt with a crossbow PLEASE take ethical shots. If you wound an animal and it dies with a bolt sticking out of it, it will still looked like it was killed by a bow hunter. We all need to help promote hunting we lose too many hunters every year. No arguments please. Honest debate is welcome.

    Reply
  19. I totally agree with Rob Wilkinson By definition an air bow is an oxymoron. There is no bow/prod. It’s compressed air therefore IT is a separate class of weapon. I think this weapon needs to be studied by each states DNR for classification. I know my previous posts said we should basically let anyone hunt with a crossbow but you do have to agree there is no bow/prod involved at all. The only compressed air I would use is in hunting camp is after a good bowl of beans. Although that could be pretty deadly at times too. LOL

    Reply
  20. PLEASE don’t spread the myth that crossbows are like muzzleloaders. That’s like the crossbow maker showing shots at 100 yards. There is no comparison. We all know, I hope, shooting an animal at 75-100 yards is totally unethical with a crossbow. I don’t think that crossbow manufacturer has ethics in mind. It’s more like propaganda and profit for them. Don’t drink their Kool aid.

    Reply
  21. Revision to my previous post 50+ yards with a crossbow are unethical IMO.

    Reply
  22. jack tesch says:

    I think that crossbows are like compound bows, but they should have a cap on fps, before they get there, they are at 430 fps now, next year, maybe 500 fps,(just like 4 wheelers after 1000 cc) they are rated as an automobile in mn. same thing, say at 450 fps, is the limit on crossbows, after such 451 plus fps, they are in a higher class. actual numbers could be state senate or (dnr) laws. just my 2 cents.

    Reply
  23. James Robert says:

    Crossbow hunting is legal or not?

    Reply

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