Are Crossbows Becoming Too Efficient for Archery Season?

In a time when hunting recruitment and retention are at all-time lows, it’s difficult to bring up the highly controversial topic of full inclusion crossbow use during the archery season. If you read enough articles and peruse the online forums, you can’t help but get sucked into the debate. There are compelling arguments on both sides of the discussion. Crossbow sales continue to rise each passing year. Twenty-seven states now allow full inclusion crossbow use during the archery season. Is it possible that vertical bows and crossbows can share the same season? Should they? Are crossbows becoming to efficient for archery season altogether?

easton-crossbow-buck

Are today’s crossbows too efficient for archery season? Do they deserve a season of their own?

According to Merriam-Webster, archery is defined as the art, practice, or skill of shooting with bow and arrow. When one digs into the history of archery, you will find it is one of the oldest art forms still practiced today. In both of those instances, the common denominator is art and practice. The purists argue that crossbows are eroding the essence that makes hunting with archery equipment so special and unique. In order to be a successful archery hunter, you must practice and perfect your craft. Repetition, muscle memory, mental toughness are a few adjectives that depict the art of archery. There is fear that full inclusion during the archery season might put too many hunters in the woods and thus make the bowhunting season like what some states experience during the firearms season. And what the states that already include crossbows in their archery season? Crossbow technology has changed rapidly since some of these states added them to the archery season roster. Are these technological advancements making them a weapon that should now be reconsidered for inclusion in archery-only seasons?

Hunter-shooting-tenpoint

Love it or hate it, the popularity of crossbow hunting is booming.

Since I do not own a crossbow, I recently spent some time at my local archery shop to get hands-on experience with these “easy” to shoot bows. The TenPoint Nitro XRT, Mission Sub-1 XR and the Ravin R20 are some of the hottest crossbows on the market this year. The TenPoint Nitro XRT is the fastest bow on the planet with speeds up to 470 feet per second. The Mission Sub-1 XR and Ravin R20 are very similar weapons with both touting 430 feet per second and accuracy up to 100 yards. The Ravin R20 is fully adjustable up to 200 yards (but Ravin does have the discretionary statement against any ethical shot at that distance). I wanted to see if these bows were as easy and as accurate as I have read. I asked my local bow technician to accompany me on the range to give me a tutorial on operating one of these bolt launchers. After a brief introduction, we were shooting bolts down range. Two minor adjustments to the scope that comes equipped on these bows and I was firing perfect shots. It really was almost too easy.

Shooting-TenPoint-Nitro-XRT

The TenPoint Nitro XRT is boasting speeds up to 470 feet per second. Does this kind of performance deserve a season all its own?

The states that allow full inclusion crossbow use during archery season, argued that it would increase hunter participation and open the sport to a wider demographic. Younger hunters, female hunters, disabled hunters and older aged hunters would all have the opportunity to hunt when previously, they might not have been able. Hunter recruitment was the basis of their argument. However, the most recent data shows that hunter, and especially bowhunter participation, continues to fall. What is changing in the states that allow full inclusion crossbow use is the number of gun hunters that are also bowhunting. Ohio has had full crossbow inclusion for 35 years. According to the 2018 Deer Summary conducted by the Ohio ­Department of Natural Resources, 70 percent of gun hunters also hunted the archery season. The statistic that really sticks out in my mind is the season harvest comparison. Over 5,000 more bucks were killed during the archery season than during the gun season. In 2017, 39,362 bucks were killed during the archery season. Of that harvest total, 65 percent of those bucks were taken with a crossbow. Data from both Michigan and Wisconsin (two other states with full inclusion) show that more hunters are now using crossbows than vertical bows.

Mission-Sub-1-XR

The Mission Sub-1 XR is one of the hottest crossbows you’ll find at the archery counter, easily capable of sub-1 inch groups at 100 yards.

Several states allow the use of crossbows during the archery season with stipulations. For example, in my home state of Minnesota, crossbows are allowed during the archery season if you have a disability or if you are over the age of sixty. The crossbow federation has been pushing for full inclusion over the past few years, but the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association continues to vote it down. In the spring of 2017, 70 percent of the membership voted against full inclusion crossbow use during the archery season. Minnesota does allow crossbow use during the firearms season by any legal age hunter. Also, crossbows are allowed during the spring bear season and during the spring and fall turkey seasons. However, you cannot purchase an archery turkey hunting license and use a crossbow (the archery season runs the entire length of the turkey season). If using a crossbow for turkeys, you must purchase one of the firearms seasons. This applies if you are under the age of sixty and not disabled.

crossbows too efficient for archery season - TenPoint-Nitro-XRT

TenPoint-Nitro-XRT

Kentucky and New York both provide a season just for the use of crossbows. This allows the crossbow hunters a longer season but does not overlap the entire archery season. I could see this model becoming more acceptable with the remaining 23 states that do not allow full inclusion crossbow use during the archery season.

Crossbows are an extremely effective hunting tool and have their place in the hunting world. The baby boomer generation is retiring from the workforce at an alarming rate. They are also retiring from bowhunting. My own father just retired at the age of 61. He is the person that instilled this passion (my wife calls obsession) of bowhunting into my existence. He hasn’t bowhunted in close to ten years. When I asked him what he wanted for his retirement gift, his response was a crossbow. The years of working construction have taken a toll on his body, especially his shoulders. It’s difficult for him to draw and hold a vertical compound bow. In Minnesota, he can use a crossbow for the entire archery season (because of his age). He now has an abundance of time on his side and can rekindle that passion for bowhunting…just with different equipment.

crossbows too efficient for archery season - Successful Crossbow Hunt

The crossbow is a great way to keep the older generation in the game long after their ability to draw back a bow fades.

Crossbows and vertical bows are different functioning weapons. It’s acceptable to acknowledge that fact and treat them separately. It’s also acceptable to allow them both to have their place in the hunting woods.  I am a firm believer in championing hunting, conservation, hunter recruitment and retention. I also feel the hunting industry needs to rally around each other and eliminate the bickering and bantering amongst the community. That being said, I feel the tradition of bowhunting must be protected. My children are being raised with the opportunity to learn the art, practice and skill of shooting bows. They will get to experience the practice and preparation it takes to become successful bowhunters. Once successful in the field, they will ultimately feel the reward when all that practice, repetition and muscle memory pays off.

What do you think? Is the efficiency of today’s crossbows pushing them into a category of their own, beyond the standard archery season? Should crossbow hunters have a season of their own?  Comment below and let us know what you think.

Take a closer look at the new TenPoint Nitro XRT in the video below…

Travis Lange

Travis Lange

Architect / Project Manager at Benike Construction
Travis has been bowhunting various states for more than 25 years. He is an Architect / Project Manager for Benike Construction in southeastern Minnesota. In his free time, he enjoys writing about hunting and various outdoor activities. Travis lives in Saint Charles, Minnesota with his wife and three children.
Travis Lange

Comments

  1. I think cross bows are getting way to advanced to be considered full archery equipment.. I to live in Minnesota and it wouldn’t be good for this state.. just because of the amount of hunting pressure during gun season and the winters we have. There fine for people who have disability and old people who can’t pull a bow. But if you healthy and able you should suck it up and shoot a bow hunt like a real man or woman. Shooting a deer with a bow is awesome!!

    Reply
    • mr. camo says:

      yes, cause a real man can use a carbon riser and the latest and greatest cams with no beneifit???? with a laser range finding “bowsight”

      thanks for confirming the caveman genetic code still exists hypocrite.

      Reply
  2. Dennis Pawlowski says:

    Todays crossbows are are way to advanced. Stick a thermal or night vision scope on a Sub 1 and you can only imagine what someone could do with a 100 yard range at night. The seasons need to be separated!

    Reply
  3. A crossbow is a bow…period. All of you “Real Men and Women” shooting 95% letoff bows wouldn’t like it if recurve hunters decided your fancy compound bow is “too advanced” to be considered a bow. I have hunted with the same compound for 30 years, did I get extra credit for using an old bow with aluminum arrows? The crossbow doesnt work food plots, hang stands, get up in the AM and drive an hour to the property, sit long hours on stand or make the shot when needed. So lighten up, hunters numbers are on the decline, we need all the hunters we can get. My son and daughter use them, probably wouldn’t hunt otherwise. Arrogant pronouncements that crossbows are not real bows are not what we need to reverse the trend of declining hunter numbers..

    Reply
  4. I feel the same way, I live in Michigan and it is legal for anyone to hunt with one. There would be a lot more deer surviving the archery season!

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  5. I agree with Mike. I don’t choose to use a crossbow now, but the draw and/or shot is only the last step of a long, difficult, careful process to get the right animal in front of you at the right time. I know crossbow folks that have missed good deer because they didn’t see a branch and the bolt deflected just the same as a bow-driven arrow does. It’s not the same as a firearm. It’s simply another option and doesn’t take away someone’s accomplishment in my eyes. We should celebrate that option, then choose the one that’s right for YOU.

    Reply
  6. John Torchick says:

    Lots of good information here and the debate goes on, ad infinitum. While reading the thread, I noticed the disclaimer about shooting at 200 yards with the crossbow, making an ethical shot up to the individual. Someone will try it, I guarantee. OK, 200 yards is a long way off! Let’s compare the 200 yards to the effective/accurate distance for a 12 gauge rifled slug, sabot, or whatever you want to call the solid projectile. Note that I’m not versed completely in that realm of ballistics for slugs but wanting to call attention to the scenario. Recently, the idea of the air bow has cropped up. This is an arrow or bolt that is launched by an air system similar to a pellet gun, if I understand the principle. The reality of the declining numbers of hunters is another thread for discussion.

    Reply
  7. Bucky Badger says:

    I see where your going with this – crossbow contingent cutting into “your time” and “your deer”. Dumb argument. Same song when “archery” was in its infancy (ie late 1960’s and 1970’s). Opposition stated then as you are now that the equipment was too advanced and these hunters were shooting all the deer. Let me be clear – no group has preferred status in regards to season length and time in my opinion. If you feel threatened by the crossbow hunters well that’s on you — they have every right to pursue deer during the same time as the “traditional” bow hunters. Get over it – it’s here to stay (at least in Wisconsin).
    So let’s all “play well together” and enjoy the great outdoors!

    Reply
  8. Allen A. Berkebile says:

    I believe that to many deer are being harvested during our archery seasons now. I’m not sure. but do believe that crossbows are taking more deer than vertical bows our here in PA. In PA, where we only have a six week early season. It always goes out at around the 9th to the 16th of November. This is very frustrating! I have always hoped that the Game Commission would extend it into our rifle season. With the introduction of crossbows, and the increased harvest’s due to them, I doubt we will ever see it. I’m not against crossbows. but think that they should have a separate season. Except for disabled, elderly and children under 14 years old.

    Reply
  9. I personally was bowhunting and selling archery equipment prior to compounds entering the scene. When they did appear, we all thought they were a dumb idea and would not sell. We were very wrong, and when the hunting population made the switch, the recovery rate on whitetails went WAY up. When I made the switch, I found that I enjoyed hunting with the compound every bit as much as the recurves. And, it was MUCH easier to shoot accurately at mu ch longer distances. About 10 years ago, my shoulders became so bad I had to switch to a crossbow or give up bowhunting. I was very unhappy about it but since bowhunting has been my life long passion, I switched. Guess what, I enjoy the crossbow every bit as much as the compound or recurve. I have always shot year round. Prior to the advent of 3-D it was bales and cardboard animals. So where this long story is leading is to my experience. The crossbow is a major disadvantage to carry around the mountains, still hunting a cornfield, shooting close to trees or skinny blinds. Can you teach someone to shoot it well easier than a compound, absolutely. Can a decent compound shooter shoot a 3-D course as well as a decent crossbow shooter, absolutely. And the BS that I’ve listened to time and again about crossbow bolts being more damaging to 3-D targets, is exactly that BS.
    So my life long experience tells me, that if states want to separate archery seasons, any bow with wheels or cams should be where the seasons split. They are not anywhere close to being conventional. Or, we can allow hunters to shoot what they enjoy and not be jealous.

    Reply
  10. Started with a vertical bow in the 70s. When my shoulder went changed to an excalibur. Really, the cross bow predates the Romans. The amount of technology in a new compound bow and arrows removes them from the old recurve family. Shooting from a rest is one thing, hump a crossbow to a climber and then negotiate up in a tree and you don’t have a great advantage. Plus they can be noisy.
    I miss pulling a bow but I should not have to give up bow season.
    Not necessarily on topic but the greater travesty is the number of states that are allowing killing deer over bait. In many of the bow hunting programs the deer are being shot over corn!

    Learn how to hunt. I’m fair hunt fair chase. No bait, no trail cameras. Try that, it’s much more rewarding.

    Reply
  11. Allen A. Berkebile says:

    The bottom line is that too many deer are being harvested with them . They are very efficient, and YOU DONT HAVE TO DRAW THEM when deer are approaching! Comparing recurves to compounds isn’t near as contrasting as compounds to crossbows, that are now capable of shooting 100 or more yards. with exceptional accuracy. Somebody has got to draw the line here. What is next? 500 fps? 200yards? You guys that have physical disabilities should definitely be able to use crossbows during the entire archery season!

    Reply
    • Who decided that the requirement to draw is the dividing line? I reject your requirement and state that any bow with a letoff more than 65%, such as my 30 year old Miles Keller Legend XI has, isn”t actually a bow. I dont actually believe that, my point is that you are drawing an arbitrary line that puts you in a club of superiority where you get to say other hunters aren’t really bowhunters. Why? If they are following the law, you should welcome them to the club, not make them feel inferior. Look it up in the dictionary, a crossbow fits 100% the definition of a bow.

      Reply
  12. Allen A. Berkebile says:

    The topic isn’t about crossbows being a bow or not. It’s about their efficiency. I have nothing against them, as long as they aren’t increasing the harvests. I stated the fact of them being pre drawn because it’s a big advantage. I personally have had deer bust me as I attempted to draw my bow! Some of which were pretty good bucks. I’m sure that with a crossbow, my chances would have been much better. This is only one reason that they are so effective. If the crossbow harvest’s continue to increase, I’m afraid that the seasons will be shortened. As I stated above, here in PA we only have a 6 week season that ends in the middle of the rut. I’m always hoping for an increase in our season but highly doubt that will happen now! What it all boils down to is, if a weapon (any weapon) is too effective, something has to be done. I don’t know the answer. I just wish we could all hunt together without any problems, but overharvesting is a problem!

    Reply
    • You can draw your 95% letoff bow while the buck is still behind cover and wait for him to step into the opening. A stick bow hunter has to draw while the buck is in the opening, I am sure they get busted more than a compound hunter. Compounds are more efficient than a stick bow, and I am sure they increase both percentage per opportunity and total number of deer taken. Literally every argument that you make about compounds was made by stick bow hunters when compounds came on the scene. Crossbows were made legal for deer in Michigan a decade ago. I have seen no discernable decrease in deer numbers. I dont know much about Pennsylvania hunting other than it is considered one of the top whitetail states. The facts are that fewer people are hunting year on year. If crossbows allow more people to hunt during archery season when the weather is better and the deer are still moving naturally, the more the better IMO.

      Reply
  13. It’s not about deer numbers or harvest percentage. The article is about efficiency. If you stop with the “95% let off” crap you’ll realize that game seasons are designed on weapon efficiency. The more efficient the weapon, the shorter the season. A scoped, already cocked crossbow is much more efficient than an average compound bow. If you look at the TenPoint above, you can adjust the scope to arrow weight eliminating the need to change your scope when your arrows change. Changing arrows with no need to spend range time adjusting your sight pins. If you think scopes on a rifle-like platform don’t change the efficiency of a weapon you are being dense. Last light shooting with a scope vs a peep is a GIANT difference. All the arguments about “this is the same stuff said as during the introduction of compounds” does not apply. The practice and skill required to become proficient at 25yds for compounds is infinitely more than shooting a crossbow at 25yds, which you can do using a Xbow that someone else set up, sighted in and you’ve never used before. Add that you can buy a good crossbow, practice for a week and be efficient enough to shoot a deer at 50-60yds – a distance most compound shooters will never be good enough for ethical hunting shots – and it’s clear a modified season should be used. The fact that it’s not recruiting NEW HUNTERS but just adding gun hunters to the archery season to hunt the rut and it’s obvious to an impartial observer. If you want a state with decent – not good or great – deer potential then keep crossbows for all of archery. It eventually will have an effect similar to firearm rut seasons. Eastern Kansas has much better trophy potential than Missouri due to the timing of its firearms season, not because of bag limits or available nutrition. If your idea of archery hunting is picking up a crossbow in the fall and shooting a buck at 55-60yds that’s great but it’s not bowhunting – traditional or compound. Knock on let-off all you want, at least you draw back all the weight and hold a percentage at full draw with a compound (more likely 70-75% not 95% LO, everyone is not shooting PSE evolves) compared to simply lifting a crossbow (probably on a Caldwell Dead Shot so it’s like a bench) and pulling the trigger while using a scope. XBows should get 2-3x the season length as firearms, in my view, while kids, seniors and handicapped can shoot it all archery season.

    Reply
    • Bucky Badger says:

      It’s all about the so called “traditional” not wanting to share. Stop the bickering and whining- it’s tired.
      If anyone has a bitch it probably the gun hunters who just go in the woods for that season alone. They could say “hey our season (in Wisconsin) is just 9 days – why do the bow hunters get 90+ days? “ Maybe bow hunters should also just get 9 days to hunt to be fair to all?
      I see the same elitist attitude with the “let em go let em grow” crowd. When a person buys a license for whatever species for whatever weapon of choice and as long as they are proficient in using such weapons they have just as much right to harvest game as the next person. Does a crossbow kill more effectively than a “traditional” bow ? I believe it does – my question back “is this effective weapon bad for hunting?”. Not in the least.
      My advice- shut up and hunt.

      Reply
  14. No Buck says:

    I have been reading all the defrent post in regards to crossbows being allowed during bow season and have come to the conclusion that we all have a right to hunt with what ever weapon you so choose during that period that each state has made legal. Now , I’m a bow hunter, a crossbow hunter and on occasion a gun hunter. Did you notice I said ( Hunter). So those of you out there that think you deserve a right to be the only one in the woods because you shoot only a bow during Archery season, Is in my book not much of a sportsman or woman . You need to , Suck it up big boy, because I’m going to hunt with whatvever I feel like hunting with, as long as it’s legal , and don’t care what know one thanks. I been bow hunting now for 15 years and got me a crossbow to boot. I’m using both , pending on my stand choice. Why not!!! It’s legal. It’s still hunting my friends. Yes I know we have free speech to say just about anything we choose to say, but some of you out there just go over board. I think God that we have a choice to hunt with all deferent types of weapons during a particular time of the year. That way, I can enjoy the great out doors that much longer. And for the ones that only choose one weapon. That’s fine with me. What ever makes you happy is the way I see it.

    Reply
  15. Allen A. Berkebile says:

    It’s not about sharing! it’s about over harvesting, which is a direct result of efficiency! I have no problem hunting with crossbow hunters. As long as we aren’t taking to many deer. You guys don’t seem to get it. You have to manage deer harvest by season length and by the efficiency of the weapon. If you continue to over harvest, something has to be cut. Either your season or the weapons. Everything was fine until they started allowing crossbows in archery season. So why should we pay for something we didn’t start! Now that’s not FAIR! As for your comment regarding the length of rifle season matching that of archery season, come on now, do you really think that a deer herd could withstand that long of a rifle season. We have to use some common sense here. You mention fairness. You don’t manage deer by fairness,nor by the general hunting public, or politicians! You do it by experienced biologist’s and deer managers! In reality there isn’t much of anything that is fair anymore.

    Reply
    • Bucky Badger says:

      Fact is this – the total harvest (Wisconsin) has virtually been stagnant at about 325,000 total deer for the past 7 years – about the time crossbow hunting was introduced. IF the total was approaching 525,000 as was in 2006-7 I would say you might have a leg to stand on.
      So if the harvest has been static at about 325,000 how can you logically say that crossbows are affecting the harvest and we are now over harvesting the resource? You can’t because it isn’t. What is happening however is the shift of the harvest— crossbow hunters have exceeded the harvest of the “traditional” bow hunters. So what? It just is saying that a lot of vertical bow hunters have traded in for a crossbow. Again the total harvest of deer hasn’t really changed since Xbow came into play — just more jumping at a chance to use the Xbow instead of a vertical bow.
      So now we are back to the initial question of are they “too effective” which really is an asinine question. Are they better at harvesting (killing) deer? I think yes. Is that somehow bad? Is less deer getting wounded or lost due to poor shot or inferior equipment bad? I have been hunting for about 40 years. I’ve seen the evolution of equipment. The crossbow is one of the best weapons I have used to deer hunt- period.

      Reply

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