The Great Crossbow Debate

I think it’s ridiculous that in 22 states crossbows are either completely illegal for hunting or an option for handicapped … Continued

I think it’s ridiculous that in 22 states crossbows are either completely illegal for hunting or an option for handicapped hunters only. There is no logical reason for this third-rate status. But there is a time and place for everything, and while crossbows are a fine choice for any general hunting season, they do not belong in archery-only seasons.

First, some simple facts. Crossbows and modern compound bows are so similar in ballistic performance that they are both 40-yard weapons. A Crossbow is easier to fire accurately because of its sights, stock, and ability to be braced during the shot. But to be fair, with advances in design, components, and mechanical releases, modern compounds are getting easier to master as well.

There is one essential difference between the two. Because you can cock and load a crossbow, you eliminate what any bowhunter will tell you is the sport’s biggest challenge: drawing an arrow undetected on an animal standing within 40 yards.

Some say, so what? Isn’t it better to do anything that gets more hunters in the field? They claim that by banning crossbows from bow seasons, we’re dividing our hunting fraternity and playing right into the hands of antihunters.

Forgive me for not following the party line, but the idea that setting separate seasons for different types of weapons somehow makes us vulnerable to antihunters is foolish and paranoid. In fact, I think that primitive weapons’ seasons actually help hunting.

To me, the whole point of primitive seasons is to acknowledge and reward the idea that hunting should be hard. In our daily lives we welcome every technological advancement that helps us do things easier and faster. But don’t we hunt to get away from all that? Hunting is about using ancient, primal skills in a way that respects nature and the animals we pursue. Once we accept technology over competence and instant gratification before sacrifice, we forfeit what makes hunting so much more than a pastime or hobby. The biggest threat to hunting isn’t division within our own ranks–it’s the ethic that considers more hunters killing more deer as the ultimate end, no matter the means.

Certainly the advances in modern compounds and in-line muzzleloaders have eroded some of the meaning of primitive seasons. But let’s try to preserve what is left of their spirit. If you’re a junior hunter or an injury prevents you from pulling back a compound, then I think a crossbow is fine during bow season. Otherwise, work on your skills, and let’s keep our archery seasons for bows that you actually have to draw before you shoot.