New York Crossbow Issue Stinks Like a Gutpile

Throughout the country where arguments rage about state wildlife agencies allowing crossbows for deer hunting, the same tired debates continue to stink like gutpiles in the sun.

By Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor

Crossbows have been around for hundreds of years. They’re powerful. They kill deer. They’re a tool to be used like a firearm, a compound bow, a recurve bow, a stick bow. Properly used and with practice, hunters can effectively kill game animals with them with efficiency.

Crossbows were for the longest pretty much considered the weapon of “crippled” or “handicapped” hunters. State wildlife agencies required hunters with debilitating physical problems, amputations or other medical issues who could not use a compound or recurve (or firearm) to obtain a written explanation from a physician and meet specific criteria, such as “X percentage” of bodily disability.

I don’t know all the specific reasons why agencies required those doctor’s notes. I could hazard some guesses but assumptions suck. With the number of advancements today with wheelchairs and mobile chairs, prosthetic devices, great rehab and recovery programs, programs to help folks get afield and such, state agencies harboring outdated ideas about abled and “disabled” hunters or still requiring a “doctor’s note” should get with the times.

I realize that crossbows are easier to shoot once cocked and locked, as opposed to having to draw a bow. The first time I hunted with my older model Horton, I shot for about an hour at some targets and went hunting. Killed a deer a couple of hours later, at about 20 yards, and the deer dropped like a rock. Killed one the next day, too.

But I was nervous as all get-out sitting there in a tree stand with a cocked crossbow. Should I have been? Probably not. It had a safety and was pointed in the right direction, away from me. But it was unwieldly in the stand with the wide limbs. It snagged limbs and vines walking through brush after the hunt (after having to shoot it; no cocking rope). It’s heavy and has a “kachunk” sound when fired. I’d probably pick up my PSE EVO before the crossbow … but that doesn’t mean I hate the crossbow or believe hunters – any hunters – should be restricted to a doctor’s note or certain season. I enjoy shooting them and hunting with them, and our son thinks their cool, too.

But aren’t we past the time when doctor’s notes and “you’re not a real hunter if you use …” mentalities affect our hunting? Compound bows were introduced about the time I was born, and I’ve been told that recurve and traditional archers had some of the same comments for hunters using compounds with their fancy training wheels. We don’t really see this kind of mentality with gun hunters, either; my .260 or .308 holds up against your .338 or magnum whatever rifle.

Thing is, they kill deer, we enjoy hunting with them, and if the state allows us to use a crossbow in archery-only season or late muzzleloader season or whenever, then so be it.

Unfortunately, we still have hunters fighting against hunters. It has happened in virtually every state where agencies have proposed, and most of them ultimately approved, the use of crossbows throughout all or part of the season for all hunters and not just “disabled” ones. The rancor and divisiveness is neither helpful for hunters as a whole or the next generation watching to see how adults act, think and treat each other as they learn.

New York is the latest to go through this, with its Department of Environmental Conservation announcing that current crossbow allowances will end Dec. 31. They were put into effect February 2011 but not extended by the legislature or governor. CLICK HERE TO READ

This means despite portions of deer season still open in New York in early 2013 the regulations will change and some hunters won’t be able to continue their season. Crossbows aren’t allowed during archery season; only during firearms and muzzleloader seasons. That’s a damn shame.

We went down this path in Alabama about five or so years ago. The outcry was tremendous. The bullschnizzle was flowing, and the scare tactics were heavy. Since then, I’ve not heard of anyone killing a deer at 80 or 100 yards with a crossbow or poaching them at night from the cab of a pickup. What has happened is after the rhetoric and flames, hunters went back to hunting. Sales picked up, and then a bunch of guys sold their crossbows. Some still hunt the way they did. Some chose to try and liked it. Some tried and then went back to what they were using.

But the world didn’t end (that was for the Mayans, right?) and deer populations still are healthy, as they are in New York … Arkansas … the Midwest … the North, and in other states where crossbows are legal or have been expanded through all seasons. Hunters still are hunting. Guns, bows and crossbows still are being sold and used.

Why is it so dang difficult to not be divisive or for state agencies to not be so hidebound? Maybe we’ll see more positive changes in 2013 for hunting, and for hunters.