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Crossbows: Myths & Facts  

As hunters who pay hunting license fees and game managers whose programs come from those licenses, we are blessed by the ability of the whitetail deer to adjust to the continued encroachment on its habitat by man and still multiply.  If it I were not for the far sighted sportsmen who preceded us and insisted upon scientific management practices, most modern deer hunting today would be very costly and conducted on preserves, behind high-fences.

However, this magnificent animal’s ability to multiply, coupled with conservative management practices, have resulted in whitetail populations at an all-time high.  In some areas deer populations  are so high that property damage as well as safety and health concerns have arisen.  The game manager’s job today is rapidly becoming more sociological than biological.  Heaped in the middle comes the issue of creating a new opportunity with a new and misunderstood hunting tool – the crossbow.

MYTH: Crossbows are a poacher’s tool.

FACT: Crossbows, like vertical bows, have short range capabilities, are too cumbersome to discharge from a vehicle, and kill by hemorrhage, not shock.  Where legal, violations are minimal.  If crossbows were efficient poaching tools their use would be wide-spread by game thieves.  The poachers weapon of choice is still the .22 caliber rifle.

MYTH: Crossbows are unsafe.

FACT: Based on thirty years of statistical data, accident rates involving crossbows are identical to those of vertical bows.  Both, considering hunting hours involved and numbers of hunters, are considered among the safest forms of hunting.

MYTH: Crossbows are too easy to shoot.

FACT: Experienced rifle shooters can expect to quickly achieve tight arrow groups on targets up to forty yards (the effective hunting range of a crossbow).  Is that bad?  Isn’t accurate shot placement the goal of all ethical hunting?  Does the difficulty of shooting a bow accurately deter people from participating in bowhunting?  However, to be successful, a crossbow hunter must master all skills and tactics common to bowhunting.

MYTH: Crossbow hunting will squeeze other hunters out.

FACT: In states where lengthy crossbow seasons, crossbow hunting is popular.  However, no other season or bag limit has ever been reduced as a result of crossbow hunting being permitted.  Where permitted, the crossbow does not discriminate in favor of the physically strong.  It enables a wider range of sportsmen (women, professionals, youth, and older hunters) to enjoy the challenges of bowhunting.

MYTH: Crossbow hunting will wipe out the deer herd

FACT:  In states with generous crossbow seasons, the success rate of crossbow hunters and vertical bow hunters are virtually the same and the deer populations continue to flourish.

MYTH: A crossbow is much more efficient than a vertical bow.

FACT:  A modern 150# draw weight compound crossbow delivers the same speed and stored energy as a 65-70 pound compound vertical bow.  The crossbow requires twice the amount of draw weight because the power stroke (draw length) is half as long as that of the compound bow.  If both types of bows launch the same weight arrow at the same speed, how can a crossbow be more efficient and does the deer really care?

MYTH: The crossbow controversy creates division amongst sportsmen, and the public image of crossbows makes proposed hunting with them counter to the sportsmen’s interests.

FACT: Where permitted, crossbow hunting creates NO controversy except that created by a few individuals who deem themselves and their chosen method of hunting as superior to all others.  The public image of crossbows stems from the lack of knowledge of a crossbow’s limited capabilities, as well as the myths touted by those who oppose their use.  The TRUE controversy and tragedy of the crossbow issue stems from the time, effort and money spent by so called conservation-minded  bowhunting organizations to deny others the opportunity to hunt rather than promoting the virtues of bowhunting to the public.

MYTH: There is an independent study which dramatically shows the superior capability of the crossbow (and its development) over the vertical bow.

FACT: This study is about as independent as a study on the need for sport hunting by P.E.T.A..  The study was commissioned by the Anti-Crossbow Committee of a national bowhunting group.  Its author is a member of that group.  Much of the hypothetical development of hunting crossbows and the limiting physical factors which prevent such development in vertical bows within the study have already been proven erroneous.  It is the purpose of the game regulations by the state to control what advances in technology are suitable for sporting use.  No state permits the use of machine guns and handheld rockets during deer rifle season!

MYTH: Because it is not hand-drawn and released, the crossbow is more closely compared to a firearm than a vertical bow.

FACT: Opponents to the crossbow often quote an apples and oranges comparison when voicing this smokescreen.  The vertical archer, if they are a sportsman/bowhunter, prior to ever going into the field hunting spends hours and hours working on the physical conditioning required by drawing, aiming and shooting their chosen tool – nothing mystical, just physical work.  Once the season starts, the act of drawing, aiming and shooting (especially with high let-off compounds utilizing a triggered release aid) is no more difficult for a vertical bowhunter than a crossbow hunter.  Movement is required by both (one to draw back the other to raise the crossbow into a shooting position) to obtain the target at an average of less than twenty yards.  Both hunters must be accomplished woodsmen to get that close to a whitetail and still mask those necessary movements.

MYTH: Nobody wants crossbow hunting except the crossbow manufacturers.

FACT: In Ohio, crossbow hunting has been permitted for thirty years and the Ohio Division of Wildlife endorses crossbow hunting and the opportunity it creates enthusiastically.  Currently there are more hunters participating in the archery season using a crossbow that are using a hand-held bow.  These licensed, legal, law-abiding sportsmen in Ohio are commonly the target of slanderous, erroneous and often untruthful attacks from bowhunting groups opposed to crossbow hunting.  Many Ohio crossbow hunters also enjoy shooting with vertical archery tackle.

MYTH: Just because crossbow hunting has been a success story in many states like Ohio, Arkansas and Wyoming we don’t want it in ours.  All the bowhunters of “our” state and all of “our” enforcement officers are opposed to it.

FACT: The crossbow is a challenging but effective short-range, single-shot hunting tool which offers additional hunting opportunity and recruitment to hunting ranks.  If such an option in not considered advantageous by the sportsmen and game management agencies within the state, then the huntable wildlife resources of that state are not being managed to maximize opportunity for MOST citizens.  The sportsmen’s cause and the future of hunting in that state are therefore at risk.  Recruitment to hunting ranks should be the goal of ALL game managers and sportsmen.  As long as the hunting tool falls within logical parameters of safe, capable and humane harvest capabilities, such recruitment should not be based upon, “do it my way or you can’t do it at all.”  How can any organization which represents such a small percentile of the total number of archery tag purchasers in a state be so presumptuous to speak for all bowhunters and deny others?  Does not their small total membership compared to the large number of archery hunters suggest perhaps they do not represent the views of the majority?

FACT:  It is a fact confirmed by agency statistical data in crossbow hunting states that there are vastly more hunters (or potential hunters) who choose or would choose to hunt with a crossbow than those who oppose them.

FACT: Crossbow hunting is documented as safe, responsible and popular where permitted, and has no ill effect on wildlife resources or any other group of sportsmen – other than self-perceived.  Ohio ranks the crossbow as a major recruitment tool for women, youth and professionals.  The crossbow hunting opportunity does not create division amongst sportsmen – quite the opposite, it gives the firearms hunter a hands-on perspective of the challenges of archery hunting.  The REAL concerns surrounding the crossbow hunting opportunity is the concept that there’s no room for recruitment to hunting ranks unless the tool used is one based upon the emotional, purism standards of a few.  Wildlife resources should be managed for the most opportunity for most citizens/sportsmen, not for a select few.  Facts, not emotion, document the crossbow hunting opportunity as positive for sportsmen and game management programs everywhere it is available for use.

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