The Sportsman’s World — The Crossbow War

By Leon Archer

In July, 1863, when the armed forces of the Confederacy lost Vicksburg, their last stronghold on the Mississippi, and suffered the punishing defeat of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg, the South would have been wise to have sued for peace, but they soldiered on for nearly two more years before the civil war finally drew to a close.

The opponents in the Crossbow War could take a lesson from the misfortunes of Old Dixie.

Just as the Confederacy lost the war, imperceptibly at first, battlefield by battlefield, while the invading Yankees became stronger and more numerous, so the forces resisting the coming of the crossbow are facing defeat.

It may not be this year in New York state, but the results from battlefield to battlefield across this country leave little doubt who the winners will be in the end.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his support for the legalization of the crossbow for hunting purposes in New York state during his State of the State message.

And just as importantly, he would give regulation authority for its use to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

I don’t agree with a lot of what our governor has said and done, but I’m with him 100 percent on this.

Of course, we will need both houses of our legislature to produce legislation which the majority will support and pass in order for the governor’s proposal to become reality.

That legislation should include the final battlefield, which is that the classification of the crossbow would be as a legal bow for use in any season and any area where archery is allowed, including archery only areas.

If that final victory doesn’t come this year, it will come soon. The hand writing is on the wall, and further resistance can only damage both sides, not change the final outcome.

Since the early 1970s, when only Arkansas and Ohio allowed hunting with a crossbow, the number of states accepting its use has grown steadily. Today, a total of 34 states have loosened or dropped their restrictions on crossbows since the year 2000.

At present, the battle is completely over in 24 states which now allow the crossbow to be used during any hunting season where archery is allowed, a movement that is gaining popularity in other open-minded states.

This is a civil war, sportsmen fighting sportsmen, both sides believing they are right, but only one side can win, and the empirical evidence is clear, crossbows are in our future.

The strongest resistance comes from a sportsman’s group, The New York Bow Hunters. They argue the crossbow is some sort of superior weapon, a silent super weapon that will allow poachers to decimate the deer herd.

While they claim the crossbow has an effective range of nearly seventy yards, at the same time they suggest more deer will be wounded and run off if crossbows are allowed, because they claim the crossbow is not as efficient as the bow they use.

They say the crossbow is so easy to use that a novice can be slaughtering deer on the same day they buy it. They say the crossbow does not require the same amount of dedication and commitment that is necessary to become a good archer.

A lot of other things they say about the crossbow were used by opponents of the compound bow and releases back in the 70s. Those arguments don’t hold any more water today when applied to the crossbow than they did back when they were applied to the compound bow.

I have to admit that I have never hunted with a crossbow, but I have shot them at targets quite a bit. I can tell you one thing from my own experience. The crossbow is very accurate at close range out to 30 yards or so, but at 70 yards it leaves a great deal to be desired. I would hardly call it effective at that range. At the longer ranges, the compound is much better, but even then, few archers will chance shooting at a deer 70 yards away.

As far as a tool for poaching, it is too cumbersome and why use it when a 22 caliber rifle would do the job far better.

I have never been a poacher, but I knew an old fellow years ago who lived up on the Tug Hill east of Sandy Creek, and my father told me that man fed his family on venison year round that he took with a single shot 22 rifle. It is quiet, doesn’t draw attention, and it is lethal well beyond the effective range of the crossbow or compound.

As far as wounding more deer, think about this. There is no reason why a bolt from a crossbow should cause the loss of any more deer than one might expect from an arrow from a compound bow.

They both work exactly the same way, causing reasonably quick death from massive bleeding due to the razor sharp blades. To put down the crossbow on this account is to damn the compound bow as well.

When I bought my first compound bow, I was able to hit the bullseye at 30 yards after just a couple of shots to adjust my aiming pin. After that I was pretty consistent.

Later that week, I was shooting from the roof on my shed, putting arrows through styrofoam cups on the ground. It didn’t require any great amount of dedication and commitment to use the compound bow well enough to hit any deer that wandered by my tree stand.

The dedication and commitment has little to do with the ease of use of either the crossbow or the modern compound bow. It is learning to hunt successfully and consistently that requires dedication and commitment, and that is true whether you hunt with a rifle, shotgun, crossbow, compound bow or black powder rifle.

I truly believe that bow hunters just don’t want to share their archery season with anyone carrying a crossbow. They deny that, but the denial has a false ring to it in my ears.

I believe it is time to end the war. It is time for bow hunters and crossbow hunters to learn to live together. I’m pretty sure, in a few years, everyone will be wondering what all the fuss was about.

That’s what has happened in the 24 states that have led the way.

States Allowing Crossbow Hunting

Arkansas 

Ohio

Michigan

Florida

Kansas

Delaware

Indiana

Alabama

Maryland

Texas

Pennsylvania

Nebraska

Mississippi

Rhode Island

North Dakota

Virginia

New Jersey

Georgia

Kentucky

South Carolina

North Carolina

Tennessee

Oklahoma

Wyoming

 

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