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Crossbows Caught in the Crossfire

Breaking down the crossbow debate

By: by Steve Bowman, OutdoorChannel.com

Last year, the Michigan National Resources Commission made changes to their deer season that allows hunters the opportunity to use crossbows on a wider basis than they’ve been used in the past.

That little change created a slight uproar in that state, as it does in many states when similar regulations are passed.

I’m always amused at the arguments that break out over the crossbow.

I don’t use one. I’ve shot them on several occasions, but as a hunting tool they simply just don’t meet my self-imposed standards for hunting equipment. But that was my choice. For several years, I wouldn’t enter the woods with more than a Hatfield recurve, wanting desperately to take a Pope and Young class buck with what many folks simply term a “stick and a string.”

Again that was my self-imposed standard. I didn’t entirely go overboard with it either. My primitive nature only extends so far, considering the arrows in my quiver were made of carbon and tipped with mechanical broad heads. After all, I wanted every advantage I could get.

As a result, my deer killing went way down. The fault of not bringing home the protein laid squarely on my shoulders and the choices I made.

Although one might think it would be easy to look down the bridge of my nose at a crossbow, nothing could be further from the truth.

I never faulted the guy several acres away sitting in a tree stand with the latest single cam compound bow, with the overdraw, counterweights, mechanical release and sighting system that by comparison made his job fairly easy. Likewise, I did not fault the guy sitting in a stand with a crossbow on his lap.

They made their choices and they fell within the laws of the land. We were all hunting, which in many cases is the most important thing. Getting into an argument that involves form over function is fruitless.

It’s akin to the fly fisherman looking down at me for using a spinning rod, when we are chasing the same fish and both can be equally affective. At the end of the day, we’re both out there to catch fish, we just choose a different path. We each made our choices, which is basically the American way.

As hunters, in a time when non-hunters don’t understand our passions and pursuits, we can ill afford to beat each other up. We have too many forces doing that already.

Another part of that American way is to simplify things. We have ATVs, instead of boots. We have all sorts of contraptions on our archery equipment instead of just a stick and a string. We have in-line muzzleoaders that shoot as accurately as some rifles instead of flintlocks. We have carbon suits, unbelievable patterns for camouflage, game cameras, feeders and that really just scratches the surface. All of it designed to help, through function, take more and bigger deer.

It’s hard to make the case that you can use any of those things, while bashing about one piece of it.

If there is a gripe, crossbows do have the reputation of being overly easy. Compared to a recurve, they are. But a crossbow is still a piece of archery equipment that relies on a variety of skills to be affective. The guy who buys one thinking he’s got a gun in his lap is doing a disservice to the game he hunts.

Like I said earlier, I don’t use them to hunt, but I have shot them and they do require a hunter to be able to determine distance, windage, rate of fall, etc. Picking up a crossbow and being accurate from 10 steps to 40 steps isn’t going to happen without practice. Picking up one and thinking a shot any further than that is easy is folly and irresponsible. (It should be noted that some compound bow users often suffer from the same malady, as do muzzleloaders and modern-gun users.)

We as hunters do a disservice to the crossbow by making it appear so easy that the guy who simply wants to hunt picks up one because he’s all about the function, rather than the form.

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