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The Devil’s Weapon?

Posted: October 1, 2015

It’s no secret that the use of crossbows is frowned upon by vertical bow hunters. Do they (and their users) deserve a bad rap?
Photo Credit: JT Fleegle

Photo Credit: JT Fleegle

If you want to tick off a bow hunter, suggest that crossbows and vertical bows are essentially the same.  If you want to lose a friend, ask a traditional bow hunter what the big deal is over crossbows.  

To a wildlife manager, the method by which a deer is harvested is irrelevant really.  The important thing is a deer was harvested.  However, the method by which a deer is harvested is of the utmost importance to the hunter.  Each requires a skill set unique to its function.  

Many hunters have a favorite and choose to specialize in that method.  Most methods have their own season.  Muzzleloader, firearms, flintlock, and archery – all have designated days on the calendar.  All except crossbows.  

Crossbows are a bit like the redheaded stepchild of the hunting world.  Those with the strongest feelings against them are, of course, archery hunters.  But are crossbows really that different?  And when I say crossbows, I really mean crossbow hunters.

Well, there is one way to find out.  Ask!  

The short answer is crossbow hunters are different but not in the ways you might expect.  One difference is age.  The average crossbow hunter is 10 years older than the average vertical bow hunter (52 years old vs 42 years old) with 50% of them being over 55 years of age (as compared to only 19% of vertical bow hunters).

It appears that crossbows have re-opened the door to archery season for many hunters.  Sixty-five percent of crossbow hunters have returned to archery hunting because of the crossbow.  That doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.

Crossbow hunters are actually very similar to vertical bow hunters in many ways too. Over 85% of each group hunted during the firearms season; the same percentage harvested a buck during archery season (16% of crossbow hunters, 17% of vertical bow hunters); the same percentage harvested 2 or more antlerless deer with a bow in one season (5% for crossbow hunters, 4 % for vertical bow hunters); and the same percentage say they have the same or more interest in deer hunting over the last 5 years (67% for crossbow hunters, 70% for vertical bow hunters).

The #1 reason listed for those with more interest in deer hunting for both groups: Time to hunt!  

Maybe crossbow hunters aren’t that different after all.  Looking closer, maybe crossbows aren’t spawned from the fires of hell.  

Maybe, just maybe, they are the savior of a hunting tradition lost to some as the years march on.  Maybe now retirement is only job-related and not hunting-related.  Maybe that father of 3 gets to spend more time in the woods reconnecting with his youth while still being able to foster the next generation of hunters.  

For some, maybe crossbows are a gift from heaven.

-Jeannine Fleegle, biologist
PGC Deer and Elk Section

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