It’s time we have a serious discussion about crossbows. This is a sensitive subject for both sides of this argument, if we’ll even give it that much credit. Some bowhunters feel they have to share archery season with people wielding a device they don’t consider to be archery – as if they have to forcibly interact with crossbow hunters. Because of people’s views towards them, crossbow hunters may feel shunned or looked down upon. But we’re going to defend our crossbow buddies and end this debate and debunk a few myths from both sides.
First, let’s start by saying that we, as bowhunters, are pretty much considered elitists. And we kind of are, aren’t we? We make a conscious decision to hunt in a way that is proven to be less effective than other methods but justify it because we consider it to be more rewarding. So, we can’t really shake that title. But we make things worse for ourselves when we act like snobs towards the way other people hunt. That’s the kicker. That’s where we create divisiveness.
Secondly, crossbow hunters need to start standing up for themselves. You don’t have to apologize or feel ashamed of what you choose to legally hunt with. You don’t need to explain that you have a bad shoulder, or even that you just want to hunt in October... But, on the flip side, with the massive rise in crossbow sales across the country, not everyone has a torn rotator cuff or can’t draw 50lbs. As of 2017 physically restricted hunters have become the minority, with an overwhelming number of converts coming from rifle hunters simply looking for more hunting opportunities. Just because you, your dad, or your uncle has a physical restriction does not mean that they represent the majority of people hunting with a crossbow. It’s time to stop using this as the reason why you want to buy a crossbow and begin defending your decision that you just want one - and that's ok. Crossbows have been legal in Louisiana for 10 years - since June of 2008 - so it’s time we start accepting them as a legal and effective form of hunting and remove the stigma that they’re just for physically challenged hunters.
This sentiment is not new, either. There are a lot of old timers out there that remember when compounds were introduced in the late 70s and became extremely popular in the 80s. But the same negativity bowhunters currently have towards crossbows is exactly the same as when traditional hunters had to start “dealing with” compound hunters and their bows with let-off, over-draws, sights and release aids. Want proof of this? Go to any traditional bowhunter forum or Facebook group right now and just say the word “compound” and see how that goes for you. Their disdain towards anything other than traditional archery is alive and well and still very ugly. We need to use this as an example of how not to be.
So how do we solve this on-going cats vs dogs disagreement? First, let’s stop acting like the sky is falling. The most common reason people buy a crossbow today is because people want to be able to take advantage of the longer season. That in no way means they will be in your tree on public land every time you go or are going to hunt every single day of bow season. People look at a crossbow and they see options. The option to hunt ethically even with their time constraints. The option for a way to get their wife involved or for a guest to hunt one of their stands that doesn’t bow hunt. In addition, it allows children to hunt ethically and be given the chance to take an animal before gun season and long before they have the physical ability to hunt with a bow. And lastly, many people choosing a crossbow may have tried and failed at bowhunting and are looking for something that can boost their confidence and make them a more ethical and effective hunter. How can we get mad at that?
To put it simply, a crossbow hunter in no way, shape or form threatens the way you like to hunt. There are still major fundamental differences between the two groups to where you can both be proud and supportive of each other’s choices. We need to look at crossbow hunters as potential recruits into the sport we love so much and it is illogical to believe we can admonish someone into wanting to bow hunt. You cannot push a string – you can only pull it.
For those that do not have a physical restriction, it is very possible that their crossbow could be a gateway to compounds or even traditional archery one day and we should encourage people to follow that path. The thing that all of these weapons have in common is close proximity to our prey. No matter what weapon you’re wielding, your heart is going to start pounding when that buck comes in to 15yds. That is the middle of the Venn diagram for all hunters. And as people new to the sport will learn, easy isn’t fun forever. Bowhunters are driven by the challenge – by the chance that we’ll get busted by our target buck – by trying to replicate the feeling of our first kill – by wanting to constantly set the bar higher for ourselves. It’s a natural progression for people to want to continue forward momentum. So those choosing to get into archery through crossbows as their first weapon may very well buy a compound next.
Lastly, we have to consider the future and accept the fact that hunting is in major decline across the US. The baby boomers that historically made up the majority of hunters are fading and we need the next generation of hunters to take the reins and do their part for conservation. It seems like every week hunters are being attacked or treated like irresponsible murderers by anti-hunter groups. Let’s support each other rather than cut each other down and learn to accept our crossbow brothers and sisters and their desire to get out and hunt. As hunter numbers continue spiraling downward, we have to become more open about the way people join us in the outdoors. Pushing people away because they don’t do things exactly the way we do is like is only going to hurt us in the long run. So, the next time you see someone in an archery shop eyeing that crossbow, go introduce yourself and offer some advice. The future of hunting just may depend on that kind of camaraderie.