Friday, August 24, 2007

The Great Texas Crossbow Debate Part I

Every year before Bow Season this topic comes back up and a raging debate follows. The question is not whether crossbows should be used to harvest game as they are already legal in the general deer season. The question is should crossbows be allowed in the special archery season. I have my own opinion as to the answer to this question but will try to present as much of an unbiased article as possible. If you would like to comment on either side of the issue please write a civil comment and send me an email. I will try to publish as many of the comments as possible. Thanks, Wild Ed

Before I really get started I want to give you some background on my bowhunting so you will know where my experience and background in archery came from. Sometime in the early 1960s
my father gave me a Howard Hill Longbow, which I wish I had kept. I began to terrorize all the rabbits and armadillos in the country. Many a bullfrog and carp fell to an arrow from that bow but I was yet to get a close shot at a deer.

Somewhere around sixteen I talked my folks into a Bear Grizzly recurve bow. It was a work of art of laminated green, grey and brown fiberglass and pulled fifty pounds. It would be my deer slayer for sure. I shot the grizzly for two years without killing a deer. I killed deer each year with a rifle but had not grasped getting close enough for a bow kill. Then I discovered an old 10 foot tripod that a lease hunter had left on our family place. I placed it right next to a big mesquite on a trail leading to an oat patch and cut enough limbs that I could see and shoot at anything coming down the trail. That year a nice eight point and a fat doe fell to the grizzly bow. I now was a true bow hunter.

Being a real bowhunter I wanted bigger, better and faster equipment. I let a store clerk talk me into a Jennings compound bow with all these pulleys and wheels that could really fling an arrow. I killed quite a few deer and a couple of turkeys with that Jennings and it was fine until one day I saw a Browning compound. It had wheels but the riser and limbs were made of beautiful laminated wood that took me back to the days when bows were works of art. I shot that Browning until one day the riser split. I guess the wood laminates were not really meant to be stressed with all that power. I went back to my Bear Grizzly until I saw a movie called “Rambo” You guessed it, I had to have a bow like that and Easton made it available to the public. Along with the Rambo I got rid of the old style arrows and went to aluminum arrows. This bow would draw seventy pounds, had sights and I even got a new high tech trigger release to put on the string. The deer and hogs started hitting the dirt on a regular basis. I had arrived.

As I became a better bowhunter something did not seem right. I was killing three or four deer a season and lots of our new found abundant target, feral hogs. I was successful but wanted more. About that time some of the top bowhunters in the “professional bowhunting category” were going back to traditional archery and many were shooting bows by custom bow makers. I decided to make the leap back to traditional gear. I bought a Martin three piece and began my journey back to my childhood. As time went on I saw more and more custom bows and came to possess a Chekmate take-down and again was taking an immense amount of pleasure in my sport, I also caught the longbow bug and ordered a custom Tomahawk that was fifty-three pounds at my draw of twenty-eight inches. I continued down the path of bowhunting bliss shooting deer, hogs and even some exotics until tragedy struck. Something had popped in my left shoulder and I could no longer pull a bow. I went to the doctor and got bad news. Because of old football injuries and youthful stupidity I had really messed up my shoulders and would have to have surgery. I could not even hold a glass of tea with my left so they would operate on it first. I asked Doc about shooting a bow and was told to wait and see how it went. After surgery and rehab I kept trying my recurve and if it hurt I stopped. When the Doc finally told me my shoulder was as good as it would get we had a serious talk and it was decided I could go back to a compound with the weight set much lower than I really wanted.

This brought about the next step in my bowhunting, I bought a Matthews compound and discovered I was in love with my bow. It shot like nothing I had ever had in my hands. I was again a bowhunter and life was good until the familiar pop but this time in my right shoulder. I went through radical surgery on my right shoulder and have not regained enough use to even throw a ball to my grandchildren. The Doc said my bowhunting days were over and wrote me a letter so I could hunt with a crossbow. I now own a 175 pound Horton Hunter HD and am starting the next phase of my bowhunting.

At age 53 I hope to still be in the woods for many more years to come. I hope to teach my grandchildren to hunt and take their journey one phase at a time. I have friends on both sides of this issue and it will not effect me as I have a legal pass to use a crossbow in both seasons. I have come up with 15 crossbow debate questions and will research them as well as I can and write down the answers. Good Hunting, Wild Ed

The Great Texas Crossbow Debate Part II

The following are issues I have seen bantered back and fourth in the debate of crossbows being legal as an archery weapon. I have used the Internet, magazine articles and personal interviews to research as much as possible and strive to be as accurate as possible. If you have another issue you would like me to comment on please hit the email at the top left of the page and send your request.

1. Crossbows wound too much game:

TPWD has made the crossbow legal in the general season so it is efficient enough for the powers that be to make it a legal weapon. Crossbows shoot an arrow with a broadhead guided by feathers or vanes at very similar speeds to bow fired arrows so the killing efficiency should be the same.

2. Crossbows are not primitive:

The crossbow came along somewhere around 200-300 BC so there is no question of primitive or traditional.

3. Crossbows are too easy to learn to use:

It takes about 15 minutes to learn the proper safe use of a crossbow and just about the similar time to use a compound. Both weapons require practice to become proficient. I have personally shown a non bowhunting buddy of mine how to shoot a compound with sights and release. He made his first kill that day.

4. Crossbows shoot much farther than a bow:

Crossbows shoot arrows at similar speeds and weights of those shot from a modern bow. Both are really a 40 yard and closer weapon. In fact my Matthews compound shot flatter than my crossbow. My Horton crossbow is a 175 pound pull and my Matthews switchback was set at 70 pounds. It took me a while to understand why the compound shot flatter than the crossbow. It has to do with the draw length of the crossbow compared to the compound. The crossbow had a 14 inch power stroke as compared to the compound 29 inches at my draw. It takes a lot more power or limb strength on a short power stroke to get the speed of a compound with a longer power stroke.

5. Crossbows will flood the bow season with hunters:

In the other States that have legalized crossbows they have gained some hunters but not large numbers. Many crossbow hunters are simply older bowhunters that switched because of physical reasons. TPWD has committed to making more hunting opportunities and more hunter hours in the field one of their goals so this should not be an issue but welcomed. More hunters would mean more dollars in the pockets of hunting communities and the Texas Economy.

6. The majority of Bowhunters are against Crossbows:

Some of the forums and some of the magazines have run polls and they all have different outcomes. I find that the majority of hunters overall do not mind what weapon you choose as long as it is humane and safe. Most of the gun hunters that shoot a bow in archery season that I have talked to do not mind if crossbows are used in the archery season. I think the bowhunting community is fairly well split down the middle. It is the dyed in the wool bowhunters that hunt only with a bow that are against a crossbow. I find that many of these have never even shot a crossbow.

7. The scope on a Crossbow is to Efficient

If the scope is a magnifying scope it may be more efficient as you can see your target better. There are now bow scopes that magnify so a bowhunter can place one on the compound if they need the magnification. If it is a red dot scope that does not magnify it is no better than a high visibility fiber optic pin. Since we are talking about a 40 yard and closer weapon it really would not make much difference.

8. Crossbows are much more powerful than a bow:

Crossbows have much stronger weights than bows but are not really more powerful. It is because they have a short draw or power stroke as compared to the long power stroke of a bow. At hunting weights they both shoot similar speeds and distances.

9. You do not have to draw and hold the string on a Crossbow:

This is a true statement. TPWD has declared the “Draw- Loc” legal to hunt with in Texas so any compound shooter can lock a compound bow at full draw and release with a trigger just like a crossbow. This makes this a moot point.

10. The Crossbow is more accurate than the bow:

I would have to say a crossbow is more accurate than a bow from a rest. If fired from and off hand position a heavy crossbow is much harder to hold on target than a compound bow. A bow has push pull tension which helps steady the pins on target where a crossbow is like holding a heavy rifle steady in the off hand position.

11. Crossbows give the hunter too much advantage:

In Ohio where they have kept records of harvest and the weapon used it has been shown that crossbow hunters have been only 2-3 percent more successful than bowhunters or that the difference was hardly measurable.

12. Crossbow hunters are less dedicated and will practice less:

There is no evidence to support this. I know bowhunters and gun hunters that practice all year. I also know some of both groups that pull their weapon out of the closet and go hunting without any practice.

13. There will be too many deer killed:

There are only so many tags on your license so you can only kill so many deer. What does it matter if you kill them with a bow, rifle or crossbow? There will be some additional deer killed just because some hunters will spend more time hunting each year. States that have made the crossbow legal have not shown substantial increases in the amount of deer killed.

14. There will be more hunters in the Special Archery Season:

This is the real issue when you get down to brass tacks. Bowhunters have fought to have a special season for Archery and have continued to try and keep any other groups out. Many of the bowhunting clubs and organizations have been before the commissioners and talked to the legislature to preserve archery season. I have been down to support keeping the archery season myself. Here is the hard part for us to examine. Hunter numbers are dwindling and we should be recruiting more hunters. The TPWD has made it their goal to bring in more hunters and provide more hunting opportunities. Other States have shown you will get some of the rifle hunters that will hunt with crossbows if made legal in archery season but not the hordes most of us fear.

The following is my opinion. I really don’t have a dog in this hunt as the crossbow is all I can now hunt with in archery season. I do not work for nor do I have any relationship with a crossbow company or anyone else that pays me for my opinion.

In conclusion I found no real reason to keep the crossbow out of the special archery season unless you also keep out compound bow. Neither weapon is a primitive weapon and are so close in efficiency as to not matter at all. Both rely on getting close enough to make a good humane shot. There are too many benefits for Texas and Hunters as a group for us to continue this fight although I am sure there will be those that continue. As long as we are divided we will be giving ammunition to the anti hunting groups and continue to split our ranks. Choose you weapon and let’s go hunting.
Wild Ed


2fs2ns said...

Great points, I've considered a crossbow just to have another option. But I'm not trading in my bow by any means.

debate popular said...

I think there is room for practicing the sport for two things but I think that's not the issue but in a competition should be all equal difficulties in the sense of sport to have the same tools of competition. I do not think that should be banned but should be differentiated by category or something.