Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Great Texas Crossbow Debate

The issue of using a crossbow during archery season is being resurrected in HB-968 of the Texas House. This issue has been killed in the past by a very vocal minority of bowhunters with the Lone Star Bowhunters Association leading the charge. I can remember the fight when compounds came on the scene with the Traditional bowhunters not wanting the compound bow to be used in the archery season. In today’s archery season the majority of hunters now shoot a modern compound bow. It is time for the compound and traditional bowhunters to move over and let the crossbow hunters have a crack at the early archery season. It is simply wanting to reserve the early season for themselves and keep others from being their competition in hunting and for the leases that drives this group. I can assure you that the LSBA do not represent all the bowhunters of Texas but a small part thereof. Let them prove out the number of members compared to the number of licensed bowhunters in Texas. I used to be a member of the LSBA but no longer because of their views on what is archery equipment. They and other bowhunters are free to make up their opinions I just do not want an organization claiming to represent the bowhunters of Texas when they do not represent me and others bowhunters in the State. Here is an article I wrote comparing the compound and the crossbow with the conclusion I came to. You might like to make up your own mind.

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.

1. Crossbows wound too much game:

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 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 whether it is 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. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 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. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has declared the “Draw-Loc” legal to hunt with in Texas so any compound shooter can lock a compound bow at full draw with this device and release with a trigger just like a crossbow. This makes having to draw and hold the bow a moot point as it is legal to lock back the string on a compound bow if the hunter wishes.

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 an 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 with hardly 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. Isn’t that what TPWD wants is more hunters in the field? States that have made the crossbow legal have not shown substantial increases in the amount of deer killed. The State sets the limits based on the deer population and closely monitors them. If too many deer are being killed they will change the limits. Many areas in Texas have an overpopulation and would welcome additional hunters. It is also still up to the landowner how many hunters and how many deer they allow to be taken.

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

This is the real issue when you get down to brass tacks. Some bowhunter groups 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 including the Lone Star Bowhunting Association have been before the commissioners and talked to the legislature to preserve archery season. I have been down to support keeping the archery season just for archery hunters myself. Here is the hard part for many to accept. We are still preserving the special archery season we are just adding one more method as a legal piece of archery equipment and a legal method of archery harvest. Hunter numbers are dwindling and we should be recruiting more hunters. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has made it their goal to bring in more hunters and provide more hunting opportunities. Other States results 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 many bowhunters fear.

The following is my personal opinion. I really don’t have a dog in this hunt as I can legally hunt with the crossbow in archery season due to shoulder surgery on both shoulders. 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 find no real reason to keep the crossbow out of the special archery season unless you also keep out compound bow. Neither weapon is really 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 as hunters.
Choose you weapon and let’s go hunting. Wild Ed


Albert A Rasch said...

Wild Ed,

If your readers happen to take a look at my Header Banner, they will find this:

"Claim the privilege of hunting according to the dictates of your own conscience, and allow all hunters the same privilege; let them practice how, where, or what they may."

When hunting folks start to fight each others, they should keep that refrain in mind. They're doing the work of the antis for them.

Anyway, 97% of all huntable property in Texas is in private hands. If the land owner doesn't or does like crossbows, it's his say, not the hunter's.

Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit
Southeast Regional OBS Coordinator

Bio Bo said...

I live in NE TX and there are two state WMA's within 1 hour of my house. I hunt both with the state permit for turkeys, mostly. One is open for guns during the deer seasons, the other is not.
Like you, I can legally hunt with a crossbow due to surgery, but I don't understand why we must jump through the hoops to utilize public lands in a state that has so little public land available. There is >25K acres in this WMA that the archery hunters have all to themselves during the deer season, and it's full of deer. And yet, they want to limit it by outlawing crossbows? It's a sign of the times, I'm afraid... And those times are going to get worse before they get better, don't you know...