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Print

Controversial crossbows legal after second firearm season

November 15, 2012 at 09:30 PM

The State Journal-Register

Once the traditional two weekends of the firearm deer-hunting season conclude Dec. 2, archery hunters will be able to take to the woods with a crossbow.

But like any change in the world of Illinois deer hunting, this rule didn’t come into being without controversy.

In August, Gov. Pat Quinn signed HB 4819 allowing the use of crossbows during the second half of archery deer hunting season.

The law allows crossbows following the second Monday after Thanksgiving (Dec. 3) through the end of the archery season Jan. 20.

Crossbows remain legal during the full archery season for hunters age 62 and up and those with disabilities.

The new crossbow rule has been controversial among deer hunters, some who see the crossbow as a different type of weapon entirely, not to be lumped in with traditional archery gear.

Others say crossbows give the user an unfair advantage. Some are concerned about the potential effect on the Illinois deer herd.

“We have a fantastic resource here in Illinois,” said United Bowhunters of Illinois president Brad Jansen of Peoria. “The biological impact (on the deer herd), we just don’t know. At the end of the day, it is a fine weapon — it’s just a high impact weapon (that could affect the number of deer killed by hunters), and any regulation should have that in mind.”

Gun or bow?

Jerry Beverlin, a retired Illinois Department of Natural Resources administrator who monitors sportsmen’s issues for UBI, said some hunters do not consider a crossbow to be a bow at all.

“It’s more similar to a gun,” he said.

Darin Brauer, owner of Two Bears Custom Archery, 3121 Elm St. in Springfield, said interest in crossbows at his shop has been increasing as the date of their legal use draws closer.

“I don’t think it is going to have a big impact (on the number of deer harvested) because it is so late in the season,” he said. “Most people by the end of that second shotgun season are not so eager to get out.”

Deer numbers are down after two shotgun seasons and the weather is growing ever colder, he said.

“Until they open it up completely, I don’t think it is going to be as big an impact as people think,” Brauer said.

Jansen said he is concerned that proponents will eventually push to expand crossbow use to encompass the entire archery season.

Proponents say allowing crossbows will encourage more youths and women to take up the sport.

“I support it,” said John Castro with the Menard Archers Club. “I think the more people in the woods the better. I think it is better for the sport and could get more young people involved.”

The Menard Archers host regular public 3D archery shoots that allow people to shoot at lifelike targets placed in realistic hunting scenarios. The range is behind Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site near Petersburg.

“We are seeing more families coming out and we don’t charge for anybody under 14,” he said. “It’s good to see mom and dad and the little kids running around. I think that is obviously important for the survival of the sport.”


Illinois hunting and fishing
An Excalibur recurve crossbow from Two Bears Custom Archery. Recurve crossbows require less maintenance than compound crossbows that has more moving parts. Photo by Chris Young.


Predicting impacts

Brauer said there are some misconceptions about crossbows, especially regarding their range.

“A lot of people don’t understand,” he said. “They think you can shoot 70, 80, 90 yards just like a gun, but you are not going to shoot any further than a regular bow.”

There are upsides, however.

“People are going to be more accurate quicker, and there is a quicker learning curve,” Brauer said.

Crossbow hunters will lose one thing: the power of the excuse.

“There can be no excuses if they miss, because crossbows can be deadly accurate,” Brauer said. “The one advantage is that you can and should use a bench rest. You can become even more accurate if you practice.”

Jansen said one potential problem is that firearm hunters who normally do not participate in archery can “cross over.”

“In Illinois, there could be displacement issues,” as new crossbow hunters crowd public hunting grounds. “Someone who only gun hunts, five or six days a year and can pick up a crossbow and cross over.”

Brauer said those pressed for time, or who simply loathe practice, will embrace crossbows.

“Lots of people go to a crossbow because they are too lazy to practice,” he said. “They just don’t want to take the time to build their muscles every year, or shoot a couple of times a month to keep their muscles in shape.

“They want to take it out just before season, sight it in, and go hunting.”

Castro, of the Menard Archers, said using technology to improve hunting equipment and the experience of being outdoors is nothing new.

“Everybody fussed when we went to compound from recurve bows but we survived that and the world kept on turning,” he said.

Bowhunters say they want to protect the Illinois deer herd, which thanks to habitat, ample food and good genetics, makes the state one of the tops in the nation.

Beverlin said he is concerned the rule-making process is more political than biological.

“There were no biologists there, which always makes me a little nervous,” he said of an Illinois Senate hearing where the bill was discussed. “Are you dealing with the political process or the biological process?”

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thats funny. You want to make a herd impact. Close the archery season the end of Dec. like it use to be. To much pressure. Go figure. And crossbows are no more of an advantage than these wrist rockets they call compounds that they use today.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/16 at 12:28 PM

flintstone…ur wrong, “wrist rockets” require one to draw a bow..ever been busted drawing a bow? u say close the season early, how bout decrease the quantity of permits issued, how bout 1 buck 1 doe and thats it.  how bout less gun seasons, we all know most gun hunters are clueless lead throwing renegades, who wound more than they ethically kill. and now they have in some cases 5 seasons to do damage

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/18 at 08:54 AM

just my opinion, on a couple things.  most hunters only take one or none a season.  allowing a cross bow will not change the total harvest per hunter enough to warrant not allowing them the full season. 

sure some are going to hate the extra competition during the rut.  but bow hunters get close to three months to attempt to take deer.  and the two best weeks.  if more ‘gunners’ move into these two weeks.  boo hoo. 

in all my 25 years plus hunting, all but one of my ‘wounded’ and ‘unharvested’ came with bow hunting.  i am for full cross bow use for all archery seasons.  the benefits outweigh any negative in my view.  i would put odds that it gets extended in the next two seasons. 

as for getting busted drawing back, i think that very thing leads putting a deer on alert if they don’t bolt outright.  once on alert, they react to any noise/motion by bolting.  its my opinion that an alert deer increases the chance of a poor hit.  a cross bow that is pre-drawn and with a higher draw weight/speet should decrease the chance a deer jumps the string.  so this should reduce the under reported kill for archery.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/18 at 08:18 PM

Crossbows are so easy to shoot deer with.  You have a scope, don’t have to move and can easily hunt from a groundblind.  I just wish EHD didn’t hammer the deer herd this year so bad or I would be out shooting a deer rather than trying to let the herd in my area get back to what it should be.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/19 at 02:55 PM

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