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Read & React: Wisconsin Introduces First-Ever Crossbow Season

by Bob Humphrey   |  December 16th, 2013 5

The ever-expanding list of states allowing crossbow hunting got a little longer this month when Governor Scott Walker signed legislation expanding crossbow hunting opportunities in Wisconsin.

Under previously existing rules, only hunters age 65 and over or with physical disabilities were allowed to hunt deer with crossbows. Beginning with the 2014 fall hunting season, hunters of all legal ages and abilities will be able to purchase a crossbow hunting license and hunt during a crossbow hunting season that will run concurrent with the archery deer season.

Unlike some states that initially went with trial or provisional seasons, Wisconsin’s law creates a permanent crossbow season with no sunset provision. It also includes a provision for the Wisconsin DNR to collect crossbow deer harvest data through the 2015-16 hunting season. The department is then expected to report on the information and provide an assessment of the new crossbow season’s impacts.

Time will tell what those impacts might be, but statistics from other states that have implemented similar seasons offer a glimpse. States like Ohio, Georgia and Arkansas saw an initial and expected spike in the bowhunting deer kill, at least partially attributable to an increase in the number of bowhunters.

However, annual archery kills and statewide deer populations have continued to grow in those states, and in others that have since increased crossbow hunting opportunities. In all cases so far, biologists subsequently concluded that the expansion of crossbow hunting had no deleterious effect on their deer populations.

Why go to crossbows? Prior to liberalizing crossbow use, several states conducted surveys of hunter attitudes. Results were numerous and varied, but in all cases the majority of hunters surveyed supported the notion.

A news article in the Journal Sentinel reported that Walker signed the bill on the same day he visited the Mathews, Inc. trade show in Wisconsin Dells. Perhaps his decision was swayed slightly by the visit, though the Wisconsin Assembly passed the bill on a 91-0 vote in October.

There’s not doubt expanding crossbow hunting will increase sales for bow makers and retailers alike, which in this economy should be considered a positive. It also sells more hunting licenses, putting more money into the coffers of state agencies charged with managing all wildlife resources. And that suggests another important reason for more crossbow-friendly regulations.

Before expanding crossbow use in 2009, the Minnesota DNR conducted an exhaustive survey of their constituents. They summed up the results by citing what has become something of a pro-crossbow mantra: “an option to expand hunting opportunities, retain existing hunters, and recruit new hunters.” And anything that puts more hunters in the woods is a good thing.

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  • Greg

    The new Crossbow season in Wisconsin is Everything that the Bow Company’s and there Lobbyists wanted.
    This one sided article says the Minnesota DNR conducted an exhaustive survey of their constituents.
    They summed up the results by citing what has become something of a
    pro-crossbow mantra: “an option to expand hunting opportunities, retain
    existing hunters, and recruit new hunters.” And anything that puts more
    hunters in the woods is a good thing. What the article does not say is..

    The Law in Minnesota is, You hunt with a Crossbow During The Firearms Season Only. This is how it should be a Crossbow is just like shooting a accurate slug gun.
    The Law in Wisconsin is you can hunt during the entire Bow season with your Crossbow

    This new season was promoted by some of the political fools as getting us more in line with are neighboring states. I am sure that was part of what there lobbyist bud’s told them. Arkansas and Georgia are not neighboring states the last time I checked.

    • Jackelyn-Micah Hardin

      No it is not like a slug gun!!! A newer slug gun has more than 100 yards effective rang, Some 200 yrds. With A LOT more terminal effect, larger wound channel, better penetration and less susceptibility to win. Even plain old smooth bore’s have a lot more stopping power and much faster follow up shots. Cross bows have no more effective range than a good compound bow with more weight and a much slower follow up shot. You obviously have no experience with cross bows. If they were that good, why would anyone have left them for the flint lock musket?

  • Dan

    I bought a crossbow the day I heard it was going to be legal in 2014. I love the challenge of getting close to deer and making a clean, ethical kill. I am 47 and have missed (2) and wounded (1) more deer in the last 5 years than in the prior 23 years of hunting. Practice time and tree stand time do not make up for weakened shoulders caused by sports and work. Many middle-aged hunters would tell you this if being honest. I can’t wait to use my crossbow and hunt with the confidence I used to have with my traditional bow.

  • Fed Up

    See, 3 comments. Crossbow hunters are just plain lazy cheats. Don’t even have time to defend their lazy cheating selves. Barring legitimate injuries (like Dan) and possibly youth hunters, crossbows belong in gun season. I just watched two people try out a crossbow at the range the other day. They each took one shot apiece from 20 yards and hit the 4 ring of a 300 round spot target, laid down their money and walked out the door with the thing. I will practice 3 days a week all summer and be darn happy to keep every shot in the four ring at 20 yards. LAZY CHEATERS- DO NOT DESERVE TO HORN IN ON US REAL BOWHUNTERS RUT!!!

  • Fed Up

    I’ll make a deal- crossbow hunters use 16th century crossbows and I’ll use my longbow.

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