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I’m sure every hunter has heard some sort of derogatory comment made about the use of the crossbow in big game hunting. But then, if you lived long enough, you would have heard the same thing about compound bows, in-line muzzle loaders, and even semi-automatic shotguns. The controversy is usually sparked by lack of knowledge, which turns into misguided opinions as people go off half cocked starting crusades against whatever the subject dictates, do to good old human nature. In no small part the crossbow received its fair share of criticism, to say the least.
Believe me when I tell you, of all the topics in Game and Fish Laws nation wide, no subject has been more talked about than the rise in interest of Crossbow Hunting. It is the last hurrah in challenges of the modern day hunter before nimrods take to the field wielding “Star Trek” Phazer weapons. When I look at my Thompson Encore 50 caliber inline muzzle loader with the 3x9 Swift Scope with illuminated crosshairs, I have to ask myself if Davy Crocket had such a gun. Then I had to ask myself again, “Why would somebody gripe about a crossbow?”
With few crossbow experts in this state, stemming from the fact it was illegal for hunters, except for those over age 60 and handicapped people, little true facts were known about the hunting use of the crossbow. This left the door open for anyone that didn’t like the idea to bash the use of the crossbow here and nation wide. There were two organizations that did so with different agendas but the same idea.
Who Was Against The Legalization?
First was PETA, who needs no introduction as the world renowned anti-hunting group, and full time whackos. But what I’m about to tell those who didn’t know, is about an actual pro hunting group that by proxy, actually joined forces with the likes of PETA. This was an association of traditional bow hunters that were adamantly against the use of the Crossbow for any kind of hunting or bow fishing. This national organization filtered down to the states with their own chapters, and suddenly anti-crossbow propaganda was being spread all the way to state governments and the outdoor media. “I’m sure PETA and HSUS were cracking open magnums of champagne and toasting to their new partners,” to quote Bill Hilts Sr., my counterpart in New York state.
This came at a very bad time. It was no secret that hunting interests were dwindling all over the country, especially with the younger generation, while good game management practices were on the rise as well as game herds. State wildlife agencies were losing money as more kids took to computer games than outdoor activities. What was needed was a plan to increase the number of new hunters, to compensate for those who were leaving the field to pursue the wilds of the video arcade in the great indoors.
Many new ideas are being introduced in Louisiana to increase young hunter interests which include, the crossbow, black powder cartridge guns, extended days for youth hunters and many others that promote the hunting culture of the Louisiana Sportsman. The bottom line is this state is losing its young hunters at an alarming rate, and the worst thing that can happen is to have in fighting among hunting groups. Even so the North American Bow Hunter’s Coalition attacked the American Crossbow Federation and others in an attempt to outlaw the crossbow nation wide.
That’s when interested hunters contacted me in Western Louisiana and asked the big “Why?” question. Well, I was supposed to be the expert, but as far as the crossbow, I didn’t know anything. So I decided to learn from the best crossbow experts in the world and befriended Dan Hendricks and Leone Russo, the respected publishers of Horizontal Bowhunter Magazine and Crossbow Connection Magazine.
Who Was For The Legalization?
This opened up a new topic of fascination, the wonderful world of the crossbow. Hendricks and Russo guided me on my fact finding mission on crossbow politics, while I contacted many outdoor celebrities and bow manufacturers. No celebrity would openly downgrade the crossbow as this would be political suicide with outdoor sponsors. Archery companies appeared to stay neutral, so not to infuriate customers, but inside information found this writer, and you will see crossbows coming out soon from manufacturers you just wouldn’t think would do so.
Outspoken leaders of the outdoors like Ted Nugent and Keith Warren backed me up and promoted the crossbow on their television shows. I wish I could say the same locally but when I mentioned this to officials and other outdoor writers, they candidly stated I would never get the crossbow legalized in the state of Louisiana. Well it was not an “I” thing, it was a “We” thing.
Paul Rogers made it a team effort and put out the facts of the crossbow on his outdoor website, Bayou Outdoor Adventures. Without much effort, Paul obtained thousands of signatures for the use of the crossbow in Northern Louisiana. It was clear to me people of this state wanted the crossbow regardless of the traditionalist views. Evidently the traditionalists were not the voice of all Bowhunters as they professed.
In following debates that started a chain reaction nation wide the pro crossbow advocates steadily presented viable facts based on statistics from states that have already legalized the crossbow. Those in disfavor pursued the issue with malice and emotion stating the crossbow would ruin bow hunting forever. When asked if they had anything to back it up, the antis floundered in a quagmire of divestiture.
My fact finding investigation was completed and given to John Smith who was at the time state representative for district 30 from Vernon Parish. HB 1221 didn’t pass that year, stonewalled again by the anti-crossbow clan.
The next year John Smith was elected State Senator for District 30 while 5 other State Senators reintroduced SB-165 “Primitive Weapons Bill” and it was passed unanimously as the crossbow world held it’s breath for Governor Bobby Jindal to sign it into law, which he did in June of 2008. Therefore the crossbow will be legal for all licensed bow hunters for the 2008-09 Louisiana Hunting season. This gives the Bowhunter a greater choice of Long Bow, Recurve Bow, Compound Bow or Crossbow, and it is all up to the hunter.
Now the second phase of the state crossbow project begins. Educate the people of Louisiana on the correct and safe way to use the Crossbow for ethical hunting. This would look like the easy part but it isn’t, due to the myths surrounding the crossbow. The crossbow is anything but the old advertisement calling it the “Silent 30-30.” Crossbows are not long range weapons, ethically effective to about 40 yards just like the compound bow. Not easy to quiet down with “limb saver” rubber buttons like a compound or recurve bow, the short power stroke of a 150 to 200 pound crossbow is much louder with its bow twang.
This equates in deer “Jumping the String,” a trait all bow hunters know about that deer do to beat out human technology. With all that pull weight the bolt only goes an average of 50 feet per second faster than an arrow from a 60 pound compound bow, and quickly loses this advantage in the first 20 yards due to the short projectile’s aerodynamics.
Yes you can aim a crossbow like a rifle; it doesn’t kick, or make a big bang like a rifle, which makes this hunting tool the perfect “Training Wheels” for young hunters. Dan Hendricks and I have worn out the photograph of 5 year old Courtney McCowan of Cooksville Tennessee with her 8 point buck she got in 2006. Just for the record Courtney has done it twice more since.
Ask yourself as a hunter and a parent how cool it would be if that enthusiastic 5 or 6 year old climbed into a pop up blind, sat in your lap and harvested such a buck with a crossbow. Oh what stories you could tell, and chances are I will too. Sorry you can’t do it with any other archery equipment and some kids are just plain scared of the report of a rifle, but the crossbow is different.
Now don’t ask me why on this one, but single mothers, are more apt to allow youngsters permission to learn the crossbow than a gun from concerned outdoor mentor types. From what I have learned in my brief tenure as a school teacher is kids really want to go hunting, they just need someone to take them. So another idea the state might try is a state sponsored Hunter Mentor program for the kid without a Dad.
“Ok lets say you shoot a record class buck with a Crossbow, the Pope and Young Record book will not allow for the entry.” That’s right, but there is a separate set of records exclusively for the Crossbow, so it doesn’t matter. The world crossbow record typical Whitetail was taken on November 10, 2004 by Brad Jerman in Ohio. It scored 201 1/8 by Safari Club International Scoring system. The American Crossbow Federation has its own Big Game Register similar to the Long Hunters Society for black powder hunters.
By the way that buck is in the top ten in Boone and Crockett as well and they do recognized crossbow kills. The American Crossbow Federation has teamed up with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries with the book “Today’s Crossbow.” This is the primer for all crossbow hunters to read first before you go to the field with your new crossbow. So let’s look at it this way, I’m the designated crossbow guy in Louisiana for the ACF. That means everything I do with my new crossbow must be written down and tested. I will be expected to practice with this device until I’m proficient enough to hunt with it. Then my findings go out for publication and you the reader, this is a great responsibility I do not take lightly.
Contrary to popular belief you don’t just buy a crossbow and go hunting with it the next day. Like any other hunting weapon it has its unique safety rules that have to be abided by or else. With the crossbow there are enough new things of interest to keep me occupied with study before I ever shoot the first “bolt” downrange. Of course no matter what, someone will leave out some of the important items in an attempt to speed things up, circumventing common sense.
I already know two guys that were injured slightly for not reading the directions. Part of the over 60 crowd that could use the crossbow legally in this state, one experienced gun hunter actually pulled back his crossbow and shot at a deer the first time he ever shot a crossbow. He didn’t clear to the right and a tree limb caught the bow as it flexed, somehow the stock struck him in the face and he wound up with a shiner.
Funny thing is, by shear luck he killed the deer too. The other guy reached up too far over the forend and the string caught him on the thumb, rather abruptly administering the ye old “Crossbow Finger” equivalent of slamming your finger in the chamber of a Remington shotgun or overzealously zipping up your pants without checking. Read the directions!
Ok so where do you get all this information. Well first the LDWF has established a rapport with the ACF to give out free information. If you are about to become a crossbow hunter a membership will give you a subscription to Horizontal Bowhunter Magazine. Leone Russo’s Crossbow Connection Magazine is equally informative, so as I do, subscribe to both. There you will find the cutting edge of technology, adventure stories and even an occasional “Uncle John’s” article to fit your fancy.
If you are a fan of the internet as well, you can go to Crossbowhunting.net, here you will find a great deal of instant information on topics exceeding magazine article in some cases. The best part about the forum part of Crossbowhunting.net is direct interaction with Crossbow experts. That’s right you can find at least one world class Crossbowman on line just about any time. For me this saves phone bills, and you can always refer your friends back to “blogs” that will answer all their questions as well.
It was here that I learned about all the crossbow politics and found the information needed for the fact finding mission, but here also you will find all those nice little accessory tips they don’t tell you about in magazine articles along with on the spot test results with instant gratification. Now that’s outdoor communication at its finest.
Recently I became involved in the charitable organization known as “The Way Outfitters.” They send wounded soldiers, handicapped and terminally ill kids and disabled veteran on Outdoor Trips of a lifetime. Many chose to go on hunting trips which are paid for by philanthropists from different American corporations. I learned first hand what it takes to outfit a young hunter paralyzed with muscular dystrophy. The good folks at Be Adaptive LLC produced The TM-100 “Sip Trigger” that is used when the hunter cannot physically pull the trigger with his finger, and guess what; it works on both a rifle and a crossbow. Looks like now even our handicapped hunters can be two season hunters as well.
We should consider ourselves blessed in the state of Louisiana as far as hunting and fishing. Consider the state of New York where a handicapped Bowhunter can not use a crossbow. This is brought to you by the same group that stonewalled the crossbow in Louisiana but now that is history. You should know that bills are always being attempted to rise the age of young hunters to 16 before they are even allowed in the field, and this has been passed in some states. You would think this could never happen in Louisiana, but think again.
The crossbow has been around since King Arthur was a Corporal, while in comparison the Compound bow came out about 1978. Somehow this idea of traditionalism eludes me. I still hunt with my recurve bow and I love it. Now here is 60 pounds of real pull that you won’t be holding back for a few minutes while the buck meanders around for the perfect broadside shot. But just if I feel like it, maybe tomorrow, I’ll take out the new crossbow, or my old compound bow, what ever will bring me luck?
One thing for sure it is my choice and now it’s everybody’s choice. Then I think back one more time in wonderment of how much can now be accomplished by the Bayou State Bowhunters Association, now that they don’t have to spend so much time attempting to outlaw the Crossbow. A quiet singular voice with an outstretched hand of the American Crossbow Federation says, “We would do much better working together.” ….Pass it on….