(Note: Read this entire blog post for your chance to win some crossbow hunting gear.)
As some of you might remember, I attended a Bowhunting Round Table event in Illinois a few months ago with fellow outdoor writers and archery industry manufacturers (see blog post about it here). It was there I had my first crossbow-shooting experience. I was blown away by all the new innovations in crossbow technology.
You don't have to be a hunting editor (i.e. live and breathe hunting news 24/7) to be aware that the popularity of crossbow hunting has been on a continuous growth curve for years. At the same time, if you've ever heard the "C" word brought up among a group of hunters, it doesn't take long to realize there are strong opinions about the use of crossbows for hunting. It depends who you're talking to, but chances are you'll typically hear the "strongest" opinions when you start comparing crossbows to their compound cousins among a group of bowhunters.
Currently, crossbows are legal to hunt with in 49 of the United States, and 10 of the Canadian provinces/territories. But don't be confused—that doesn't mean you can march into any of those places and start shooting bolts at bucks. Each state and province/territory has detailed, unique crossbow hunting regulations that you need to pay very close attention to.
Looking at the United States, nine states only allow physically challenged hunters to use crossbows. Other states permit the use of crossbows for all hunters, but only during archery season. Some states classify crossbows more along the lines of firearms, allowing their use only during firearm season, but not during archery season. (See, you need to do your homework.)
So, which state is the "rogue" in this crossbow hunting revolution? Oregon. It's illegal for anyone to hit the field with a crossbow, during any hunting season—firearm or archery. In fact, the Oregon Bowhunters, a major bowhunting organization that's active in the state of Oregon, openly condemn the use of crossbows "'aka stringed-rifles'" during archery season (see No. 10 in their "Official Position Statements" document).
It's an ever-changing atmosphere in the crossbow-hunting world. In terms of recent legislation, this fall will be the first time hunters in New York state will be permitted to hunt with a crossbow during regular big game seasons. Prior to this year, only severely physically disabled hunters have been allowed to use crossbows (with the use of a breath-tube trigger).
If you've been checking in regularly here at my "Mixed Bag" blog, you've seen that I'm steadily making my progression into life as a bowhunter with a compound BowTech Invasion CPX. It's been a long time coming, but finally I'm getting in the groove. As a fellow hunter, you probably agree: There's no such thing as "enough is enough." I can't help but think, What's next for me? Perhaps I'll be picking up a crossbow in the near future.
In the meantime, I know plenty of NAHC members regularly send bolts downrange. More power to you. Log in and leave a comment in the box below with your best bit of crossbow hunting advice. I'll choose my favorite Friday, September 2, 2011. The winner will receive a TenPoint Crossbow Technologies' brand-new, fully retractable ACUrope cocker and a 12-pack of TenPoint's Unloading Bolts to make their time in crossbow country a bit more comfortable.
(Side note: NAH Senior Editor Luke Hartle and I had a friendly crossbow shooting competition at the outdoor writers' Bowhunting Round Table event in Illinois. Check it out, and pay attention to my right ear when I'm trying to shoot. Luke is kind of a poor sport.)