Few subjects will get a group of bowhunters more engaged than a discussion of where crossbows should fit in to deer hunting seasons.
Barring an unexpected veto by Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois is in line to become the 25th state in the country to allow crossbows in some manner for use in archery hunting seasons.
Earlier this year, House Bill 4819, which as originally written permitted the use of crossbows during archery-only deer seasons, was quietly introduced and subsequently sailed through the House by a vote of 109-0. By the time the measure moved over to the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee, word began to spread through the bowhunting community about as subtly as a bomb blast. Almost immediately, state bowhunting groups launched an all-out offensive against the bill, scatter-gunning hundreds of e-mails to committee members in an effort to derail it.
After sometimes-heated debate in committee, Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) offered a compromise amendment that eventually passed both houses—and H.B. 4819 now sits on the governor’s desk, where it is expected to soon be signed into law.
As passed, the bill allows the use of crossbows during what is commonly known as the late archery deer season in Illinois, following the split deer firearms seasons that take place in late November and early December.
Previously, only persons 62 and older and the physically handicapped were permitted to use crossbows in the state.
In the aftermath, depending on whom you ask, those on opposite sides of the issue feel shortchanged, and not vindicated.
Frankly, the controversy in Illinois has not been unlike those in other states where crossbows have been legalized for use during the general archery season in recent years. Without exception, it seems like after a season or two, the battle lines disappear and everyone just goes back to doing what they love to do, which is hunting deer.
The downside is that such a divisive and contentious disagreement occurs between hunting groups in the first place.