Crossbows in bow season?


I think it’s fair to admit up front that I’m not a fan of crossbows.  I’ve tinkered with them minimally (15 years ago) without developing an inkling of affection.  At that time they possessed no more performance potential than modern compounds.  More recently I’m hearing reports (bragging actually) of fist-sized groups at 150 yards.        

I’ll not feign superiority, but there’s no way around the fact that "vertical" bowhunters must work much harder to keep themselves hunt ready – the perpetual equipment tuning and tweaking and striving for shooting-form perfection.  Those long hours of summertime backyard practice are a bowhunting institution, a time-honored tradition sometimes evolving over several years. 

These aspects are conspicuously absent from crossbow shooting.   

This wouldn’t bother me one bit if crossbow manufacturers and advocates weren’t lobbying so intensely to squeeze their way into archery-only seasons.  And, yes, I’m very self-centered in this respect.  I don’t want to share, at least not with those who have much less time and effort invested.  Crossbows remind me of in-line muzzleloaders in this respect: Scoped, saboted, 200-yard weapons applied to seasons established with primitive cap-and-ball capabilities in mind.              

So you might understand why most longtime bowhunters find the outdoor media’s attempt to set crossbows on equal footing with real bows for a handful of advertising dollars an abomination.  Borrowing a page from the politicians' playbook, they’re even attempting to change the language. Bolts become “arrows.” Crossbows are labeled “horizontal bows.” Real bows now require the designating moniker “vertical bows.”

If crossbows are so wonderful, why not create their own magazine to discuss the joys of shooting them?

The entire thing reminds me of the neighborhood geek whose family owned a swimming pool.  No one really liked this kid, but shined him on during summer months for use of that pool.  Very few industry bowhunters actually shoot crossbows, or have any desire to do so, but are all too happy to humor crossbow manufacturers as long as they continue relinquishing advertising dollars.  But these aren’t puerile children seeking cheap entertainment.  These are adults selling out their sport for profit.

For diehard bowhunters, this inclusion of a non-bow into bowhunting seasons is viewed as a threat to our future. In states where tags are tightly controlled and/or hunting ground limited, true bowhunters worry of being squeezed out by an increase in “bowhunter” numbers migrated from rifle-hunting ranks.  I moved away from New Mexico after 12 years without an archery elk tag.  You want to toss more names into the lottery pot?  I also see Kansas just legalized crossbows during archery seasons, and now wonder if I’ll draw a tag next year.

So maybe now you understand the true bowhunter’s retort to the question: “Why all the fuss?”