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Should Crossbows Be in Archery Season?

Many compound and traditional shooters believe crossbows are ruining bowhunting and should be banished from archery seasons. Are they right or are they blowing the issue way out of proportion?

Over the last couple decades, crossbow advancements and sales have surged. While some states are still crossbow holdouts, they’ve slowly become legal archery equipment across much of the country. But this is a troubling trend — crossbows don’t belong in vertical bow seasons.

Crossbows are super fast, and they just keep getting faster. Current rigs can top 500 fps, while the fastest compounds reach speeds of 350 fps — with traditional setups trailing even farther behind.

Crossbow manufacturers advertise impressive accuracy at incredible distances, but many newbies don’t realize they still shouldn’t be firing at whitetails from 100 yards away. Just because a crossbow can nail a paper plate downrange doesn’t mean such a long-distance shot is ethical in a hunting scenario.

Crossbows also virtually eliminate the need for three bowhunting cornerstones: skill, strength, and stealth.

  • Skill: Repeatable accuracy with a vertical bow requires lots of regular practice, but today’s crossbows are ready to hunt right out of the box. They don’t demand the same skill and discipline to shoot.
  • Strength: While crossbows are a little heavier to tote around with a sling, they’re much easier to draw with a variety of cocking aids available today. Hunters can perch them up on a tripod — just like a rifle — as opposed to the strength required to draw nearly half your body weight and hold 40 percent of that until you have the perfect shot opportunity. 
  • Stealth: One of the toughest challenges in bowhunting is coming to full draw without your quarry nabbing you. But with pre-cocked crossbows, your rig is ready to shoot at any time.

Crossbows and vertical bows simply don’t put hunters on a level playing field. And the Pope & Young Club would agree. Although the organization has made concessions on equipment such as lighted nocks, bow-mounted cameras, and high-let-off setups in recent years, it still holds strong on keeping crossbow kills out of its record books.

Crossbow advocates argue their rigs don’t deliver the same speed and power as rifles, so they’re better-suited for archery seasons. Sure, crossbows aren’t guns. But they certainly aren’t vertical bows either. They come with unique performance-enhancing benefits that put them in a category all their own.

16 thoughts on “Should Crossbows Be in Archery Season?”

  1. The Bow Bully,
    I got my wife a crossbow because she had always wanted one, ever since she was a kid. I wanted to get her something good, so I got her an Excalibur; and we would shoot together out in the back yard (which was pretty large in Florida)…me with a longbow, and her with the crossbow. Despite that I’d been shooting a bow for years, she could easily outshoot me with her crossbow after minimal practice. Hence, I would concur with your statement: “Crossbows and vertical bows simply don’t put hunters on a level playing field.” And I also agree with you that, “They come with unique performance-enhancing benefits that put them in a category all their own.”
    That being the case, perhaps they should have their own season…”Crossbow Season.” 🙂
    Keep up the good work,

    • Dave
      You are a lucky guy and I wish you all the happiness. My wife would make only one exception regarding shooting; If only she could use me as a target… Well, to each his own as R.R. often tells me.

      • “My wife would make only one exception regarding shooting; If only she could use me as a target…”
        Thanks, Bill; that’s purdy funny stuff…brought a smile to my face. 🙂
        My wife did say something similar once; one of her friends commented that:
        “Your husbands jokes around with a lot of other women…doesn’t that bother you?”
        My wife: “No, that’s just his personality; he can look at other women, talk to other women, and that’s fine. But it’s ‘lookee no touchee’…if he did that, I’d shoot him with one of his own guns when he walked through the door.”
        My wife is old school and hard core; and she’s tough; she grew up hunting small game with a long bow (homemade by her granddad) and later on with a .22 rifle (her grandad’s rule was that you didn’t get a .22 till you had killed your first squirrel with your longbow…a feat she accomplished at age 5).
        There was a big gap between her long bow and .22 days and her days of the crossbow, but apparently she’s kept her skills; hence, I’d best be on my best behavior! 🙂

        • You have a keeper there, Dave. Not complaining, my Mrs. allows me to indulge in my interests without interference. Only complaint is FM’s failure – so far – to get her into shooting something. A small crossbow may be a good place to start getting her there.

          • FawltyManuel, you are right; she’s a keeper; we just passed the 30-year mark on our marriage, Praise the Lord!
            The crossbow I got my wife is Excalibur’s 90-pound pull target bow; they also used to make a 40-pound version; I believe they are both discontinued, but if you can find a used one, they are excellent; and they could be something that you could get Mrs. FM to try out. 🙂

  2. I wonder what’s the difference in final results and use parameters between a 500 fps crossbow and a smoothbore shotgun, using slugs? Please let’s not start a debate about modern ammo etc, ten or twenty yards more range doesn’t matter.
    It seems to me that bow hunting purists have a point.

    • Siraniko, there is much sense to that; my old state, Connecticut (this is back in 1995), had seasons that made no sense. Crossbows were not allowed for hunting, but the deer seasons were: archery (recurve and compound), then regular gun season, and finally black powder season was tacked onto the end, almost like an afterthought. 🙂

  3. TBB,

    I have nothing against crossbows, I’ve made a couple and own an Excalibur Exocet.

    I think of deer hunting weapons in three classes…
    – hand drawn, hand held bows: selfbows, longbows, recurves and (grudgingly) compound bows.
    – trigger operated short range weapons: crossbows, pneumatic arrow guns, big bore airguns and muzzle loaders.
    – firearms

    IMHO, these three levels of technology should have separate hunting seasons with the caveat that you can use a lower tech weapon in a higher tech season. Like you can use a bow in the gun season but not the other way around.

    My main concern with trigger operated arrow launchers is that it is too easy for a novice “archer” to learn enough to hit (and often wound) a deer but still have no appreciation or understanding of the limits of the weapon. …I’ve been called to track deer wounded with crossbow bolts too many times – usually from gun hunters used to multi-shot high powered rifles.

    TBB, you are right on with the three bowhunting cornerstones: skill, strength, and stealth.

    If I could add another cornerstone it would be “knowledge” – you have to know your prey.

    I often describe bow hunting as a “surgical technique” – you need to be able to hit specific organs (usually lungs, sometimes the heart) if you are to humanely take a deer …just hitting one with an arrow is not good enough.

    In my experience, beyond the basic archery skills, bow hunting requires a different mindset: you have to leave the modern world behind and become a true predator. Found that not everyone can do that.


  4. Actually,, I think Radfordc might have been onto something. Except, why go back to the atlatl when that is just a crutch for those who can’t throw their spear far enough? Maybe we need to divide the already limited time for hunting seasons so that everyone’s choice could have one.

    If someone feels that stalking close enough to kill the animal with a knife is the only fair way to hunt,, shouldn’t they have a day or two to themself? Maybe there are some rock throwers in the crowd, too.

    It seems that we are defeating the idea of getting more people interested in hunting,, and thereby game management and habitat, by the elitist attitudes of some who, I guess, feel they should decide who hunts with what and when.

    We have it broken down, in Pa. to bow season, muzzleloader season, doe and buck rifle seasons and then flintlock season. The reason there is a muzzleloader and a flintlock season is because some felt that the inline muzzleloaders were a lazy way to hunt,,, so the flintlocks got pushed back to the tail end of the seasons. The same could happen here with bows, as well. Push too hard and the vertical bow season may end up being a week long sometime in January.

    I am 75 and a paraplegic,, I am very happy that I can use a crossbow during the regular bow season. There are any number of very good reasons why others might feel that way, too. Shoot, anything that gets us out in the woods is fine by me. If they decided to have a rock chucking season,, I’d likely build myself a better slingshot for it.


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