Our Own Crossbow Revolution

I could give you 10 good reasons why a crossbow is a great tool to take hunting. But the best reason of all is the fun factor it brings to our sport.

Maybe it's the unexpected power I unleash when I pull the trigger on my crossbow. Launching an arrow nearly 350 feet per second with a 5-pound trigger is a thrill. But what's amazing is how accurately crossbows direct that force. Folks shake their heads in disbelief and are amazed when they first put their cheek to the stock of an xbow and slide an arrow in the bull's eye. It's a great recruitment tool.

Deer, hogs and coyotes are thriving and need to be controlled by responsible hunters. New gear options and technologies are emerging each season. And old, restrictive state laws are falling like dominos.

Just 10 years ago, few states allowed crossbow hunters to carry in archery seasons. Now more and more states, the latest being New York, Nebraska and Indiana, have opened up the archery seasons to crossbow hunters. At this point in our nation's history, we are truly seeing a crossbow revolution.

Are the public-land woods, fields and hills a little more crowded during bow season? Yes. And that's a good thing. Consider that overall hunter numbers are down from 14 million in 2000 to 12 1/2 million in 2006, and you can see why we need to recruit more hunters to ensure the forces aligned against hunters do not prevail in years to come.

Have crossbow hunters overrun that public land that vertical bowhunters once had to themselves? No, not by a long shot.

There's room in this sport for all ethical hunters. We learned that after Ohio allowed crossbows in 1976. The state studied the results extensively and concluded that crossbows are good for wildlife management, state bank accounts and recruiting new hunters.

That increase in participation also translates into more federal money pouring into the states via the federal Pittman-Robertson Act, which skims a little off the top of each hunting-related gear purchase you make and sends that money back to the states. No matter what any preservation group claims, hunters foot the bill for our nation's conservation success stories through our licenses, permits and purchases. How much? You and I pay an additional 11 percent tax every time we buy a crossbow, arrows, broadheads and other gear. Gun-hunting-related gear is taxed at 10 percent. According to the feds, we've forked over more than $2 billion through Pittman-Robertson since 1937. In the states, we've also paid another $500 million in state license and fees for conservation.

You don't hear hunters complaining much about our contributions. We're a forward-looking lot.

That's why we respond when we see the next generation taking an interest in crossbows.

Crossbows are putting smiles on the faces of kids who might not otherwise ventured out into the outdoors. These kids are key to ensuring that common-sense wildlife management continues long after we're in rocking chairs watching the sunset. Picture a child hunter with a doe and a crossbow. If that doesn't put a smile on your face, nothing will.

Crossbows are effective, safe and fun. Will the crossbow revolution save our sport from the decline in hunting participation? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, it's just about deer season in my neck of the woods. Time to wax the rails, check the cams and open a child's eyes to the ancient pursuit of big game with a stick and string.

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