Where I Stand On Crossbows
(Originally published in the Merritt News)

© By Othmar Vohringer

For as long as I can remember this issue has been festering among archers. The Internet forums are full of heated controversy between the vertical and horizontal archers. What puzzles me most is seeing how some archery organizations feed this controversy by purposely spreading false hype and misinformation, and for what? Mainly, to protect their own agenda and selfish goals.

Here are just some of the commonly made statements that surface with regularity about crossbows:

“Crossbows are an ineffective hunting weapon.”
“Crossbows lead to unethical behavior”
“Crossbows are not archery equipment, they are guns with a string.”
“Crossbows are not traditional archery”.

Hogwash, I say. Lets look at some undeniable facts.

Is the crossbow traditional?
You bet. Crossbows are as much traditional as the longbow and certainly more traditional than the modern compound bows. The first mention of crossbows can be found from 800 years ago in Europe and more than 1000 years ago in China. How much more traditional can it get?

Does the crossbow lead hunters to unethical behavior?
This is the most ludicrous of all the statements against the crossbow. Actually it is a ludicrous statement for any hunting weapon choice, be that a rifle, longbow, compound or a crossbow. Weapons do not lead to unethical behavior. People, however, can and at times will engage in unethical behavior regardless of what they use to hunt with. In other words it is the person using the weapon that has to make the decision to use that tool in an ethical manner and within its capability or not.

Are crossbows or not archery equipment?
Yes they are. A crossbow is styled and functions exactly on the same principle of a vertical bow. An arrow is placed on the string and if the string is released it will catapult the arrow off the shelf. The mechanics are exactly the same too in that just like with any bow the string is attached to either end of a flexible limb that bends backward if the string is pulled and then reflexes when the string is let loose, thus creating the force that shoots the arrow. The only difference is that the bow is mounted onto a “stick” (that is all it was in the beginning of the crossbow history) and that the string is held by a mechanism that has to be released with some sort of trigger. Not much different than using a release aid for a compound bow with the only difference that the string is not held in place manually with muscle power. The crossbow is mounted onto a stock that looks similar to a gunstock, that is the only similarity it has with a rifle and that does not make the crossbow a gun, not by a long shot – no pun intended.

“Not by a long shot”; that brings me neatly to the next accusation:

“Crossbows are an ineffective hunting weapon.”
Really! If that is so then how could a small band of Swiss freedom fighters some 800 odd years ago send the mighty longbow army of the Austrian and German Emperor running and scrambling for safer places? There are many other related examples from early history proving the efficiency and accuracy of the crossbow. The crossbow, just like any other game harvesting tool, is a very accurate and efficient weapon when used within its limits. A crossbow has about the same efficiency and accuracy range as the modern compound bow.

With expanding deer populations every where and the efforts of game commissions to control this deer explosion, more hunting opportunities have been created and seasons have been made longer. Shouldn’t we welcome more hunters into our ranks so the wildlife populations can be controlled effectively? What I do not understand is that archery organizations complain about the decline of archery hunter numbers, yet they fight with tooth and nail to stop crossbow hunters from joining our ranks.

The good news is that more and more American states are slowly introducing crossbow hunting for every legal hunter, and not like in the past, just for the physically challenged. It seems that the game commissions are starting to see behind the smoke screens put up by traditional archers and their single minded, often self-serving, organizations. Ohio, one of the first states to legalize crossbow hunting has proven that crossbows are indeed a very effective means to harvest more deer. It is encouraging to see that more states such as Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee are following the Ohio example and are legalizing the crossbow for all hunters. As time goes on more and more states will join in despite the cries of the traditional archery hunters and their organizations.

So where do I stand on the crossbow issue? I guess by now it’s pretty obvious. I am in favor of allowing any person with hunting in his blood the opportunity to enjoy his time in the field with the weapon of his choice, and if that weapon happens to be a crossbow, then so be it. As a bowhunter I do not feel the least bit threatened by this new “competition”. Neither do I feel any prejudice against anyone for the choice of weapon they make, including horizontal bows. Heck, I may even pick up a crossbow to hunt with and extend my own hunting season. There is plenty of room and lots of game to accommodate every law abiding and legal hunter to his hearts content. As I see it crossbows just add another dimension and opportunity to our hunting legacy.

For me the most troubling aspect in the whole crossbow issue is seeing how much energy hunters exert squabbling about the pros and cons of crossbows. Meanwhile, these same hunters blissfully ignore the real issues that threaten our hunting heritage. Wouldn’t it be wiser for us to be more tolerant of each other and pick our battles with the ones that really threaten our way of life instead of with our own?

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