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Sports

Pressure mounting to limit crossbow users

Bob Frye
| Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008

Pennsylvania has a separate deer season for archers, muzzleloaders, flintlocks and modern rifles and shotguns.

Should it also have a separate deer season for crossbows, or at least require those who want to hunt with that tool to buy a special permit?

Some archers think so.

The United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, in what is admittedly a "last ditch effort," are asking the Pennsylvania Game Commission to vote next month to limit crossbow users to their own season or, at the least, require them to buy a special permit or license. That would tell the agency how many crossbow hunters there are and how many deer they are taking, said the group's president, Wes Waldron.

"If there was a separation, a separate license, if there was a way to collect data monitor the harvest, a lot more bowhunters would be able to put up with this. They may not like it, but they could put up with it," Waldron said.

Bowhunters have undergone the same scrutiny, he noted. When the commission approved an archery bear season, it was for a limited time and on a limited scale, until the impact on the bear population could be determined. It's only fair that crossbows be likewise monitored to measure their impact on deer, and bucks in particular, he said.

"No one anywhere has good enough data to predict what's going to happen otherwise," Waldron said.

The question of how to treat crossbows is pressing now because, in October, Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a proposal to allow hunters to use crossbows statewide, beginning with the 2009 archery season. The vote was 5-2, so it seemed as if final approval — which could come as soon as the agency's January meeting — was a formality.

In the weeks since, though, the Bowhunters have been lobbying. They've asked the Pennsylvania Federation Sportsmen's Clubs to poll its members and find out if they support a separate season or a license for crossbow users.

The Federation has received few responses so far, said the group's executive director, Melody Zullinger. More feedback should come in January, when the Federation's divisions meet, but she's not sure what to expect, she said.

"Everything I'm getting is more questions than answers," she said. "The biggest question most people ask me is do we know what the impact's going to be on the deer herd if we get a big push of hunters into the woods with these things?"

Eleven other states allow crossbow use, said Daniel Hendricks, membership chairman of the North American Crossbow Federation, which has a new Pennsylvania chapter, with 367 members to date. None limit crossbows to their own season, he said, and only one — Virginia — requires crossbow hunters to buy a special permit.

A special crossbow permit might be OK in Pennsylvania, Hendricks said. But keeping crossbows out of the regular archery season would not.

"All of the effects (to the deer herd) vertical bowhunters say are going to happen or might happen are pure poppycock. They're just not true," he said.

"It all boils down to the fact they don't want someone in their woods shooting their deer."

Additional Information:

Vote set on crossbow issue

Pennsylvania Game Commissioners will vote whether to give final approval to the idea of allowing crossbows into the regular archery season when they meet in Harrisburg Jan. 23-25.

They will listen to public comment Jan. 23 and again Jan. 24, if needed, then vote Jan. 25.

Commissioners at that meeting cannot create a special crossbow license. Only the state legislature can do that.

To date, the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania have approached lawmakers about creating such a license, Waldron said. There has not been a lot of support so far, he admitted.

In the meantime, PFSC members can make their opinions on the issue known by contacting member at large delegate Les Haas at lnjhaas@usachoice.net .

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