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Friday, July 5, 2013

The Politics of Hunting

Little Michael is 12 years old but not real big for his age. He is consumed with hunting and his eyes light up when the talk moves to whitetails, bows and camping. At 12, he is old enough to take the Hunter Education Course and legally hunt. He has a compound bow set at 20 lbs. and can launch an arrow effectively but a 20 lb draw weight is well below the minimum requirement for hunting. He is a gamer. I wonder how long it will be before he can hunt with a bow or gun and kill his first deer?
Fred is 79 and has hunted all of his life. He can't take the cold like he used to and finally decided to retire his compound bow this year. It was too much. Fred looked forward to archery season for more than 60 years. The recoil of a high power firearm is not appealing for Fred anymore at his age but he still looks kindly at his .30-06 hanging above the fireplace and relives the hunts of the 60's and 70's on many a winter evening. I wonder if Fred has killed his last deer. 
Oddly, the answer depends on where Michael and Fred live. If they live in New York State, venison will probably not be in the freezer. If they live on Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland or many other states, the 2013 Fall hunting season can be the stuff of dreams. Here's why.
It all comes down the politics. 
After hunting with nearly every tool out there, a conclusion is that a crossbow would be a very smart choice for both Michael (12) and Fred (79) but if they happen to live in New York State, the crossbow choice is off the table. It appears that a crossbow will be an illegal hunting implement in New York state for 2013 after an initial and very successful trial run for the past two seasons. Crossbow legislation was not voted down. The wildlife biologists didn't think crossbows were a bad idea. Most hunters wanted the opportunity. A few myopic hunters who wanted to exclude crossbows from hunting all together lobbied and won. The crossbow legislation was "stuck in committee" which is a clever way to stop something from happening. It is about as courageous as voting in the middle of the night for legislation that no one has read or understands and believing yourself to be a hero. That is another story.
So the gent that controls the NY committee on the subject controls the agenda and relayed this little gem about crossbows, "They are a superior weapon. They do not belong in the archery season. Crossbows and bow hunting are not compatible."
The fellow should talk with Michael and Fred. 
But since we are talking about the superiority of one hunting tool over another as if its a bad thing..... which misses the point to a degree about hunting in my book, maybe we sportsmen should turn against ourselves and eliminate other superior choices in archery season like compound bows. You see..... I was there when compound bows were becoming popular in the 1980's. While I still shot my Fred Bear recurve, it was OK with me if others wanted to launch their arrow using cables, sights, and cams. Seemed like more trouble than it was worth and in the early days, it was. But it was a choice.
The archery controversy is politics today in many places and is not reality based. It is people saying it is about "me, and only my bow (as I define it) and archery season (as I define) and I don't want others (like crossbow hunters) getting in my way when it comes to my archery season." 
Crossbows and modern compound bows shoot at basically the same speeds and are effective at the same distances. Having some practical limitations is fair but rules should be few but always be based on logic. Like prohibiting waterfowl hunting with # 8 shot. Or making it illegal to hunt deer at night. 
To understand superiority of a few hunting implements, pictured in clockwise order are:
1. Ruger -  .308 Bolt Action Rifle: Give me 1 hour to put on a good scope and sight the rifle in and it will hit a 9" pie plate every time at 600 yards. 
2. 5 Traditional Recurve Bows -45lb to 55lb draw weight: Give me 30 days of practice and I will hit a 9" pie plate every time at 20 yards. That is my comfort zone.
3. Modern Compound Bow 55lb draw weight: Give me 5 minutes of practice (since I didn't pick the bow since last season), and I will hit the dead center of the pie plate every time at 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards. With my drop away rest, 50% let off and rear peep sight coupled with my fiber optic sight pins with battery illumination, and laser rangefinder mounted on my bow, how could I miss?
Give me 5 days of practice and I will hit a soda can at 80 yards.
I could do the same with a Kodabow crossbow though I would never hunt at those distances.
In places like Pennsylvania, only one Buck per year can be killed regardless of hunting implement choice and the battle over "what is archery" is hopefully behind us. Actually, the deer seemed very indifferent to my choice whether it was a longbow, recurve, compound bow, handgun, shotgun, rifle, flintlock or modern muzzleloader. 
So in the end, here are a few thoughts:
-  Good folks like Michael and Fred just want to get down the road and hunt and a crossbow is a great choice for them. 
-  Many of the most fanatical diehards who say archery is just about "vertical bows" and work to exclude crossbows will pull out a shoulder this summer while proving they can still draw 80 lbs at their archery club. They will covertly contact Kodabow and sneak in for a crossbow so they can make it into the woods this Fall. We will treat them with hospitality and respect.
-  A modern compound vertical bow with all of the many options available is equal to if not superior to a crossbow in many respects. While there is no movement in shooting a crossbow as compared to drawing a vertical bow, I have had yet to kill a deer with a 2nd shot from a crossbow but have done so a few times with a vertical bow.
- Hunters should be supportive and encourage more involvement and participation in our sport rather than look for methods to exclude others. 
- Those who still take to the woods with just a string, stick, wooden arrows and turkey feathers, my hat is off to you in praise. You have stayed loyal to the most traditional aspects of the sport by personal choice. However, if you shooting a 2014 model of the latest vertical compound bow with Super Cams and all the rest of the techno stuff ---that's fine....but if you then lobby to restrict crossbow hunters like Fred and Michael, shame on you. It's really not all about you. 
My best,
Chuck

PS. For the crossbow hunters in NY State, you are welcome here in Pennsylvania. Come  and spend a few days. Buy a license. Sample our hospitality. Eat in our restaurants and spend a few dollars. 








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