House OKs crossbow use for archery hunt

Lansing – An effort to legalize the use of crossbows during the
archery deer season took a huge leap forward with legislative
action that occurred late last month.

The state House of Representatives on June 19 voted 94-14 in
favor of HB 5741. That bill, introduced by Rep. Joel Sheltrown, D-
West Branch, would allow the use of a crossbow by any licensed
hunter during any season in which bowhunting is legal.

The bill has been sent to the Senate Committee on Natural
Resources and Environmental Affairs, chaired by Sen. Patricia
Birkholz, R-Saugatuck. It still needs Senate approval and the
governor’s signature for it to become law. The Legislature
currently is on summer break.

The original version of the bill sought legalization of
crossbows for senior hunters and less stringent requirements for
those with a disability who sought a crossbow permit.

“When I introduced HB 5741, I was asking for crossbows for
hunters age 69 and older and also to reduce the disability
requirement from 80 percent to 60 percent,” Sheltrown told Michigan
Outdoor News. “I asked the NRC to look at crossbows on disability
and age and to give me a recommendation up or down. It sounded like
they didn’t want to, but they finally put a subcommittee
together.

“In our research, we found no reason not to go for full
inclusion,” he said. “The NRC sub-committee didn’t look at anything
other than disability. They didn’t want to look at full
inclusion.”

Sheltrown chairs the House committee on Tourism, Outdoor
Recreation and Natural Resources, where the bill was introduced.
The bill was taken up in its original form, and public testimony
was taken. A week later, at a second meeting of the committee, the
bill had been amended to make it all-inclusive (legal for any
licensed hunter). Two days later, it was introduced on the House
floor and passed.

“Eight people showed up at that (first) meeting to testify in
favor of crossbows, and five of them were from the crossbow
industry,” said Jerry Keck, a member of the Michigan Bowhunters
Association, as well as the NRC’s subcommittee on crossbows.
“Twelve people testified with concerns about it. Two of the people
in support of legalizing crossbows gave a … presentation from the
Archery Trade Association, and after that presentation Sheltrown
said he wanted to amend the legislation and make it
all-inclusive.

“A week later, they voted it out of committee as all-inclusive.
In one day, they did a second and third reading on the (House)
floor and a vote was called. I’ve talked to some (House) members
who voted for it and said they didn’t know the bill had been
changed. This is nothing but election-year heroics by Sheltrown.
This is the greatest threat to bowhunting in the 72 years of the
sport.”

Sheltrown disagrees.

“All of the arguments brought forth by Michigan Bowhunters, we
didn’t see in other states,” Sheltrown said.

Not so, according to Keck.

“In Ohio they had to change the season to accommodate the
crossbow,” he said. “Crossbows have been around for a long time. In
1940 the state attorney general ruled that crossbows are not bows
and can’t be used for bowhunting. In 1947 the Legislature etched it
in stone.

“Crossbows don’t require any archery skills,” Keck said. “The
archery deer season was established for guys who wanted to hunt
with hand-held bows. A crossbow is nothing more than a gun that
shoots arrows”

Dan Eichinger, the DNR’s legislative liaison, said the
department also has concerns with the bill.

“We do have some concerns as the bill was passed by the house,”
Eichinger told Michigan Outdoor News. “Section 40113A of the
Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act states
that it is the authority of the NRC to regulate the taking of game.
We feel we should give full faith to the (NRC’s subcommittee on
crossbows) and the work they have done on this issue over the last
four or five months.”

In addition, Keck said that in 2000, the Legislature transferred
the authority to regulate the use of crossbows to the NRC.
Sheltrown’s bill, he said, although it doesn’t spell it out,
attempts to take back that authority.

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