Thursday, January 26th, 2023
Thursday, January 26th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

What’s the big deal about crossbows?

Back in 1990, I was invited to participate in an outdoor writer
media event in Ohio to sample the much-maligned crossbow – the
Devil’s tool. Or so I thought. After a couple shots at a target, I
turned to my father, Bill Hilts, Sr., and said, “These things are
fun to shoot. I think our misconceptions of these things aren’t
justified at all. Let’s go hunting!” And hunting we did. For the
next two decades, we continued to hunt with crossbows in one of the
most liberal states in the country when it comes to using these
important management tools – Ohio. Buckeye State sportsmen have
been using crossbows during their lengthy archery season since the
1980s. Currently, the “bow” season runs from the last weekend in
September until the first weekend in February. The state gives
hunters the choice – what kind of bow do they want to use to
harvest their deer? There are also relatively short seasons for
muzzleloader and other firearms to take deer, too. You are given a
choice … and you can only harvest one antlered deer per season.
Antlerless deer are a different story and numbers correspond with
where you are in the state.

Which brings us back to New York. In the battle to allow
crossbow use in the Empire State, education has been slow. It was
identified long ago as one of the top priorities by the
Conservation Fund Advisory Board to increase funding for state
sportsmen. It was approved by the state’s Conservation Council
through resolution in the 1990s. Still, a relatively small group of
archers – the New York Bowhunters (the organization, not the actual
tag holders in the state) – continue their vehement opposition to
any use of crossbows in the state. The recent passage of
legislation that will finally allow crossbows to be used in New
York was watered down so much that it will ultimately be
ineffective as a management tool or a money-generator to the
Conservation Fund. The only time you can use them is during the
regular big game season and the late muzzleloader season,
concurrent with gun usage. The New York Bowhunters group argues
that this is where it belongs – they are too easy to shoot, it will
bring too many people into the woods if it was allowed in the early
archery season, they are a poacher’s tool and they would decimate
the deer herds. The arguments go on and on.


Too easy to shoot? I can’t understand that argument. They would
fault someone for being proficient with something with relatively
little practice. While they claim that they work hard at their
bow-bending skills, not everyone does. I hear the horror stories
and I know what goes on out there. No one is perfect. And they
fight to not include “proficiency” in any bow education class. All
bows are made for short range, just like the crossbow. Every deer
I’ve ever taken has been inside of 25 yards. And I’ve put the meat
in the freezer for every single one of those deer that I’ve found
my mark on – a dozen to date with a crossbow. Too many people in
the woods? With declining hunter numbers, we need to get people out
there. These are excellent recruitment tools for youth, women and
even some of our senior hunters that can’t pull a bow back.
Physically challenged hunters should be at the top of the list – no
questions asked. They, along with senior hunters, need to be in the
woods when it’s warmer. Give them the early archery season at the
very least. Poacher’s tool? A myth for sure. Ever try to shoot one
out of the front seat of a pickup truck? Decimate the deer herd?
You still have to get that deer within an effective range. Because
of a short power stroke, the arrow on my crossbow drops more than
six feet at 60 yards!


In the quest to include crossbows in New York, the Hilts clan has
been compared to Hitler and the Nazis by NYB. We’ve been called
other names that were comparable, bought and paid for by the
manufacturers. We just want to be able to hunt with crossbows
during the state’s archery seasons. Is that too much to ask?


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