Ready or not, crossbow hunting is on deck

Belvidere, Ill. — What becomes of the state’s new crossbow season is anybody’s guess. But right now, all focus remains on the 2012 calendar.

Dec. 3, to be exact.

“There’s definitely been a lot of curiosity around here from hunters, so it will be interesting to see how the first season goes,” Carol Rau, of Sure Shot Archery Center in Belvidere, said. “Ever since the law was passed, we’ve gotten a lot of crossbow questions and we’ve sold quite a few, too.”

Amidst a battle that pitted pro-crossbow hunters against those who favor traditional archery hunting, Gov. Pat Quinn signed House Bill 4819 in August, thus allowing the use of crossbows during the second half of archery deer hunting season.

The inaugural season will run through Jan. 20, 2013.

Both deer and turkey can be legally hunted with crossbows. Before the new law was signed, only hunters age 62 and over, and disabled hunters, were able to use crossbows in Illinois.

Among hunters that supported passage of the crossbow season was Dean Brueggemann, of Evansville.

During the early life of HB 4819, before it was passed though the Legislature, Brueggemann pointed out that there are some misunderstandings about the use of crossbows.

“I have said it before and I’ll say it again, if you haven’t hunted with a crossbow, don’t knock them,” he said. “They aren’t rifles and don’t shoot like them. I know people that have bought crossbows and hunted with them only to go back to compounds or longbows. I still think it should be up to the hunter as to what he uses, after all he paid for his permit the same as anyone else.”

Other concerns about an “open” crossbow season pertained to law enforcement. But DNR CPOs affirmed that they will be keeping a close eye on crossbow use in the field.

“I would anticipate a spike in archery hunting participation during the open crossbow period for the first year or two because of the novelty of being able to use a crossbow,” DNR Sgt. Jamie Maul said after the law was signed.

The new crossbow season has been controversial among hunters, especially those who hunt with traditional archery equipment. Both the Illinois Bowhunters Society and the United Bowhunters of Illinois sternly opposed HB 4819. The groups lobbied against the legislation and admittedly settled for a compromise. They also picked up support from other groups, including non-bowhunters, along the way.

For retailers and archery manufacturers, the Illinois crossbow law was seen as good news.

Terry Thomas, Parker Bows Regional sales manager for Central Midwest Region, cited the opportunity a crossbow season provides young hunters.

“Many kids struggle to make the legal poundage limit set on compound bows and still be able to shoot them accurately,” he said.

Mark Sidelinger, president of Geneseo-based Media Direct, which has a client list that includes TenPoint and Wicked Ridge crossbows, said he sees the situation as a win for the hunting culture.

“In these times when we are losing hunters left and right and trying to recruit and retain hunters, opening a crossbow season should be seen as a win,” Sidelinger said.

DNR officials have said they don’t expect crossbow hunting to cause a spike in deer harvest.

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