Madison — After years of wrangling among various sportsmen’s groups over who to leave in and who to leave out, the Legislature passed – and Gov. Scott Walker signed into law – Assembly Bill 194 that expands crossbow hunting opportunities to anyone eligible to buy a hunting license in Wisconsin.
The compromise amendment to AB 194 left some stakeholders relieved that the matter is settled, at least temporarily. It allows for an all-inclusive crossbow season that will run concurrent with the regular archery season, beginning with the September archery opener and ending the first weekend in January (except for the day prior to the gun deer opener).
Under the new law, hunters will be required to indicate which type of bow was used when registering their deer. DNR officials will be directed to monitor the crossbow harvest for the first two years to determine if any changes are necessary after that point. DNR oversight will provide answers to many questions regarding possible overharvest and concerns about restricting opportunities for gun hunters. Officials expect feedback from hunters who may have switched to crossbow use to establish comparisons about the relative safety, effectiveness, and overall satisfaction with regard to crossbows, compounds, and other archery equipment.
A cadre of crossbow supporters joined Walker at the state Capitol on Dec. 12 as he signed the bill. Included was Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, lead sponsor of the bill. Czaja has advocated for expanded crossbow use for economic and personal reasons.
“My area needs jobs,” Czaja said at a public hearing before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee this past May. In addition, Czaja has another, more personal, reason for supporting crossbow use. A breast cancer survivor who has undergone reconstructive surgery, Czaja has difficulty drawing a bow string. “I can’t pull that bow back anymore.”
Al Schimelphenig, president of the Wisconsin Crossbow Association and delegate to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress (Ozaukee County), has worked though the Congress and his legislative delegation to achieve passage of the bill.
“It is an unreasonable restriction of citizen rights and opportunities to exclude women, youth, the aged, and the handicapped through unnecessary medical tests, permits, equipment restrictions, as well as strength, fitness, and age barriers,” Schimelphenig testified at the May hearing. “It’s the only way to level the playing field. It opens the archery season for all.”
While Czaja tackles job growth at the legislative level, Jeff and Brad Adee, of Milton, take the perspective of entrepreneurs who hope to grow their business with the expansion of the crossbow industry. Jeff, Brad, and a third brother, Brian, own Headhunter Bow Strings, with facilities in Milton and Meeker, Colo. Jeff and Brad Adee manage the Milton plant, while Brian Adee directs operations in Colorado.
The Adee brothers were on hand for the bill signing. The business owners are excited about the prospects of a larger market for their products.
“Estimates are that 60,000 people will buy crossbows in the state next year,” Jeff Adee said. “Figure a low median price of $600 (for) a bow plus additional equipment and take 5 percent of that for state taxes. It adds up.”
In a related action, Walker also signed Assembly Bill 8 into law on Tuesday, Dec. 10. According to a Wisconsin Bowhunters Association press release, the bill promotes hunting with bow and arrow or crossbow within urban areas by prohibiting local governments from imposing further restrictions on hunting with these weapons except within 100 yards of a building. The owner of the building may allow such hunting if he or she chooses to do so.
The bill was introduced in the Assembly by Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, and Rep. Thomas Larson, R-Colfax. Senate cosponsors were Sen. Neil Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.
“We commend Gov. Walker and the authors in further expanding bowhunting opportunity for sportsmen and women in Wisconsin,” said WBA president Mike Brust. “We are especially appreciative of Rep. Kleefisch and Sen. Kedzie for their dedication to promoting and protecting bowhunting in Wisconsin.”
Both laws will be effective for the 2014-15 hunting seasons.