In Mississippi, could air bows find way into archery hunting circles?

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JACKSON, Miss. — Under a bill in the Mississippi Legislature, hunters could be allowed to use air bows during archery season for deer. The biggest question is who will be allowed.

House Bill 1309, authored by Rep. Joey Hood, states:

“A person exempt from having a hunting license by reason of total service-connected disability, as adjudged by the Veterans Administration, or who has been adjudged to be totally disabled by the Social Security Administration, or who is paraplegic or a multiple amputee, may hunt with an air bow during any open season on deer, turkey, or small game. For the purposes of this section, `air bow’ means a device that uses compressed air to propel arrows.”

Air bows have nothing in common with crossbows or traditional vertical bows except for using an arrow as the projectile. They are configured much like a rifle, but have a piston inside the barrel that slides into the arrow shaft. When the trigger is pulled, a burst of compressed air is released and launches the arrow to its target.

Air bows fire with more speed and accuracy than crossbows or vertical bows. They can send arrows at speeds around 450 feet per second and shoot 2-inch groups at 50 yards. They are effective and easier to use than actual bows and could open the door to hunting for people with disabilities.

OPEN DOORS FOR THE DISABLED

“The air bow bill is a good bill,” said Bill Kinkade, House Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Committee chairman. “I presented it to help the disabled get into the woods.

“It has always been my goal and always will be to help those (with disabilities) get in the woods. Those with the desire should be provided the opportunity.”

The bill passed in the House and was sent to the Senate where it was passed, but with an amendment. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Kevin Blackwell, changed the language to allow any hunter to use an air bow.

“First of all, 30 states allow the air bow in some form or fashion,” Blackwell said. “Eleven allow it for deer (during archery season).

“All I was trying to do is jump the curb and allow this for everyone. I just thought, why restrict it to such a small group of people?”

However, opposition soon came after news about the amendment began to circulate.

‘IT’S NOT ARCHERY’

“I don’t know what damage is done, but I’ve gotten a lot of blowback on it,” Kinkade said. “The bowhunters association contacted me and said they were very displeased with the bill.”

And Mississippi Bowhunters Association members aren’t the only hunters that aren’t pleased.

“I kind of have a problem with that,” said Will Osborne of Madison. “I had a problem with crossbows before, but this is totally different.

“I’ve always been a purist when it comes to archery. I’ve used crossbows for hogs, but when it comes to deer I’ve always used a compound or traditional bow.”

While he doesn’t feel air bows should be legal for all hunters during archery season, he said he fully supports air bow use by disabled hunters because he’s been involved in hunts dedicated to hunters with special needs.

“I’ve helped with the Super Hunt before, and it’s hard for some of them to use a crossbow,” Osborne said. “I’d love for them to be able to use something like that.”

Jim Bob Brock of Crystal Springs has similar feelings. He also supports the bill in its original form, but is against allowing everyone to use an air bow during archery season.

“Honestly, to me, it’s a great thing for the disabled, but it’s not bowhunting. It’s not archery,” Brock said. “With all the things that exist, I don’t know why they think we need to hunt with a rifle-like air bow.

“Each season is getting diluted to the point they aren’t what they were intended to be. We keep trying to tweak things to make them better, but at times I think we make them worse.”

According to Kinkade, the fate of the bill will be determined by a committee made up of members of both chambers. While he said he’d prefer the bill be passed in its original form, he’s not sure of the outcome.

“We’ll just work it out,” Kinkade said. “We’ll all be happy, or we won’t have it at all.”

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