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Monday, May 27th, 2024

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Monday, May 27th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Crossbow sales heat up slowly in Minnesota after legislation change

Mike Schaffran, of Alexandria, Minn., sights in his crossbow on June 19, 2023. Those looking to get into hunting with a crossbow can easily get sighted in at 20 yards and be ready to hunt with it before leaving the store when purchasing a crossbow. (Photo by Eric Morken)

Plymouth, Minn. — It will take a couple of years to get a handle on how many more hunters will head to the woods with crossbows following recent legislation that allows crossbow use for all ages during Minnesota’s regular archery season. 

If hunters are curious about what the effect of that legislation might be, so too are archery-gear proprietors around the state who are attempting to determine how many more crossbows to have on hand right now. 

“We’ve had multiple meetings on this,” said Brandon Looman, manager at Archery Country in Waite Park. “We’ve been calling archery shops in Wisconsin and asking, ‘Year one, year two, what was it like for you guys?’ Business-wise, it’s hard because you can’t have a ton of inventory that doesn’t sell.”

June is typically a quiet time of year in terms of bow sales at archery shops. Things pick up considerably near the start of August as hunters start to think more about the mid-September archery opener in the state. 

RELATED STORY: Minnesota DNR works on plan to track crossbow data after legislators approve their full use during archery season

So far, representatives from archery shops in Minnesota are reporting mixed customer interest as hunters learn about the new crossbow regulation. Many have seen an uptick in people inquiring about them, but crossbows aren’t flying off the shelves right now.

“I would say in the month of June on average in past years you’d maybe sell like one crossbow a week,” Looman said. “I’m shooting off the hip there, but we’re pretty much selling like one a day right now. There are other people calling to ask questions, so we can already tell there’s definitely an increase in it, but it’s not crazy.”

Looman said he could see that flurry of sales activity coming later this summer when action typically picks up in the store. He said he wouldn’t be surprised to see crossbow sales nearly match the number of compound bows they sell later this summer. 

Crossbows are often considered a good tool to use to introduce kids to hunting for whitetails. (Photo by Eric Morken)

“I could be totally wrong on that, but that’s my guess. If that happens, we’ll be selling five to 10 a day in that August and September time,” Looman said.

John Chalstrom, owner of Chalstrom’s Bait, Tackle and Archery Pro Shop in Duluth, said he has not sold a crossbow in the past month, given that fishing is on the minds of most people. 

“I think in the next month, (our archery sales) will start going. Most years, we’ll sell maybe eight or nine (crossbows) compared to about 100 compounds,” Chalstrom said. “I bet you, just my own gut feeling, that eight or nine a year will probably bump up to around 25 to 30 a year.”

What crossbows offer

Alex Derosier, an archery technician at the Archery Country location in Brainerd, said there have been additional people in the store wanting to learn more about crossbows. A typical question he gets from customers is, “How far is their effective range?”

“I always say that every situation is different, but a crossbow is not going to extend your range with a bow by a ton,” Derosier said. “You’re still looking at that 40-, 50-yard shot (in a hunting situation).”

Many crossbows certainly can shoot accurately to 100 yards on a stationary target. And it takes little time to dial them in, as long as the user has a stable platform. 

“It takes maybe two to six shots and you’re sighted in at 20 yards,” Looman said. “Most of these crossbows now, especially the mid-range to high-end ones, all have speed-dial scopes, so you match the speed dial up to the scope, sight in at 20, and then it auto-calculates it, so now you’re sighted in to 50 to 100 yards without ever shooting anything but 20. Most of the people are leaving the store, and you’re (ready).”

Prices that customers might pay for crossbows run the gamut – anywhere from about $300 at the cheapest to nearly $5,000 for the top of the line. The higher the price, the better features and overall parts a person is getting within the crossbow itself and the accessories that come as part of the package on it, Looman said.

Top-end crossbows are now marketed as shooting at speeds of up to 500 feet per second. 

“They’re accurate,” said Marty Stubstad, of Archery Headquarters in Rochester.

Stubstad comes at the subject of universal crossbow use from a unique position. 

He has owned Archery Headquarters for 46 years. At 69 years old and with medical issues that have limited his ability to use a compound bow, he currently uses a crossbow himself. But he also strongly fought against allowing their use for all ages during a full archery season in Minnesota that lasts more than three months.

“To me, it’s not an archery weapon,” Stubstad said. “I have no problem with the 60-year-old or disabled person (using it). What I have always been totally against is that 25-year-old coming in and buying a crossbow and being able to use it during the archery season. Fun to shoot, absolutely, and they have a place.”

Educating new customers

Stubstad said the customers who are coming into his shop right now are looking for information about crossbows as they decide whether or not they want to buy one. 

One customer with two teenage kids was interested in a crossbow due to the fact that it is a tool his whole family could use for hunting.

“That’s a good family experience of being together and getting them off the couch,” Stubstad said. “It’s just that the whole intent of being in the archery season is what I’ve always had a big complaint about. But it’s passed, there’s nothing we can do about it, so we’re going to live with it and move on from there.”

Stubstad said he wants his shop to be a place where customers can get answers on how to shoot crossbows and better understand their capabilities. The biggest fallacy of crossbows, he said, is that they can consistently make quick kills on animals at long distances.

“It’s no different than shooting at an animal at 100 yards with your compound,” he said. “An animal can take three steps before the arrow gets there. It’s the same thing (with) a crossbow.”

Andy Larsen, owner of Bwana Archery in Little Canada, echoed the importance of educating a new segment of hunters who might use crossbows for the first time.

Crossbows are not built to be shot hundreds of times leading up to a hunting season. The force required to shoot at top speeds means a shorter lifespan for strings and cables.

“I feel like we’re going to get a lot of customers buying crossbows (while) not realizing that some of what I call the hot-rod crossbows are pretty high-maintenance,” Larsen said. “Some of these high-end crossbows that are 450 to 500 feet per second have shot counts of 200 to 300 shots. You … could essentially need to replace those strings after one good night of shooting. That’s something that’s going to have to be conveyed a little better than it is.”

Differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin

Larsen said Bwana Archery has not noticed a big change in crossbow sales since the bill passed during the 2023 legislation session. Wisconsin is about a 20-minute drive from their location, and their store did experience a “pretty decent jump” in sales when crossbows were allowed for all during the Wisconsin archery season almost 10 years ago.

Will Minnesota see a similar bump eventually? Larsen is not so sure. 

Wisconsin allows hunters to shoot bucks on both archery and gun licenses. That’s an added incentive for many to hunt both seasons. The state also has a firearms season that falls later in November (Nov. 18-26 in 2023), meaning more hunters could simply be taking advantage of an opportunity to hunt the rut earlier in November ahead of the gun season. 

Minnesota is a one-buck state except for seven deer permit areas in the southeast where CWD is present and hunters can shoot up to three bucks. The state’s gun season also runs during the peak breeding period when most hunters are in the woods with a firearm. Time will tell if these factors affect how many people ultimately grab crossbows in the Gopher State.

“The fact of the matter is anybody could use a crossbow (during Minnesota’s gun season) as it stood before,” Larsen said. “We’ll see how many of those guys are going to get out there early with the mosquitoes with the vertical bow guys and see what happens.”

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