Tennessee may allow use of old weapon


May 30, 2003, 01:04 AM
Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

May 29, 2003 Thursday


LENGTH: 759 words

HEADLINE: Crossbow Craze
Tennessee may allow use of old weapon

BYLINE: Richard Simms Correspondent

First came sticks and stones, and then spears, and then bows and arrows. Around 600 B.C., the crossbow was invented. For nearly 2,000 years they were the deadliest and most effective weapons known to man.

That was until the late 1400s, when hand-held guns came along. Cannons were created earlier, and the technology was slowly reduced in size.

For 500 years, however, crossbows have been relegated mainly to museums or displays of medieval culture. But now they are becoming regular stock items in most stores that sell outdoor sporting goods. And some say in the coming years they'll be even more popular.

"There's no doubt about it," said Terry Moore of Turk's Sport Shop in Tyner.

Today the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission is expected to pass a regulation legalizing the use of crossbows for deer hunting in the state, but only during the regularly scheduled firearms season -- not during the archery season.

Tennessee, like most states, has long allowed handicapped people to hunt with crossbows. But many states are loosening those rules, including Georgia, where crossbows now are allowed during all deer seasons, including archery.

Moore said that change was a boon to business.

"It was a bonanza in Georgia last year, a bonanza," he said. "Pawn shops, clothing stores -- everybody that had a business license in Georgia last year was selling crossbows."

Moore admitted the change didn't hurt his business, either.

But Tennessee is being more conservative, not allowing crossbows during the archery season. Larry Marcum, TWRA's chief of wildlife management, said crossbow proponents think the rules should be more liberal.

"We've heard some concerns," Marcum said. "They think we should do it for all seasons."

On the other hand, many die-hard bow hunters are opposed to the use of crossbows during archery season.

"There's a lot of concern among archery hunters that we may lose some liberal seasons if we get more efficient," Marcum said. "They think the increase in the kill will be significant. It's been a real sensitive issue."

But Marcum and Moore agree that an increased kill with crossbows is doubtful. Marcum has studied other states and said he knows of none that's seen a significant increase in harvests after legalizing crossbows.

"I'm of the opinion (the harvest) is about the same as archery tackle," he said.

Moore is not against crossbows during any season, but he said many of his customers are.

"They think it's too easy," he said. "I think they're wrong."

Compound bows have to be pulled back and held, using the hunter's muscle. A crossbow is drawn and cocked mechanically, which means the power of the bow can be much stronger -- 200 pounds of thrust vs. 60 or 70 pounds from a regular compound. And the crossbow is fired by pulling a trigger just as with a gun.

On the face, it seems crossbows should be much more effective. Moore said there is one primary reason they're not -- they're noisy.

Whitetail deer can actually dodge arrows. It's called "jumping the string." If they hear the foreign sound of an arrow being released, they react in a fraction of a second.

On video you can see their knees buckle, compressing like a coil spring. A perfectly aimed arrow will pass harmlessly over a deer's back.

Because of their lower power, and design, compound bows don't make much noise when they're released. But pull the trigger on a 200-pound crossbow, and it makes a noise nearly as loud as a small-caliber rifle. Crossbows might shoot accurately to 50 or 60 yards, but by the time the arrow gets there, the deer is liable to be long gone.

Still, Moore is glad Tennessee is "testing the waters." As Marcum said, "We'll see how hunters react to what we're doing right now and take it from there."

"I don't think in Tennessee you're going to see too many people in the woods with a crossbow during muzzleloader or gun season," Moore said.

He said most hunters will use the most effective weapon they can legally carry, and obviously that's going to be a gun. But hunters who want to can take advantage of crossbows, especially some who can't use a regular bow and arrow.

They can get into the crossbow business starting around $250, or buy $750.

"One of my customers is 70-something years old," Moore said. "He bought a crossbow to use in Georgia. He killed two or three deer. He can't draw a regular bow, and I was glad to see the man get to go hunting, have a good time and kill a couple."

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June 2, 2003, 12:15 PM
Most of what people say against crossbows can also be applied to those dreaded inline muzzleloaders.

Bow hunters everywhere should welcome crossbow hunters, even during their archery only seasons. In Ohio, people often use crossbows to get their start in archery hunting, and then switch to bows as their skills increase. Crossbows can really swell the hunting ranks, which is a good thing. I hunt archery season with both. I use the compound bow for stand hunting, and when I want to still hunt, or spot and stalk I take my crossbow.

IMO, Bow hunters opposition of crossbow hunters is ignorant cannablism, something that divides. Sorta like Colorado "traditional" muzzleloader hunters being against inlines. Other than a short term benefit of (maybe) not sharing your spot with another hunter, do we gain from not banding together?.

Crossbows and inline muzzleloaders have helped extend seasons and swell hunter ranks. More hunters means more clout for/with DNR departments. More hunters means more people voting for pro hunting/pro gun issues.

As someone who shoots both compound and cross bows I'll state that the only difference is that you can keep your crossbow ready to go, and you don't need to draw it when you see game. Accuracy, arrow speed and quietness is very similar. The noise from my crossbow spooking game? Not any more than my bow!

If you keep the same effective range, there is no more chance for a deer to jump the string with a crossbow than a compound bow.

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