2018-10-06 / Outdoors

Crossbows gaining popularity

Pennsylvania’s statewide archery deer season for antlered or antlerless deer continues through Nov. 12, extended to Monday in observance of the Veterans Day holiday. The season then makes its usual post-holiday curtain call from Dec. 26 to Jan. 12.

One trend that the Pa. Game Commission (PGC) reports is the growing use of crossbows. Statistics from the 2017 underscore that point. Some 61 percent of the 110,000 deer taken in the archery seasons fell to crossbows. As recently as 2012, the figure was less than 50 percent.

PGC began allowing the use of crossbows in 2009. While the number of whitetails killed by hunters during archery season has increased, forecasts of a major spike in those numbers have been unfounded, according to the Game Commission.

Depending on the skill level of the shooter, crossbows exceed compound, recurve and longbows when it comes to accuracy and speed. Unlike their traditional archery counterparts, crossbows can be pre-drawn, which reduces fatigue and are shouldered and aimed like a rifle.

Defenders of crossbows point out that they are more humane and reduce the number of whitetails who are wounded but never located.

Opponents express concern that the trend is taking too heavy of a toll on bucks before they enter the breeding season.

PGC spokesman Travis Lau pointed out that there’s no specific number that the agency watches to determine if the harvest is too large, but changes would be recommended if the monitoring turned up significant biological impacts on the deer herd.

Game managers point out that if a crossbow hunter didn’t harvest a buck during the archery season, he or she will likely be out there hunting again in the rifle deer season.

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