The modern hunting crossbow—and its acceptance by American hunters—has come a long way in the past 10 years. Today, a majority of states east of the Mississippi have permitted the crossbow to be used in at least a portion of their regular archery deer season, a fact that many thought improbable as recently as the late 1990s.
A new hunter survey released by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources shows that despite a slight decline in overall hunter numbers, there has been a steady increase in the number of hunters choosing to use a crossbow since it was added to the archery deer season beginning in 2009.
Through the issuance of a crossbow permit stamp, the DNR has able to accurately track the growth in crossbow use, as well as determine the success rate for those opting to carry one afield.
The number of Michigan hunters obtaining crossbow stamps grew from 45,692 in 2009, to 64,340 in 2010, to 74,120 in 2011 and to 88,565 last year. The percentage of Michigan hunters taking part in the archery hunt opting for crossbows increased from 18.6 percent in 2009, to 29.5 percent in 2010 and to 36.8 percent in 2011.
While the number of deer taken by crossbow hunters during those years rose from 24,882 in 2009, to 38,310 in 2011 and to 54,902 in 2011, the percentage of success remained nearly the same, hovering around 37 percent.
As for the doomsday predictors who asserted that permitting crossbows in the woods would result in a decimated deer herd and a drastically reduced gun harvest … well, those claims just don’t hold up.
Although the expanded opportunity increased the number of archery hunters, the amount of deer harvested overall during the archery season did not increase each year. Harvest of deer over all seasons combined declined or was similar to previous years, according to the DNR.
Further, the survey data indicates the crossbow is helping attract more hunters, while aiding in the retention of older ones and recruitment of younger ones.
“We have discovered that in 2011, 25 percent of the crossbow users had not hunted in the archery season in previous years,” said DNR Deer and Elk Program Leader Brent Rudolph. “These hunters were newly recruited or drawn back to the sport of archery hunting.”
Other data gathered from the Michigan Crossbow Hunter Survey:
- 88 percent of the crossbow hunters indicated their experience hunting with a crossbow had met all or most of their expectations.
- Around 65 percent of the crossbow hunters improved the quality of their hunt.
- 77 percent of the crossbow hunters agreed that in comparison to other types of bows (1) crossbows were easier to use, (2) it took less time to become proficient with crossbows, (3) they were more accurate with crossbows, and (4) they were more confident they could harvest a deer using a crossbow.
- About half of the crossbow hunters surveyed agreed that (1) using crossbows allowed them to hunt more often, (2) they would not hunt during the archery season if crossbows could not be used, and (3) they would not want to hunt in the archery season if crossbows could not be used.
- About 52 percent of crossbow hunters reported using crossbows increased how often they hunted in the archery season, and 27 percent indicated using a crossbow had increased the number of deer they took in the archery season.
- About 96 percent of the crossbow hunters planned to use a crossbow to hunt in future archery seasons in Michigan and 57 percent of crossbow hunters planned to increase the amount of time they hunt in future seasons.