With the statewide whitetail deer archery season kicking off this Saturday, it’s a safe bet that many archery hunters in Pennsylvania will be carrying crossbows in the fields. deer antlers as preferred archery equipment. This does not suit many traditionalists in bow hunting.

These “traditionalists” are those who tend to idealize archers as people who hunt with “string and stick,” a description that suggests the deployment of the most primitive of sporting weapons.

It is reminiscent of the days when archery hunting was the exclusive preserve of longbows and recurve bows. But that all changed with the advent of the compound bow as interest in bow hunting skyrocketed with the introduction of a device fitted with wheels, cams, sights and triggers. mechanics which allowed the archer to draw the bow and maintain the draw thanks to a stop point and a significant drop in draw weight.

First developed by Holless Wilbur Allen in the late 1960s, this radical new bow was intended to revolutionize archery and archery hunting. Compared to traditional long and recurve bows, compound bows were more user-friendly, faster, and spectacularly accurate.

As a result, archery license sales have grown exponentially here in Pennsylvania and across the country. As a perspective, consider that in 1951, when the state’s very first archery season was established, only about 5,500 archery hunters, limited to longbows and recurves, participated. Fast forward to the post-complex era where in 2020 the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) sold a record 373,700 archery licenses.

But crossbow hunters now represent an ever increasing percentage of those license sales. Until 2009, only hunters with a medical excuse were allowed to use crossbows during the regular archery season. But in 2009, over the objections of many archery traditionalists, including members of the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania (UBP), the PGC made crossbows legal for everyone, and the sales of archery licenses. the arc immediately jumped another 14,000 that year.

UBP reluctantly accepted the new reality of crossbows rivaling “vertical bows” in deer antlers today. Their crossbow policy states, in part, “The United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania recognize crossbows as a viable hunting tool; This is evidenced by the fact that we have always supported the use of crossbows in PA by the truly disabled and those who are physically unable to draw a bow. “

Fair enough, but this support for the use of the crossbow is followed by a caveat: “UBP also recognizes the important fundamental differences between crossbows and the more traditional bows which we define as being ‘held in place. hand, hand drawn and hand released without the aid of a range compensating staff. ‘”

These people from UBP have a very valid point. There is a world of difference between a modern crossbow and any high tech compound bow. I have two crossbows and a few compound bows in my own archery arsenal, and there is simply no comparison. To develop the points made in the UBP crossbow policy, a compound bow is like any other vertical bow in the fundamental mechanics required to throw an arrow in play. It is held in the hand and should be drawn when the game is at hand. scope. In terms of mechanics, with its stock, range, trigger, safety and exceptional arrow speeds, a modern crossbow looks more like a rifle than a bow.

The action of drawing a vertical arc creates movement that can alert the target animal and send that doe or goat to the next county. But more than anything, success even with the most sophisticated compound bow requires something crossbow archers don’t have to face: practice, and tons of that.

To stay sharp and focused, traditional archery hunters need a regimen of regular workouts. On the other hand, once a crossbow has been sighted, it is no longer necessary to practice. Just remove the crossbow from the shelf, place the reticle on the target, pull the trigger, and wait a bull’s-eye every time, practice or no practice.

Another advantage of the crossbow’s horizontal configuration is the fact that, like a firearm, it can be fired from a mount. Many tree stands today come equipped with a “shooting rail” which serves this purpose and gives the crossbow hunter a sturdy stand from which to aim and shoot. And since the crossbow is pre-cocked, there is no pulling motion that could alert the deer. Most compound arch hunters rely on their bow anchoring with a kiss button, sight, and aiming pins. While this may stabilize their shot, it cannot compare to the benefit of using a high powered mount and scope.

And crossbows are more and more technologically advanced every year. A friend of mine just bought a new TenPoint Siege model crossbow that sells for around $ 1,800. It’s a compact reverse-pull model with excellent balance that spits arrows at speeds of around 410 feet per second. There are crossbows around $ 4000 in price that offer arrow speeds of 500 FPS or more. If there’s one downside to crossbows over compounds, it’s that they tend to be a lot heavier and a bit louder.

Given the considerable advantages of a crossbow over any vertical bow, including compounds, it is no surprise that some traditionalist archers advocate a separate season for crossbows, perhaps with a few weeks cut off. the generous archery season which now runs from October 2 to November. 19 statewide and September 18 through November 26 here in Wildlife Management Units 5C and 5D. Or maybe designate a few weeks of the end of the archery season which runs Dec 27-Jan 17 statewide (through Jan 29 in WMU 5C and 5D) as a crossbow only .

By creating a separate season for the crossbow only, the PGC could increase its chests by offering a special crossbow license that would be needed to hunt the new season. It would probably also be a boon for crossbow manufacturers.

But such a move by the PGC is unlikely now that the crossbow horse is out of the barn. The aging and sometimes physically compromised brotherhood of bow hunting is gradually moving away from compounds for crossbows. For young people and supervised children, crossbows are by far the weapon of choice for archery.

The PGC tells us that archery hunters made up about a third of Pennsylvania’s overall deer harvest in 2019-20, taking 145,908 deer ($ 74,190 and 71,718 antlerless deer) with bows or crossbows. The PGC did not provide a breakdown of the vertical arc harvest stats versus the crossbow (if they even have that data), but given the trends, it’s a safe bet that crossbows will continue. to take a bigger and bigger bite of this game pie.

Tom Tatum is the Outdoor Columnist for the MediaNews Group. You can reach him at [email protected]