Michigan legalized the crossbow in the regular archery deer season of 2009, and conducted a study that ran through the 2011 season to see how it was working out. Below are some goals and findings of that study, followed by my first impressions in bold type.
Crossbows were allowed in the archery season in an attempt to expand hunting opportunities, retain existing hunters and recruit new hunters. Those are worthy goals, and the goals of every state DNR that has moved to allow the crossbow in early archery season.
The report’s data was gathered from a sampling of 2,000 hunters who used a crossbow during the 2011 archery season. That seems like a very small one-year sampling.
The percentage of hunters using a crossbow in archery season increased from 18.6 percent in 2009 to 29.5 percent in 2010 to 36.8 percent in 2011. The number of crossbow hunters grew from 56,915 in 2009 to 90,615 in 2010 to 118,573 in 2011. That increase is not surprising, but it does seem to support one of the arguments the anti-crossbow crowd has long been making—more pressure in the deer woods in bow season.
The number of deer taken by crossbow hunters rose from 24,882 in 2009 to 38,310 in 2010 to 54,902 in 2011. That’s a big number; I would not have foreseen that large a jump in the harvest.
77% of the hunters agreed that crossbows were easier to use than a compound and took less time to become proficient with. No doubt the technology makes the crossbow easier to shoot accurately with less practice. Seems to go to another argument of the vertical bow crowd—the crossbow should be reserved for gun season.
About 52 percent said the crossbow increased how often they were able to hunt, and 27 percent said it increased the number of deer they were able to kill. The more days people hunt is a good thing; the more success people have, the more they’ll hunt and buy licenses, another good thing.
The mean age of all licensed deer hunters in Michigan during the survey period was 42, while the mean age of crossbow hunters was 50. Supports the argument that older hunters who have trouble drawing compounds can turn to the crossbow as way to keep hunting, and that is good.
The report summarized: "Authorization of crossbows during Michigan's archery deer season appeared to be an important factor for recruiting and retaining a number of new archers…increasing the recreational opportunity for those (who) had previously hunted in the archery season, and improving the quality of hunts for archers using a crossbow." No matter how you look at it, recruiting new hunters and retaining older ones is good for the sport.
What do you think of all this? If you live and hunt in Michigan, I especially want to hear from you.