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Limit crossbow use to benefit our wildlife TOM VENESKY OUTDOORS

There is something missing.

When the Pennsylvania Game Commission board meets on July 8 and 9, there’s a good chance the crossbow issue could be on the agenda yet again. This time, the proposal could be to limit crossbow use (with the exception of disabled hunters with a permit) to two weeks in the archery season and prohibit them for the archery bear season.

As a result, information has been circulating and legislation has been introduced as fast as a bolt shot from a, well, a crossbow.

In May an e-mail was circulated that reached hunters and even the Game Commission that listed the number of crossbows sold in the state since the agency implemented their use. It is believed the figures were supplied by the crossbow industry, but a call to an industry rep wasn’t returned so I can’t vouch for accuracy of the numbers.

However, the numbers are being taken seriously by many and, if they are accurate, it should open some eyes.

From January, when the PGC approved crossbow use for deer and bear, to May 7, 16,100 crossbows were sold in the state. An additional 50,000 crossbows have been shipped to various retailers, so that brings the total number of new crossbows sold in Pennsylvania since January to 66,100, and that doesn’t include crossbows purchased over the Internet or out of state.

Theoretically, there could be upwards of 100,000 new crossbow hunters, in addition to those already hunting Special Regulation Areas and disabled hunters, when archery season opens this fall.

That’s a huge jump.

As for the legislation … apparently timing is everything. Here’s a brief timeline: A motion to allow crossbows for all of the archery deer and bear seasons was preliminarily approved by the PGC board last October. It received final approval in January, with the condition that optics couldn’t be used. The “no optics” condition was discarded during the board’s April meeting, but a few weeks prior the state House introduced legislation (House Bill 965) that would classify crossbows as archery equipment. That’s significant because the bill, if it passes, handcuffs the PGC board from cutting back the amount of time crossbows can be used if it is proved they are having a detrimental impact on the resource.

And that’s what’s missing in this entire mess – concern for the resource.

Let’s assume that there will be more than 60,000 new crossbow hunters (not necessarily new hunters, however) in the woods this fall. If Pennsylvania realizes the same 50 percent success rate as reported by crossbow hunters in Georgia during the 2003-04 season, that means an additional 30,000 deer will be shot this archery season.

Can a deer herd that is still struggling to rebound in some areas and holding its own in others absorb an increased harvest of 30,000? Not hardly.

And don’t forget – that 30,000 increase means there will be 30,000 fewer deer when rifle season rolls around.

And what about the state’s bear population. As it stands now, crossbows can be used during the two-day bear archery season. A female bear reproduces only once every two years. To allow an unlimited number of crossbow hunters in the woods during the two-day bear archery season could yield extremely detrimental results for our bruins.

Hopefully, when the PGC board meets next month, they will have the votes to limit crossbow use to two weeks in archery season and prohibit it all together for bears – regardless of the pending legislation.

After all, someone has to look out for our wildlife resources through this mess.

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