Monday, June 3, 2024

Crossbow Hunting for Deer in Minnesota

Environmental & Science Education, Society, Wildlife, Nature

Ed Hesser

Crossbows for all in Minnesota! I missed that development.

In 2023, StarTribune outdoor writer Dennis Anderson wrote two blistering articles published December 15 and September 14 about a change in hunting regulations. The December 15 article "Crossbows undermine spirit of bow. hunting" and a previous one (see below) is sure to win him some detractors in the big game hunting community. The December 15 article is subscription protected. 

I did know that crossbows were allowed for deer hunting for the elderly and the disabled which was also true in Wisconsin.

However, a previous article in the StarTribune for September 14 titled "Minnesota eases crossbow regulations, makes killing deer easier --- just like everything else" is online and if you don't have access to the December 15 article it is really worth reading since it makes some of the same points and adds some new ones.

From Anderson's December 15, 2023 Star Tribune column.

--This new law has "brought new people to bow hunting. Last year the number of bow licenses sold were 101,555 but Anderson notes as of September 11, 107,270 hunters have purchased licenses. 

--The new Minnesota license is different from a similar one issued in Wisconsin in 2013. Licenses are designated for bowhunting while Wisconsin made a distinction: "one for crossbows and one for more traditional bows. This has made it possible for Wisconsin game specialists to calculate the difference. In 2017, "crossbow users killed more deer than archers using" vertical bows. And this fall  20,983 whitetails were killed by hunters using traditional bows, "while 32,297 have been taken by crossbows."

--In Minnesota the best that can be done is estimate  the difference between the two types of bows. "The whitetail kill by archery is about the same as last year (21,600 so far; the season ends December31). So far, it is 43%.

--Anderson devotes considerable column space discussing archer Fred Bear who "was modern bow hunting's architect-in-chief." His weapon was a recurve bow, He never used compound bows "but lived long enough to see (their) popularization." His technique was close stalking - 20 to 25 yards. Anderson quotes Bear who said "'I hunt because I love the entire process, the preparations, the excitement and sustained suspense of trying to match my woods lore against the finely honed instincts. ...It makes no difference whether or not I got anything: it has to do with how the day was spent."

--For Anderson it is not about selling more licenses or the size of the annual harvest. "The question instead should be about us' what we've been and what we're becoming. And whether, and how, we learn to value the natural world and our place in it, rather than merely exploit it." For Bear bow hunting required the hunter to "look at things more closely."

--"Saturday morning, when archery deer hunting season begins anew, some Minnesotans who climb into tree stands will take the easy way out. Just as the Legislature did in its last session."

--Skill, practice, patience have been thrown out the window, replaced by what can be a significant investment in a "killing machine." Hunting and killing become synonymous.

--Anderson also points out other changes made to "coddle" hunters who apparently are viewed as softies, especially the aging ones. He mentions the technology used in fishing and in hunting, the four opening dates for duck hunters

--"Some aspects of modern-day society — and hunting and fishing provide ideal forums — should be reserved for traditionalists who believe reward and effort should be in equilibrium, a particularly worthwhile notion when the taking of an animal's life is at stake."

--There was no expert input or MnDNR testimony during the crossbow legislative process, the sponsors skipped sessions on it, choosing to sneak "the provision into a conference committee report." And I would have thought they might have reviewed Wisconsin's history, especially on two different licenses for bow hunting.

--Anderson includes a discussion of the provision, the situation in Wisconsin,  why he thinks "the crossbow boondoggle here will never be recanted, even though the MnDNR will develop an appraisal of its ramifications in three years" and how quickly even first-time crossbow hunters can become accurate with their shots.

--In a sentence that can be easily viewed as foreshadowing what Fred Bear said about why he hunts, Anderson wrote "Better, I say, to go, or stay, retro and consider archery less as a way to put meat in a freezer and more as a means of self-discovery."

Fred Bear as Anderson notes "started Bear Products Company in 1933".  It was the forerunner to the current Bear Archery Company.  Of course, they market crossbows.

Fred Bear's son-in-law, Charles Kroll, wrote a biography of Fred Bear. Its "360 pages include 243 historic photographs".  My link is to Amazon but the book is also sold by Bear Archery Company. I also include a short Wiki entry which provides many details about Fred Bear, both a substitute and perhaps addition to Kroll's book. 
In addition, Jorge L Koppen wrote a history  titled Bear Archery Traditional Bows: A Chronological History, 1949 to 2015. The photograph of  Bear topped with a well worn Fedora is classic Fred Bear. Anderson's December 15 column included a large picture of Fred Bear in his classic bowhunting stance, wearing this soft soft hat.

The Reader's Write section for December 24, 2023 did include a response from a reader who was a policeman and who "chose not to hunt." He wrote "I don't have a problem with hunters taking deer regardless of the weapon they use if they are proficient with it."
--Regarding Fred Bear's invention of the sport and Anderson's emphasis on  skills. While Anderson did point out that Bear was the "modern inventor" of bowhunting, the writer focuses attention on the skills of American Indians as buffalo hunters. While reading Anderson's column I thought of the Comanches in particular (There were other plains tribes that hunted from horseback.).  Consider the skills associated with hunting from horseback: riding bareback without stirrups at full tilt and effectively using a bow to bring down a buffalo, e.g., see S. C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon.

--Anderson made no mention of the use of firearms in deer hunting about which the writer said "If that's not 'venison gathering,' I don't know what is.

--Anderson also failed to consider that the crossbow "probably saves a substantial number of deer from an excruciating death after being shot by a novice," inadequately practiced, compound bow hunter."


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