Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Maine's New Crossbow Law

New Crossbow Law
There seems to be a fair amount of confusion around the recently passed crossbow legislation, which allows for the use of crossbows during the October archery season and the fall season on wild turkey. To help answer some of these questions, here are the facts as provided by a review of the legislation and feedback from Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Background Information on the Law
Governor Janet Mills expanded hunting opportunities by signing into law Legislative Document 27 (LD 27), "An Act to Allow the Use of a Crossbow for a Limited Duration during the October Archery Season on Deer and the Fall Season on Wild Turkey." Sponsored by Rep. Tim Theriault (R-79), the bills intent is to expand crossbow hunting opportunities during archery season for three years beginning in 2020. There is currently some uncertainty as to whether the law will allow the use of crossbows during the expanded archery seasons.
In my discussion with IFW, it was explained that there are still some aspects of the law that will require clarification before fall 2020. In fact, the legislature may make modifications to the current legislation language when they reconvene in January. Possible changes include clarifying whether crossbows can be used in expanded archery zones during the September season and a discussion on whether some crossbow hunters would be allowed to shoot an antlerless deer during the October archery season without an any-deer permit. From my conversation with IFW, it appears that hunters may want to wait before running out to invest in a crossbow until they realize exactly what the state is selling us.
New Laws Purpose
            The purpose of LD 27 is to provide additional opportunities for hunters to pursue deer. Currently, the archery season on deer is four weeks long, and the average whitetail take during a season is 500 deer taken by approximately 10,000 hunters. This is obviously an abysmal success rate. IFW feels that the use of crossbows during the October archery season will not markedly increase harvest rates on bucks or result in negative consequences for the deer population. Additionally, research studies, conducted by states who have implemented similar laws, have shown that allowing more crossbow hunting would increase hunter recruitment numbers, adding more new hunters to the sport. Overall, more crossbow hunting is good for our wildlife, our hunters and our state.
Law Not Popular with Everyone
Despite the positive impact this law could potentially have, not all of the state’s sporting groups were willing to support the bill and it was opposed by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the Maine Professional Guides Association and the Maine Bowhunters Association. Fortunately, the hunters of this state rallied, during the legislative hearing, to assist in making the bill a law. 
The Dilemma
            I feel that this new law is a step in the right direction, with crossbows having full inclusion in the firearm seasons in 26 states and legal during archery and firearms seasons, in some capacity, in 23 other states, the time for Maine to progressively move forward and allow the use of crossbows during the October archery season and the fall season on wild turkey makes sense. What does not make sense to me is that the law is only, at this point, valid for three years and that some aspects of the law still require clarification. Given that a crossbow is a sizeable investment and that IFW requires a special course to use this weapon during hunting season and that sportsmen will need to practice to operate this weapon safely and effectively to harvest game, limiting the law to three years is badly flawed logic. It is my belief that because of the current three year limitation, few hunters will take up the crossbow until the law is finalized and implemented to last for good.
Currently Allowed Crossbow Special Usage in Maine
Only those hunters 65 years of age or older or hunters with a permanent disability, who have been issued a special handicap permit, may use a crossbow to hunt deer during the archery season. This is of course as long as they have the required permit, license and have successfully completed the required crossbow safety education courses.
I Own a Crossbow
            Despite my reservation with the new law, I am a crossbow owner. Though I have only had my crossbow for two years, I have been thoroughly impressed with the capabilities of this impressive weapon. The TenPoint Turbo GT ($999) fires a bolt at 360 feet per second and comes with almost everything needed (bolts, scope and quiver) to start hunting immediately. My model also includes the Accudraw which allows the shooter to pull back the bow limbs with a hand crank mechanism instead of having to pull back the draw string by hand or by using a special pulley device. Given the power of this weapon, I find the Accudraws mechanical assistance mandatory. In future articles, I plan to talk more about using a crossbow for hunting in Maine to support others who are looking to explore the capabilities of this weapon. 
I would like to thank Nate Webb of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for his assistance in helping to make sure that the information provided in this article was as accurate as possible.

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