Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

September 29, 2012

Legislation required

There are three things you don’t bring up at a West Virginia bowhunting camp; religion, politics or crossbows.

Each topic can become heated, especially around the campfire when hunters are participating in happy hours.

Currently there is a discussion taking place on the West Virginia version of The thread is titled, simply, “crossbows.” It was started Aug. 13 and as of Sept. 24 it had 156 replies.

It is interesting to watch this discussion take place. It is also predictable. I have the advantage of having followed the same back-and-forth in Maryland in 2009-10 when the legalization of crossbows was brought up.

Those who don’t want crossbows available to all archery hunters say:

• They are not bows. They should be called crossguns.

• Well, OK, legalize them, but not in the regular archery season. Make a small separate season for them.

• Where do we go next? Hand grenades?

• Legalizing crossbows will wipe out our deer herd.

• It’s easier to kill a deer with a crossbow.

• Etc., etc.

Those who would like them to be approved for all say:

• We need to stop arguing among ourselves.

• Compound bows were a big step up from recurves and longbows.

• Crossbows will bring more hunters into the fold and we need all the people we can get.

• It’s easier to kill a deer with a crossbow.

• Etc., etc.

And here is me talking:

• Why would any person care how another person whacks a deer as long as the method is legal?

• Don’t private landowners realize they can tell their hunters not to use crossbows?

• It’s easier to kill a deer with a crossbow.

So why all this discussion among Mountain State bowmen?

Has the use of crossbows been suggested by the Division of Natural Resources? Is the legalization of the horizontal bow imminent there?

“It will require legislation that is passed and signed by the governor to make crossbows legal,” said Wildlife Biologist Chris Ryan of the DNR.

In other words, the DNR commissioners cannot simply say “legalize crossbows” the way they can change the opening day of squirrel season or the bag limit of deer.

“The DNR has taken a neutral stance when it comes to crossbows,” Ryan said. “We will do what the Legislature tells us to do.”

If that response seems nonchalant it is because Ryan and the agency’s other biologists have agreed that the use of crossbows will not have a biological impact upon the state’s deer herd.

“Besides,” Ryan said, “something approaching 25 percent of the state’s 80,000 bowhunters already have Class Y permits.”

The Class Y permit was invented in 2006 and allows hunters whose doctors have said they cannot pull vertical bows to use crossbows. About 17,000 have been issued.

“The big surge in issuing Class Y permits has been during the past few years,” Ryan said.

The agency was dealing with 40 new requests for Class Y permits the day I spoke to Ryan on the phone.

“Class Y permits are permanent,” Ryan said. “Once you have one you have one.”

You make up your mind for yourself, but it sounds to me that Ryan is saying the same thing I said in 2009 in Maryland when crossbows were being proposed, that hunters wanting to use them had found ways to submit a doctor’s signature.

In fact, after Maryland OK’d the horizontal bows I called sporting goods stores and was told there was no surge in purchase of the bows. Like I said, those who wanted them already had them.

“We manage our deer by way of the Class N licenses,” Ryan said. He was referring the license that allows a hunter to shoot a doe with his rifle. Class N licenses are what fills the meatpole. They are also the method by which the agency either increases or decreases a local deer population.

More Class Ns means more dead does means a smaller herd and vice versa.

If and when crossbows are ever made legal for all in the Mountain State, let a year go by and hunters who fussed and fumed worrying about them will wonder what all the concern was about.

Maryland eased into full-blown use of the xbows, allowing them starting in 2003 to be used for two weeks early in the season and two weeks late.

In 2008, the bows were legal for all hunters in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Then, in 2010, all Maryland archers were given the go-ahead.

Deer herds have not crashed in the Free State. In fact, this year, bowhunters in most of the state will be allowed to kill as many does as they choose, no matter what kind of bow they use to shoot them.

The next West Virginia legislative session begins in January.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at


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Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
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