The use of crossbows for target practice and hunting has grown significantly in the past ten years. This could be due to a number of factors.
First, as more and more predators have been eliminated from the North American continent, the deer population has been significantly enlarged. In turn, state governments, as a matter of public policy, have been trying to encourage more folks to hunt. One may surmise, however, that permitting the use of crossbows would not only reduce, but destroy the deer population. This does not seem to be the case (although the data is limited). In Ohio, where crossbow hunting has been legal since 1976, there has been concurrent growth in both the number of hunters, and the deer population.
The Most Comprehensive Crossbow Data Available
The state of Michigan has the most comprehensive statistics on crossbow use. Michigan first legalized crossbow hunting in 2008, then commissioned a study to see the effect on hunters preferences through 2011. The report, authored by Brian Frawley and Brent Rudolph1)You can read the report here: Michigan Crossbow Report, provides some interesting takeaways, especially given that they had a survey population of nearly 1,500:
- Between 2009 and 2011, the proportion of archers using a crossbow increased from 19% to 37%.
- Between 2009 and 2001, the number of folks hunting during archery season (this is when hunting with firearms is not permitted, but using a bow [and now crossbow] is permitted) increased by 13%.
- Between 2009 and 2011, 25% of the hunters surveyed said that they had not hunted during previous archery seasons.
- For the same period, 19% of the people surveyed stated that they had never hunted with anything other than a firearm before crossbow use was permitted during archery season.
- Of the hunters surveyed, 88% said that the use of crossbows during hunting “met all or most of their expectations.”
- Of the hunters surveyed, 96% of those surveyed said they would use a crossbow again in the future.
There is no reason to believe that the statistics from Michigan would not be applicable to hunters in the other states of the union, as Michigan hunters do not have traits that differentiate themselves from other hunters. Correspondingly, it is reasonable to posit that if crossbow hunting continues to expand across the country, folks in other states would adopt the trends shown in Michigan.
The National Growth in Crossbow Hunting
Twenty-three states now permit crossbow hunting during all parts of archery season. An additional eleven states, including Nevada, permit crossbow hunting during firearm season (the part of hunting season where guns are allowed). An additional four states permit crossbows for at least part of the archery season. All in all, only one state (Oregon), has a complete prohibition against crossbows. It certainly seems the national trend is toward permitting more crossbow hunting and crossbow use.
But at What Cost?
The rise of crossbow use has come with a correlated rise in crossbow injuries. After a quick internet search, one will see that these product liability cases against crossbow manufacturers are popping up in venues throughout the country: From multiple reported injuries in Texas, to Florida, to Wisconsin, crossbow hunters have suffered severe injuries to fingers and thumbs from the (alleged) manufacturing defects of the crossbows in question. Even Clear Counsel Law Group’s own personal injury attorneys have represented people hurt by crossbows. One wonders if the crossbow manufacturers have accounted for the high percentage of firearm converts to crossbows without recognizing the difference in operation. 2)Note the 19% of people surveyed in the Michigan study that converted to crossbows once they were permitted to use them in archery season.
It is hard to say that the manufactures are not aware of the high conversion rate, as modern crossbows look more and more like rifles. Hopefully, more will be done in the design stage to prevent the rash of these injuries, especially as crossbow use continues to trend upward.