Hunting with crossbow allowed in Maryland
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By David Dishneau/Associated Press

HAGERSTOWN, Md. Hunters who hanker to go medieval on a deer can do so in the fall.

Crossbows will be permitted for hunting deer statewide during the firearm and muzzleloader seasons, and during parts of the bow-and-arrow season, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced recently.

The decision makes Maryland the 18th state to allow the weapons for big-game hunting by able-bodied hunters. Crossbows have long been widely approved for use by disabled hunters not able to draw a bowstring.

Maryland's rule change was designed as a compromise between those who view crossbows as another deer-management tool and traditionalists, particularly bowhunters, who consider them unsafe and a threat to their sport.

The bowhunters were hardly appeased.

"Generally, to a man, the feeling is the same, that we are very against crossbows," said Michael Mongelli, president of the Traditional Bowhunters of Maryland.

Steve Rupert, president of the Maryland Bowhunters Society, called the decision a "reasonable compromise," but added that it "remains a concern to our membership."

A crossbow is a bow-gun hybrid. The bow is attached horizontally to a rifle-like stock. A crank is used to draw the string and **** the weapon. The arrows, called bolts, are fired by pulling a trigger.

Crossbows have a dangerous reputation, perhaps stemming from their depiction in movies as high-tech weapons of the Dark Ages. In reality, crossbows are no more powerful than modern compound bows, said Len Marsh, owner of Macrotech Accessories Ltd., an archery supply shop in the Baltimore suburb of Brooklyn Park.

Bowhunters fear a rush of crossbow users during the archery season, a roughly four-month period in the fall and winter when they can hunt in solitude compared with the blasts of the two-week firearm season.

"Bowhunting, by its very nature, is a difficult sport. It's meant to be difficult. One must get very close to the quarry. That's why we have fought long and hard for a long season," Mr. Mongelli said.

Allowing crossbows during bow season, even for the four weeks planned, "is an effort to dumb down the requirement to get more people out into the field," he said.

Jeff Trice, a traditional bowhunter from Preston, worries about untrained crossbow users.

"There's going to be a ton of people out there with crossbows," he said. "You put a lot more hunters in the woods, and they're just slinging arrows every which way."

The DNR makes no apologies for trying to put more weapons in the woods.

"We are a state with a growing deer population," said Paul Peditto, director of the agency's Wildlife and Heritage Service. "We know that the general public and their elected officials, for the most part, support the addition of other tools to help potentially solve the problems."

Mr. Peditto, who also lobbied the General Assembly successfully for Sunday deer hunting this year, said there is no evidence, based on statistics from other states, that expanded crossbow use causes safety problems. He promised close monitoring, though.

The main benefit, in the DNR's view, is the potential to reduce Maryland's 250,000-plus deer herd, especially in areas too densely populated for gun hunting.

In Georgia, which made crossbows legal for all hunters in all seasons last year, 17,000 deer hunters, or about 6 percent, took up the weapons and killed 4,429 deer, Mr. Peditto said.

In Maryland, Mr. Peditto expects 3,000 to 6,000 crossbow hunters to take at least 1,000 additional deer.

He said some of those hunters are likely to be older people who lack the strength or visual acuity for bowhunting. A crossbow can be outfitted with a telescopic sight.

Bowhunters worry that crossbows will prove to be such effective deer-management tools that the state will shorten the bow season. But Mr. Peditto said bowhunting is the last season that would be shortened.

"The most effective way to knock back your harvest is to knock back your firearm and muzzleloader opportunities," he said.