It's Time for B.C. to Take a Tougher Stance on Crossbows
Friday, February 5, 2016
Other than the fact they interfere with the legitimate archery season, I have nothing against crossbows. If someone wants to bypass the archery learning curve and put a rifle scope on an oversized slingshot, that's their prerogative.
Just don't confuse the practice with bow hunting.
In addition to dozens of hours spent honing their craft, archers require a certain amount of strength and stamina - skills necessary to draw back the bow and hold it that way while acquiring the target. A crossbow requires neither. Many of today's models are 'self-cocking,' which means the shooter need only load the "bolt" (at least they don't call it an arrow), sight on the target through the scope, and pull the trigger. (Yes, that's "trigger" as on a rifle or shotgun; need you know more?)
Again, each to their own. The problem in B.C. is that the crossbow hunting season coincides with the bow season, which typically precedes the rifle season to give archers a fairer - and safer - chance at taking game.
Let me explain the "safety" bit. Every bow hunter has what's known as their Maximum Effective Range (MER) - the distance at which he or she can group their arrows in a circle approximating the "vital" zone on a deer or other animal. We're talking about the size of a pie-plate here. For me, with my aging eyes and average skills, that's about 35 yards. That's the maximum distance I'll consider taking a shot if everything aligns - the wind, any interfering brush, the angle of the target. A good archer with steady hands and younger eyes might have a MER of, say, 50 yards.
Okay, now consider the crossbow. Even a novice hunter, given that their scope is properly set, has a MER of 60 yards or so, and more seasoned crossbow hunters boast about 100-yard shots. Note that that's three times my effective range. In fact, in the heavily wooded habitat that deer and elk prefer, 100 yards is a moderate shot with a rifle. And so, again, I ask: why in the world do the B.C. regulators lump crossbow hunters and archers together in the province's woods and flatlands?
It's a question Albertans asked themselves and categorically answered: it's illegal to use a crossbow during archery season there. The same goes for Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec. Newfoundland and the Yukon have banned crossbows altogether. Even in the U.S., 14 states have either outlawed crossbows or restricted their use to the firearms season. And that in the heartland of the individual's so-called "right to bear arms."
As is the case with many bow hunters, I've had my close calls. I've been in a treestand when a crossbow hunter emerged from the trees below me, his weapon shouldered and pointing directly at my head, cocked and primed. I've been stalking turkeys on the ground when another crossbow hunter, much to my horror, used his scope to "locate" me, sweeping past my decoy as I leaned against a stump. Accidents waiting to happen.
Several years ago, while flipping through a leaflet, I came across an ad from a Trail-area retailer. In it, they offered crossbow rentals to would-be deer hunters - the same way you'd rent a pair of skates for a neighborhood game of shinny. When I called them up to ask about it the owner's wife got defensive. A day later the RCMP called me, asking if I'd threatened her. I laughed. We wound up having a good chat, the officer and me, about reckless business practices and the lack of common sense.
Wake up, B.C. legislators, before a preventable tragedy or expensive public lawsuit forces you to take action. Other provinces 'get it'; it's time you did, too.