Crossbows are nothing new. The origin of the crossbow device dates back to ancient China.
A crossbow-type design called the ballista was deployed quite extensively in the Mediterranean realm by the Roman Empire. It was a trusted and reliable arm to project a pointed arrow with consistent accuracy on and off the battlefield. I feel quite sure Roman soldiers used the crossbow to hunt something to put in the campfire pot.
Case for the crossbow
The crossbow design shifts the downsized bow limbs into a horizontal position mounted on a stock that can be stabilized to the shoulder like a modern day rifle. The shortened arrow or bolt is rigged to be released by a trigger mechanism again akin to a typical firearm design.
The keen advantage of a crossbow over a conventional bow is that this unit can be “cocked” and ready to fire at will. In this configuration the crossbow design has proven itself extremely lethal.
Now warp speed ahead to 2006 and envision the technological improvements that crossbows have undergone. The stocks are metal or synthetic material strong and lightweight. The bow limbs are scientifically created of various composites giving them full draw strength for years of service. Optical red dot sights are in vogue as are frame mounted mini-scabbards.
The shafts of the bolts are now likely made of fiberglass or better yet a light carbon fiber composite. Wood shafts are totally passe. Such bolts fly fast, straight, don’t twist out of shape in the rain, and can be shot at soft targets thousands of times. Real feather retching is replaced by synthetic vanes or plastic fins. Handhoned chipped stone arrowheads are replaced by a dizzying array of terminal points fashioned of razor sharp blades mounted into arrow tips called broadheads. They can cut through animal flesh like the proverbial hot knife through butter at speeds exceeding 300 feet per second at effective ranges of 30 to 40 yards.
Needless to say the science of the crossbow has changed considerably since ancient China with new innovations being marketed every year a new hunting season rolls around. So, the question begs itself why should the use of a crossbow for deer hunting be relegated to one special group of hunters? That thinking was revised by the wildlife department last year.
Updated crossbow provisions
It has been the case for quite a long time that a special permit allowing the use of a crossbow could be acquired by certain classifications of deer hunters. These permits are issued in addition to a regular hunting license. The defining criterion is based on age and various disabilities.
Hunters 65 or older need only show proof of age. Under this age the hunter must produce a letter from a Mississippi licensed physician stating the hunter has a disability which totally and permanently prevents him from using a longbow or other usual bow hunting equipment. Other provisions may apply. Check www.mdwfp.com for full details.
For the first time last season the wildlife commission passed an additional ruling allowing for the issuance of a general crossbow license. In deer hunter’s terms this simply means all deer hunters both residents and non-residents would be eligible to purchase this new license. The regular and usual hunting licenses are also required. The new crossbow license is only valid during primitive weapons and the gun seasons for deer, but not for any archery season.
A crossbow testimonial
Some deer hunters tend to think that the crossbow is incapable of producing the brute force necessary to quickly and cleanly harvest a white-tailed deer. This simply is not the case. Stories are already beginning to come in about crossbow successes from last season. One such testimonial came to me just last month.
John Cockrell is the consummate bow hunter. His lease near Clinton has been producing nice deer to his compound bow for many seasons. He knows how to hunt patiently until a deer is close enough to target it with an arrow. Then he knows where to place the shot to take it down cleanly. He has taken some remarkable bucks via the silent string.
Last season when deer hunting was opened up to everybody for crossbow use, John couldn’t resist it. “I did some reading and shopping around trying to decide which brand and specific crossbow to buy. After visiting Van’s in Brandon and talking to their staff’, including Ken Lancaster, it didn’t take long to decide and I was in business”, says Cockrell.
“I shot several models at the in-store range, and then they set the whole rig up for me. By the time I left the store those bolts were tagging the bullseye with every shot. I was confident this set up was going to be perfect for the area I hunt,” John continued. He continued to practice on his outdoor home range from an elevated shooting platform until the season rolled around.
“The third deer I took with my crossbow was a textbook hunt. The big doe sauntered down the trail I had mowed along the edge of the woods. She was oblivious to my presence. As she closed the range to under 20 yards, I eased the crossbow up and adjusted the brightness of the red dot sight. It was right on target.”
“Then the deer stepped behind some brush obscuring a clear shot, but I held tight. When the doe finally cleared the tangle she was almost right under my stand. I had to aim down at a sharp angle, but the arrow took her right through the shoulder. She ran only a short distance breaking off the shaft.”
“When I cleaned the deer I was careful to search for the broadhead. It was lodged on the offside stuck in a rib. Then I noticed the heart had a three-sided cut fight through it matching the shape of the broadhead. That deer died standing up. It was one of the cleanest shots I have ever had with any kind of string driven bow,” Cockrell concluded.
Well, it would be easy to say that one testimony doesn’t seal the case, but I am convinced that crossbows are more than adequate as a hunting tool for harvesting deer. Local dealers are beginning to find out, too, that their popularity is increasing every month. Retail sales are starting to ring up and I expect this trend to continue all throughout the season as the word gets out that crossbows are legal for all deer hunters.