As we approach the 2013 sales year, is the crossbow in a position to become for the archery industry what the AR-platform rifle is to the firearms industry?
In the prophetic vernacular of the novelty Magic 8-Ball that was popular back in the 1960s and 70s: “Signs point to yes,” and “You may rely on it.”
At least, that’s the way we see things here at The Archery Wire.
The unprecedented uptick in the number of crossbow-only companies, the expansion of models produced by existing manufacturers and the introduction of the first compound crossbow by a major established bowmaker in recent months all point to what just about everyone in the bow business seems to believe will be a banner year for crossbow sales.
And why not? The Pennsylvania Game Commission recently made its three-year temporary rule allowing crossbows in archery season permanent. Indiana began permitting crossbows in archery deer season this year. And in September, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill making Illinois the 25th state in the country to allow crossbows in some manner for use in archery hunting seasons.
Previously, only persons 62 and older and the physically handicapped were permitted to use crossbows in The Land of Lincoln.
Granted, the Illinois bill does not permit crossbows for use in the entire archery-only deer season, like in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and a growing number of other states East of the Mississippi River. As passed, the bill allows crossbows only during what is commonly known as the late archery deer season, following the split deer firearms seasons that take place in late November and early December.
Is the bowhunter-and-whitetail-filled state of Wisconsin next in line? Many manufacturers seem to think so.
Without consulting crystal balls and Ouija boards, as recently as ten years ago, few saw today’s expansion of crossbow, and even fewer thought it would occur as quickly and be as widespread. Especially those with first-hand experience of the crossbow demonization that took place through the 1980s and into the 1990s.
Back when companies first began producing compound crossbows and state game agencies started considering their inclusion in deer-hunting seasons, it became as divisive an issue as the industry has ever experienced – before or since. You would’ve thought the devil incarnate was somehow involved with crossbow production, the way some bowhunters and archery groups spewed hateful and venomous rhetoric aimed at crossbows makers and supporters.
Some continue to do so today – though in far fewer numbers and with significantly less continuity than in the past.
There are several logical reasons for this sea change in attitude and public perception of crossbows for hunting.
Today’s new-crop of hunting archers – ones in their 20s and 30s -simply don’t share the same hatred and animosity toward the crossbow held by their fathers and grandfathers. They’re not threatened by sharing the deer woods with crossbow hunters, and they know there’s plenty of deer for everyone.
Oh yeah, about those fathers and grandfathers. Probably more than a few of them once cursed the crossbow, but now find themselves afflicted with sore joints and aching shoulders, and what they once considered the tool of the devil is now their only logical lifeline for continued involvement in their beloved sport of bowhunting.
– J.R. Absher