Crossbow proposal stirs discussion at meeting

01/08/2012 12:00 AM

01/08/2012 12:05 AM

SALINA — A proposal to allow more crossbows during the archery deer season drew 90 minutes of discussion at Thursday's Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting.

Most public comments weren't supportive.

"It's a marketing thing, it's not a bowhunter saying they really want to hunt with a crossbow," said Dave Easton of Westmoreland. "It's people saying 'I want to sell this.' "

"They're guns, they're like rifles, they don't belong in the archery season," said Charlie Stevens of Downs.

A proposal to allow those with youth deer permits and those older than 55 to hunt with crossbows during the archery season was presented to the commission by Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks big program coordinator.

He selected 55 because research shows that is when some bowhunters begin leaving the sport.

Currently crossbows are allowed during the state's general firearms deer season, the special January season for antlerless whitetails and during the regular archery season for those with approved physical limitation permits.

Several bowhunters said the ease of receiving a special permit meant any aging hunter could already hunt with a crossbow if needed.

Gerald Lauber, commission chairman, repeatedly stated his fear the legislature might enact a law that allowed all to hunt with a crossbow during the archery season. He, and many in the department, hope something like the proposal might appease politicians.

Last year, Wildlife and Parks dissuaded the legislature from a broad legalization of crossbows, saying it could hurt the state's trophy deer herd.

On Thursday, Fox said the proposal would have minimal effect on harvest, hunter recruitment and retention.

Several from the Kansas Bowhunters Association said they feared the propossal would put more hunters afield, including non-residents who might lease lands resident hunters once hunted.

Commissioner Frank Meyer thought 55 was too young and suggested the age be raised to 70. He questioned the technology and ease of crossbow use.

"Mr. Magoo could probably hit a deer with one at 50 yards," Meyer said.

Several thought the proposal was just the start for more liberal regulations down the road.

Steve Wood of Hays spoke in favor of more liberal crossbow opportunities. He enjoys hunting with a crossbow and his son is a sales manager for a crossbow manufacturer.

The topic will receive more discussion and a probable vote at a March 22 meeting in Topeka. Commissioner Don Budd urged bowhunters to bring a compromise to the meeting.

Also at the meeting:

* Chris Tymeson, department attorney, announced the agency will ask the legislature to remove exemptions from hunting and fishing permits and reduced state park fees for those 65 and older.

* Fox said 2012 deer seasons will follow current frameworks, and the department wants to increase deer management units where hunters can shoot up to five antlerless whitetails for 2012.

* Jim Pittman, upland game bird program coordinator, wants to create two new wild turkey management units and allow up to four birds be taken in the fall in most of central Kansas next year.

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