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Crossbow regulations liberalized, become law

Hunters 55 and older, and those holding a youth big game hunting permit, will now be able to use crossbows during archery big game and turkey seasons.Steve Wood, Hays, teaches Debra Bolton, Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commissioner, how to shoot a crossbow at a commission meeting last summer. Thursday evening the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission passed the regulation 7-0 at a meeting in Topeka.

Chris Tymeson, Wildlife and Parks attorney, said legal protocol will not have the regulation in place before the April 1 opening of archery turkey season. The regulation will make it legal by the time archery antelope, deer and elk seasons open this fall.

Though the vote was unanimous, some commissioners said they somewhat favored the regulation to avoid legislative action that could make crossbows legal for all during archery seasons.

“I think some may have underestimated the momentum of crossbows in this area,” said Gerald Lauber, commission chairman. “I’d rather control our own destiny.”

Tymeson said two bills legalizing crossbows for hunters of all ages had moved quickly through the legislature with widespread support this year. He said some legislators seemed to be awaiting commission action Thursday before finally approving the more liberalized legislation.

He said passage of Thursday’s regulation by the commission did not insure the legislature would still not pass more liberalized laws next week.

Crossbows have long been legal for those physically unable to hunt with traditional archery equipment in Kansas. They are currently legal for all sportsmen in many other states, following a widespread push from sportsmen and crossbow manufacturers.

Commissioner Frank Meyer asked the age be pushed back to 65 but got no support.

Several requested the regulation not include those with youth permits, which are sold to those 15 and younger before an archery season begins. Though they said they supported getting more kids afield, opponents feared a push will be made for the youth to keep using crossbows once they outgrow the regulation.

“If you’re not talking crossbows again in a few years I’ll eat my dirty, old camo hat,” said Marvin Whitehead, of the Kansas Bowhunters Association,”…and it’s pretty dirty.”

Many who oppose crossbows fear it will lead to too much pressure on vulnerable trophy bucks during the rut in November, which has largely been during Kansas’ archery season for decades. They say it could also increase competition for hunting areas as increased numbers of longtime firearms hunters try crossbows.

Few question that crossbows are easier to use than compound bows, though some doubt the new regulation will see widespread usage in Kansas or hurt that state’s deer population.

At previous meetings Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks big game program coordinator, told commissioners crossbows have had minimal  impact on harvest figures in other states.

Some say the current debate reminds them of another several decades ago.

“There was fear of compound bows back when about everyone else was using (traditional bows),” said Doug Peterman, a 63-year-old Topeka hunter who uses a crossbow because of physical issues. Based on his own success, Peterman predicted the new regulation would not hurt Kansas’ deer population.