Crossed Up

Other southern states are permitting the use of crossbows during archery season, but they’re still outlawed in Louisiana for most hunters. Will that change anytime soon?

Will Louisiana have a crossbow season next year or at any time in the future? Will Louisiana permit hunting with a crossbow during archery season as some other southern states have?

Crossbow hunting seems to have caught fire as it spreads into more and more states each year. Many states like Louisiana already allow the use of the crossbow, either for the physically challenged and/or older hunters.

But a new wave of enthusiasm has risen for the use of crossbows throughout the entire archery season. Some national archery associations now include the crossbow in their definition of archery tackle.

The use of the crossbow during archery season seems to have gained steam, particularly in the South, in recent years.

Most recently, the states of Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama have permitted the use of crossbows for all hunters.

“By legalizing the use of crossbows during the entire archery season, we haven’t told anyone they have to hunt with a crossbow,” said Barnett Lawley, commissioner of Alabama’s Department of Conservation. “If a hunter prefers to hunt with a longbow or a compound bow, he still can hunt with those bows.

“However, if a hunter chooses to take deer with a crossbow, we feel he should have that option.”

In addition to southern states, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington have permitted hunters to use crossbows during their entire archery seasons.

All these states have realized and capitalized on the benefits crossbows offer. When allowing their use during archery season, crossbows can:

• increase the number of deer taken,

• control the deer population more effectively,

• bring new hunters into the sport of bow hunting,

• retain older hunters in the sport when they no longer can pull the conventional bow and

• provide hunters with more choices in the type of bow they use.

Louisiana, however, has yet to offer the crossbow as an alternate weapon during bow season. So the question remains, will the state of Louisiana have a crossbow season throughout the entire Louisiana bow season at some day in the future?

To learn the answer to this and other questions related to the use of crossbows in the state, Louisiana Sportsman conducted a teleconference with three advisors to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.

Brandt Savoie, deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Wildlife; Parke Moore, assistant secretary for the Office of Wildlife; and Phil Bowman, division administrator for the Fur and Refuge Division, discussed their views toward the possibility of having a crossbow season in Louisiana.


LS: A trend moving to legalize the use of crossbows for deer hunting in certain areas of the South seems to be growing. What’s the possibility of Louisiana adopting such a law?

Moore: We’re receptive to any proposal that a large segment of our public is interested in proposing. Currently there’s nothing on the books in that regard.


LS: Has a crossbow season been brought up in any of your public meetings?

Savoie: Every year when we present our hunting regulations for the proposed season, there are discussions about crossbows and draw-locks. From the constituents we’ve talked to, particularly the bowhunters, there’s a resistance to our considering either of these two devices for hunting deer in Louisiana.

At this time, we haven’t proposed the use of crossbows or draw-locks to any other segment (of the hunting population) than what we already allow.

We currently allow hunters 60 years of age or older to use crossbows, as well as physically-challenged hunters once they acquire doctors’ certification that they are physically challenged. We haven’t extended this privilege to the draw-lock system, which is a cocking device that holds the bow back until the hunter is ready to fire.

Moore: These two groups that we’ve mentioned can use the crossbow only during archery season.


LS: What’s the future of hunting with a crossbow in Louisiana with more and more states in the South legalizing crossbows for hunting?

Many states use crossbows to bring more people into deer hunting and to control the state’s deer herd, so why not Louisiana?

Moore: All three of us are wildlife biologists, and we’re very interested in the differences between primitive weapons and modern weapons.

From a personal standpoint, I believe a crossbow is a modern weapon. The advantage a hunter has using the crossbow is much greater than if he’s shooting a longbow or a compound bow.

Now, if we have interest from the public to include a crossbow season during gun season, then from a biological point of view, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t.

We have no reason to believe that we’ll get greater wounding of deer from a crossbow than we will from a gun.


LS: So, in other words, you’re not opposed to a crossbow season, as long as it’s conducted during gun deer season.

Moore: Correct.


LS: You do believe, however, that the crossbow is not a primitive weapon.

Moore: Correct.


LS: But the history of the crossbow goes back much farther than the history of the compound bow. Why then don’t you consider it a primitive weapon?

Moore: Practically speaking, the crossbow doesn’t appear to be a primitive weapon.


LS: Have you had any groups come to you and request a crossbow season?

Bowman: Not really. The only proposal the public has brought to us in recent times has been for the legalization of the draw-lock system. But on two separate occasions, our commission has declined to include the draw-lock system as a part of the archery equipment that can be used to hunt deer in Louisiana.


LS: Why?

Bowman: Primarily because of some public comment the commission has received from the traditional bow-hunting population. The traditional bowhunters don’t want to see an expansion of the crossbow or the draw-lock system into legal archery tackle for deer hunting in Louisiana.


LS: One of the reasons states like Alabama and Georgia have legalized the crossbow is to help control expanding deer herds. They believe the crossbow will help bring more hunters into the sport of archery, and that these additional hunters will help reduce the deer herd.

What do you feel about the condition of the Louisiana deer herd?


Savoie: Across the state, we have a wide diversity of deer herds. In some places, the deer herd is in good shape. But we have some places where the herd is overpopulated, and other places where there are very low populations of deer.

We have extensive regulations in different sections of the state to try and manage the herd in each area.


LS: Would you consider legalizing the crossbow in regions where there’s an overpopulation of deer?

Savoie: No. If we have an overpopulation of deer in a certain area, we address that problem by liberalizing the regulations for all the users.

I guess to expand on what Phil (Bowman) has said about the traditional archery hunters, we have a strong group of traditional hunters here who oppose the use of crossbows and the draw-lock system.

Until public sentiment changes, I don’t see the department going in that direction.

But like Parke (Moore) said, if the public asks us to consider a crossbow season, I don’t see a problem with the use of crossbows during gun season, since there is no more advantage to shooting a crossbow than shooting a high-powered rifle.

The resistance to the crossbow has always come from the traditional archery hunting groups who want to limit archery season just to the compound bow or the long bow.

There hasn’t been a push from anyone to expand the use of crossbows beyond what it is now, for physically-challenged hunters and hunters over the age of 60.

Bowman: We do have some metropolitan areas where the deer herd is encroaching into suburban areas. In the northern part of the state, near Upton, we’ve had an archery season within the city limits to try and take care of nuisance deer, but that archery season only includes traditional archery equipment.


LS: If the public sentiment is in favor of a crossbow season during traditional archery season, where you currently only permit the use of compound bows, longbows or recurves, then your group would be open to the discussion of that possibility. Is that correct?

Bowman: We would entertain that possibility, but I think we would be more receptive to the proposal of using the crossbow during gun season than we would its use during archery season.


LS: So you expect if there’s a crossbow season in Louisiana, like there is in more and more southern states, it will be limited to gun season?

Moore: I would say yes.

Savoie: Like the state of Alabama, we have a commission that finalizes the rules and regulations of hunting season. The department will entertain the idea of a crossbow season, but the idea must first be brought before the commission. There will be public hearings, and the commission will make the ultimate decision.

The wildlife staff here serves more of an advisory role to the commission. The commission makes the regulations, we advise to the commission and the legislature, and they decide on the final regulations.

Moore: We consider the crossbow harvest of deer a little more efficient than the traditional archery harvest. We believe if we allow the use of crossbows during the archery season, then we’ll have an increased take of animals, which may not be best for the resource.

Savoie: A crossbow season may be more appropriate for some parts of the state than other sections. If there is a crossbow season, it will have to be based on the biology of the deer herd in that particular area of the state.


LS: Do you view the crossbow as a way to retain older hunters in the sport of archery? Also, do you consider the crossbow a vehicle to bring new hunters into the sport of archery?

Bowman: We do have the regulation that allows older hunters over the age of 60 to hunt with a crossbow.

To bring younger hunters into the sport of archery, we’re looking at the archery program that the state of Kentucky has championed and that seems to have caught fire across the United States — teaching archery in the schools.

We’re considering that vehicle to get more young people involved in the sport of archery and possibly bowhunting. We believe that an archery program in the schools is a much-better way to recruit young people into archery and bowhunting than legalizing crossbows.


LS: Are you saying that if there’s a crossbow season in Louisiana, the request for that season will have to come from the general public and not from the cepartment?

Moore: I won’t say that’s true. If we have a reason to increase the take of deer in a particular part of the state, and if we have a group come in that really wants a crossbow season during traditional archery season, then we may consider allowing a crossbow season to increase the take.

We will view this action as a way to enhance the take (of deer) as a management practice in a certain area of the state. Particularly in suburban or urban areas, the crossbow may involve a less-dangerous aspect to increasing the harvest of deer than guns and bullets do.


LS: Do you have any other comments about the possibility of Louisiana having a crossbow season that runs during archery season like the states of Georgia and Alabama do?

Moore: I encourage the public to interface with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to discuss their desires, particularly as groups or individuals, and make their feelings about the possibility of a crossbow season known. If a large group of people wants a change in regulations, we are more than happy to discuss it with them.

Louisiana bowhunters may find the acceptance of a crossbow season a hard sell since the state hasn’t experienced a significant problem with overpopulation of its deer herd.

States like Alabama and Georgia have benefited from the additional number of deer taken during crossbow season, but Louisiana currently seems not to need that benefit.

Many hunters mistakenly believe crossbows harvest deer more effectively than compounds, recurves or longbows. However, the crossbow’s effective range of about 30 yards matches that of compounds and longbows.

An efficient compound-bow hunter consistently can take more deer at longer ranges than a crossbow shooter can.

The issue of the crossbow boils down to one sticking point: Must an archer draw a bow and hold the weight of the bow at full draw before he releases an arrow for his action to be considered bowhunting?

Modern compound bows feature sights and a hunter who use a range finder too may find the compound bow more accurate than the crossbow.

But many archers today express a superior attitude toward new types of archery equipment and their supporters. These sportsmen believe hunters must draw bows and hold back the bow strings just like they do.

But in the end, once a hunter releases his arrow and strikes a deer, does it really matter how he’s pulled the bow, and whether or not he’s held back the string?

In most states years ago, when hunters proposed the compound bow as a new form of archery gear, the majority of traditional archers wanted that “mechanical arrow launcher” banned during archery season.

They dismissed the compound bow, which almost anyone could learn to shoot, because it featured wheels, let-off, a mechanical release and sights.

The traditionalists protested that since the compound bow wasn’t a conventional bow, the state shouldn’t consider its use during archery season.

Interestingly enough, many of these same naysayers now embrace compund bows, but use those same objections to try and ban crossbows.

As hunters, we’re often elitists. We like to take the position of, “If you don’t hunt like I hunt, and if you don’t use the weapons I use, then you’re not as good a hunter as I am.”

Hunting and fishing regulations are both sensitive and emotional issues, including the debate over the use of the crossbow in Louisiana.

Still, no one can claim a basic right or wrong in this method when used to harvest deer. Although biologists determine the number of deer they’ll allow hunters to remove to keep the herds healthy and viable, public opinion continues to determine the methods used to take those deer.

If the majority of Louisiana hunters choose not to allow crossbows, draw-locks or other types of weapons, then Louisiana won’t have a crossbow season.

However, if more hunters decide they want to hunt with crossbows, and the state finds no biological reason to ban their use, then Louisiana may have a crossbow season in its future.

Should Louisiana allow crossbows during the state’s archery-only deer season? We’d like to hear from you. If you’re a bowhunter, or if you’re at all interested in the sport, go to and post your opinion.