By Kevin Tate
State officials hope to answer growing deer populations with growing hunter populations, either new or participating, and allowing the use of crossbows during archery season is a path they hope will lead there.
For many years, hunters in Mississippi have been required to get a special license based on proven physical disability before being allowed to use crossbows during archery season, but Senate Bill 2048, signed into law by the governor this past spring, eliminated that. The same Sportsman’s License or combination of licenses that includes the archery and primitive weapon hunting permits now covers the use of a crossbow for deer, turkey and small game on both public and private lands.
“We’re hoping this gets a lot more people out there,” Lann Wilf, north region biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said. “This should be a really good thing. We’re hopeful it’ll be well received.”
Anecdotal checks of archery shops indicate the crossbows, which generally sell for between $350 and $1,000, are being purchased at surprising rates, with stores having replenished their stocks many times over through the spring and summer.
In addition to simplicity of aiming and consistency of shooting, crossbows offer the user a much improved level of stealth. Crossbows are cocked in advance and sit ready to shoot from the time the hunt begins. All other archery gear requires the shooter to draw the bow with the animal standing close by, often in full view. The ability to sit ready to shoot has attracted many hunters to the new gear, Richard Allred, with Mudcreek Archery, in Tupelo, said, though a wide variety of reasons come into play.
“The crossbows offer super-accurate grouping at ranges longer than what you’d get with a bow,” he said. “They tend to shoot faster, and you aim them the same way you would a rifle or muzzleloader. You can take a steady rest.”
Game of speed
The Barnett Ghost 410 fires a bolt tipped with a broadhead comparable in size and weight to that which would be launched from a bow, and does so at an initial velocity of 410 feet per second, considerably faster than speeds attained by compound bows. This crossbow weighs 7.2 pounds and sells for roughly $1,000.
As the price decreases, weights increase and speeds fall off a bit, though all of the likely pricepoints offer crossbows that shoot at speeds matching or exceeding modern compound bows. The price is generally for a package deal that includes a scope or red dot aiming system, three or four bolts and a quiver, everything you’d need to go hunting short of a pack of broadheads.