Michigan Crossbow Study

Michigan legalized the crossbow in the regular archery deer season of 2009, and conducted a study that ran through the 2011 season to see how it was working out. Below are some goals and findings of that study, followed by my first impressions in bold type.

Crossbows were allowed in the archery season in an attempt to expand hunting opportunities, retain existing hunters and recruit new hunters. Those are worthy goals, and the goals of every state DNR that has moved to allow the crossbow in early archery season.

The report’s data was gathered from a sampling of 2,000 hunters who used a crossbow during the 2011 archery season. That seems like a very small one-year sampling. 

The percentage of hunters using a crossbow in archery season increased from 18.6 percent in 2009 to 29.5 percent in 2010 to 36.8 percent in 2011. The number of crossbow hunters grew from 56,915 in 2009 to 90,615 in 2010 to 118,573 in 2011. That increase is not surprising, but it does seem to support one of the arguments the anti-crossbow crowd has long been making—more pressure in the deer woods in bow season.

The number of deer taken by crossbow hunters rose from 24,882 in 2009 to 38,310 in 2010 to 54,902 in 2011. That’s a big number; I would not have foreseen that large a jump in the harvest.

77% of the hunters agreed that crossbows were easier to use than a compound and took less time to become proficient with. No doubt the technology makes the crossbow easier to shoot accurately with less practice. Seems to go to another argument of the vertical bow crowd—the crossbow should be reserved for gun season.  

About 52 percent said the crossbow increased how often they were able to hunt, and 27 percent said it increased the number of deer they were able to kill. The more days people hunt is a good thing; the more success people have, the more they’ll hunt and buy licenses, another good thing.

The mean age of all licensed deer hunters in Michigan during the survey period was 42, while the mean age of crossbow hunters was 50. Supports the argument that older hunters who have trouble drawing compounds can turn to the crossbow as way to keep hunting, and that is good.

The report summarized: "Authorization of crossbows during Michigan's archery deer season appeared to be an important factor for recruiting and retaining a number of new archers…increasing the recreational opportunity for those (who) had previously hunted in the archery season, and improving the quality of hunts for archers using a crossbow." No matter how you look at it, recruiting new hunters and retaining older ones is good for the sport.

What do you think of all this? If you live and hunt in Michigan, I especially want to hear from you.


Wren's Gravatar My only real concern is that we all as hunters maintain our unity and not let the type of bow or gun segment us and minimize our influence on all matters relating to the sport we all love so much. The anti-hunting crowd will seize upon every opportunity to divide and conquer our strong lobby.
# Posted By Wren | 2/13/13 11:53 AM
Curt in Va's Gravatar I think there is no reason to NOT use them during archery season. You still have to use the same stealth as a vertical bow. There is actually an advantage to using the vertical bow that I have never heard talked about. The crossbow takes up a lot of hortizontal space that limits side-to-side shooting range. And you run the risk of bumping a stand with the limbs. Granted, they require less practice to be effecient. But, good uck getting close enough to a big one once the guns start going off!
# Posted By Curt in Va | 2/13/13 11:56 AM
Danny's Gravatar I'm have a mixed opinion on this.
I think it is a great tool for older and or disabled hunters who have trouble pulling a bow. Let them use crossbows to be able to continue to hunt.
But, on the other hand, I personally know of a lot of father's who let their young kids use their crossbows.
It is great that they are getting the kids out in the woods hunting, but at the same time, I think these fathers should be spending the time teaching their kids the value of learning to shoot a regular bow and the patience to get a deer into ethical range.
I hear numerous stories year after year of 8-12 year old kids wounding deer at 50+ yards with their dad's crossbow.
Now, if the father is going to be sitting with the kid and teaching them about ethical shooting distances, then i think it's great that they are spending the time passing on the hunting tradition.
But, around my part of Maryland there are way too many young kids in the woods wounding deer.
I bought my father a crossbow about 5 years ago. (He turns 60 this year and is going to be having shoulder surgery this spring)
If he wouldn't have the crossbow he wouldn't be able to bow hunt anymore. But, I think he has earned the right to use it for all the years he spent hunting and teaching me the ethical way to take an animal.
# Posted By Danny | 2/13/13 12:41 PM
Curt in Va's Gravatar I think people should recognize the ethical range is the same for both! Ethics will be an issue regardless of the time of season. Those kids are probably the same ones that would take a 300 yard shot just because they have a BDC reticle. Practice is the key to all shooting! Young kids may well take a shot from a distance from which they are proficient. That falls on the mentor to instill the ethics, not the government!
# Posted By Curt in Va | 2/13/13 1:12 PM
Curt in Va's Gravatar I meant from which they are NOT proficiet!
# Posted By Curt in Va | 2/13/13 1:37 PM
Nolan's Gravatar I have no problem using crossbows if they are proficient with them. At our local archery shop guys bring in crossbows all the time and they have no clue about the ethical distance or that they need to uncock the bow after use. It's crazy and is a hazard to themselves, anyone with them, and the deer. They wound a lot of deer too because they think that because it is a crossbow that it's so easy to use that they don't have to practice, just show up and shoot. We also see a lot of people get injured with them clipping thumbs or leaving them cocked so long that the limbs crack or the string breaks. They guys that take pride in them and learn their weapon I have no problem with them using them.
# Posted By Nolan | 2/13/13 1:42 PM
hoytboy's Gravatar Curt, for once, I respectfully have to disagree with you, and that's rare. I have seen my share of guys here in NJ, who can't/don't/wont take the time to go out and practice with the compound, to ensure they are proficient with it. As you'd expect, during archery season, they never did really well. Maybe they'd see deer, maybe they'd get a shot, but closing the deal wasn't something you'd expect from them. Now that they can use crossbows, while all the technical things are relative (arrow placement, sharp heads, stealth in tree, effective range etc), it has 100% become "easier". I have friends, who I love dearly, that just aren't good bow hunters. In the past few years, they've killed some deer, they wouldn't have with a compound. There's no movement required, it's point and shoot. Becoming proficient at shooting a crossbow isn't something I'd pat myself on the back for. Most guys shoot it once or twice, watch it hit the bullseye at 40 yards, and put it away. No offense to any xbow huntes, because I believe it has a place in the hunting world, but IMO, it's for seniors, physically disabled etc.
# Posted By hoytboy | 2/13/13 2:34 PM
jjas's Gravatar If you look @ the study, it basically states that the number of deer killed hasn't changed drastically. There are fewer gun kills and more
crossbow kills but the overall number of deer killed hasn't jumped up due to crossbow usage. In other words, hunters are exchanging one
tool for another to kill their deer.

Part of that could be due to sprawl and leasing. With more hunters forced onto public ground and smaller private parcels, many would rather hunt with archery
equipment instead of firearms for safety reasons as well as a more pleasurable hunting experience due to fewer hunters and warmer weather.

Cost could be a factor as well. A family could share a crossbow when sharing a compound isn't feasible.

Love 'em or hate 'em, I think they are here to stay and will only capture a larger segment of archery hunters. I'm buying one this year myself.
# Posted By jjas | 2/13/13 3:09 PM
Troy's Gravatar I hunt in michigan and ohio. I also own both a compound bow and a crossbow. I use the compound for 95% of all my bow hunting in both states. THat being said, my wife uses the crossbow in ohio because she isn't physically able to draw and hold the minimum poundage long enough to make clean kill shots with a compound. I use the crossbow in late season hunting because it requires less movement than a compound and the chances of getting picked off while drawing go down significantly. As far as effective kill range, my compound is probably 10-15 yards longer than the xbow. in side by side target penetration tests, i feel as though at 40 yards and beyond the crossbow doesn't get enough penetration to be reliable and produce quick kills. I know that not everyone will agree with that, but thats how I feel about it. All in all though I know there will come a day when physically I won't be able to use a compound anymore, and I like having the option of the x bow to fall back on.
# Posted By Troy | 2/13/13 3:10 PM
Curt in Va's Gravatar Hoyt,
I have no problem with the disgreement. But, I feel that just because it takes less practice doesn't mean it should be moved to firearms season. It's like a scope vs open sights. It's a preference. You still have to use the same techniques to get close to the animal. They can pick you off in a hurry trying to follow them with a crossbow, too. I use both types of bows. I use a crossbow more because I know I am more proficient with it. I can get dinner with either, I just enjoy the "newness" of the crossbow. Trust me, it's easier toting the compound around the woods than that heavy crossbow. Plus, it's just one more thing for the government to look for when they start confiscating!
# Posted By Curt in Va | 2/13/13 3:52 PM
Hoytboy's Gravatar See that's just it, I have NO idea where it should go, if it should even go anywhere at all.. firearms season, stay in archery, limit the time when they can be used during archery, who knows? I just know that there is definitely a lot more traffic in the woods, and a lot of guys who gave up bow hunting because of the work involved, are back. That can be looked at as good and bad I guess. I don't have the answers, I just know the Xbow isn't my cup of tea. I have a great uncle who is 82 and still hunts with a recurve. Maybe it's just in my blood, just not a fan.
# Posted By Hoytboy | 2/13/13 4:19 PM
Curt in Va's Gravatar I did notice it's not "BarnettGhost350boy"! :)
# Posted By Curt in Va | 2/13/13 4:30 PM
Russ's Gravatar I hunt MI my home state. I switched to a cross bow when it became legal here. I am 65 and have been bow hunting since I was 17. I have been bow hunting since before it was "cool". I started with a recurve and shot my first deer with it. I use a cross bow now because my shoulders can no longer draw to the weight that I feel I need to have for quick kills and shoot through penetration. The bow hunting pressure in MI is very high now. The last 2 years I have noticed that shortly before the firearm opener deer movement has gone mostly nocturnal in our area. Our trail cams will verify that. I believe, and that is just my opinion, that there should be age and health limitations on cross bows. After MI having opened it up to everybody I doubt that will happen here.
# Posted By Russ | 2/13/13 4:49 PM
Mike's Gravatar I live and Hunt in the great state of Michigan. I don''t shoot a crossbow, but am OK that they are legal. But , I really feel the should have there own season for all ages, like a 10 day season in Late OCT. After that only person with limitations or doctor note should be able all achery seanson.. Achery season in MI is already way too long as is. Mike I really enjoy your website!
# Posted By Mike | 2/13/13 5:26 PM
Hoytboy's Gravatar haha...Curt's always on point. Good stuff
# Posted By Hoytboy | 2/13/13 5:57 PM
Cary Dion's Gravatar I also was shooting a bow long before the big archery craze took off, at 13 I was shooting a Bear "whitetail" compound with four pulleys
and fiberglass arrows. So I am probably prejudice on this subject but this year my buddy had surgery on his shoulder and got a doctors
excuse and was allowed to use a crossbow, (Illinois) He purchased a crossbow and I was amazed that we had that thing dialed in, in about
15 minutes out to 50 yards. It was quick to master, just like we here in America like everything quick. Fast food, fast cars, fast communication
fast information, etc...............in other words instant no hassle gratification. Some people won't take the time to become proficient
with the bow and keep those skills honed. It does not suit our "satisfy me right now" mentality. A crossbow does satisfy those "fast, satisfy
me right now" needs better than a compound bow. Except for medical or age issues, maybe crossbow shooters are to lazy to take the time
to hone their skills with a bow. Has anyone thought about it that way. (that should rile up some people)
# Posted By Cary Dion | 2/13/13 8:47 PM
Scott from MI's Gravatar I think it was a great idea that they opened up crossbow hunting but I also think there should be some kind of age limit. I hunt with a compound and plan to until I cant pull it over well anymore, so I like that I have that option down the road. I do sit out with dads crossbow once or twice a year just for something different. The problem is there are to many bone heads that bought a cross bow and don't know hardly anything about bow hunting and think they are walking around with some kind of gun. Wounding game and taking horrible shots. Like Curt mentioned, people need to recognize the ethical range is the same for both. Just because you have a cross bow doesn't mean you can shoot any farther than a compound. They are louder and the bolt drops off more and looses velocity at longer distances. If they kept it to 45 or 50 and older that would be much better. Not so many bone heads in the woods and maybe by this age they would know better......maybe not! :)
# Posted By Scott from MI | 2/13/13 9:11 PM
jjas's Gravatar CaryDion quote "maybe crossbow shooters are to lazy to take the time to hone their skills with a bow."

Seriously? Today's compound bow shooters don't exactly have to shoot dozens of arrows daily to keep their skill level up either now do they...?
I can pick up my compound after not shooting it for 6 months and immediately put arrows in the bull.

The very same statement that Cary used in the quote I posted above was used in the old "compound vs recurve" wars from years ago. Oh how
compounds are too easy to shoot...oh how the compound is making archery too easy.....Oh how compounds would be used to wipe out
the deer herd...Oh how compound shooters are too lazy to take the time to hone their skills with a bow.....

Like it or not, crossbows are becoming a huge part of archery seasons. More states are allowing them every year and I don't see that slowing
down anytime soon. In the end, it's just another tool to hunt with.

Just like compounds were years ago........
# Posted By jjas | 2/13/13 9:31 PM
gene's Gravatar With all due repsect to Mike Hanback, he mis-represened some of the results. Unintentionally I will assume.

In regards to increased numbers of hunters and increased harvest. The study showed that crossbow hunter numbers increased. Total hunters particpating in a particular season determines pressure, not which bow
a hunter uses. Many current crossbow users are converts from compounds, less are new users. It only makes sense that with a new bow choice more will use that bow than used it before. A increase in those that choose
to hunt with a crossbow out of the total participating should not be alarming. The antis claimed that total numbers would increase by up to 100,000-200,000 new archery hunters with crossbows. Myth debunked.

As far as harvest by crossbow users. The study paralells every other state. Harvest will go up in proportional to new participants. That was the case here. Again, total harvest by archery is the benchmark, not how many
by crossbow or compound. Obviously with crossbows legal, the porportion of the archery harvest by crossbow will increase substantially as the crossbow is a new choice. Total deer harvest was flat. Again what was
promised by those supportive of full inclusion. Another myth debunked.

Interesting that success rates were also inline with what pro crossbow supporters anticipated. Those being within 4-5 percentage points of other bows. Again, myth of crossbows being rifles debunked.

This is a great study and only moves the crossbow movement forward across this country. Everything in the study is as anticpated and put another dent in the antis arguements.

As I pointed out in the beginning, there is no coorelation between the actual facts within the study and any arguements made against crossbows.
# Posted By gene | 2/13/13 9:50 PM
Bob Stout's Gravatar I've been archery hunting using a crossbow for 10 years now. There isn't a nickel's worth of difference between it and my compound vert bow I used to shoot. There are a lot of people who have preconceived misconceptions about crossbows and I was once one of them. Until you get a few years under your belt using a crossbow, you have no way of knowing what they really are. They're the same as any other bow & arrow and they need to be treated that way.
# Posted By Bob Stout | 2/13/13 9:51 PM
Matt's Gravatar 99% of time spent in the woods does not involve the use of any weapon...so as long as you're killing the animal humanely (and being safe) when the moment comes, use whatever you want! I personally use a compound, but respect an ethical crossbow hunter the same as an ethical recurve hunter. Granted, I might be more impressed with the recurve hunter...but that's not really the point.
# Posted By Matt | 2/14/13 3:26 AM
irish1169's Gravatar Never could understand why anyone thinks its there business what other hunters use in the woods, so long as it gets the job done. Dont need to make a reason why i use a crossbow or why i use a vert bow, i like them both and will use them both for as long as it is legal and i feel like it. The people who think they are the same as guns need to go shoot them, you want something legit to complain about? How about all our public hard woods being cut down?
# Posted By irish1169 | 2/14/13 10:13 PM
Rodger's Gravatar I'll take a good bolt action rifle, thank you.
# Posted By Rodger | 2/15/13 11:14 AM
David in NC's Gravatar I'd like to see it go back to just disabled hunters and add an age limit - maybe 60. NC allowed crossbow use for all around the same time MI did, with similar results I believe. It is a good thing for the aging and disabled for sure.

I do NOT think it is good for kids. Everyone talks about now being able to take their very young kids out bowhunting, but most of these kids don't understand the requirements for ethical shot choice and placement with archery gear. IMO, the physical limitations of a vertical bow allowed for the mental maturation of kids before they picked up that type of equipment. Now we have 6 year olds shooting crossbows like a rifle, and they have NO CLUE what an ethical archery shot is. My boys will not be shooting a crossbow. They will learn with a vertical bow of their choice, and they will be physically AND mentally capable before they take their bow hunting.
# Posted By David in NC | 2/15/13 12:35 PM
Brad loomis's Gravatar Get rid of all the damn things can not stand the crossbow craze! Mostly punk kids & there drug head fathers buying these things, & stupid rednecks thinking they can kill crap out to 1000 yards with them, I've hated the crossbow before they were legal & still do today, people look stupid carrying them thru the woods.hey look @ my new infrared scope i put on yesterday or hey I bought it off Craigslist yesterday & hunting with it the next morn, when they never have even shot a bow in there life burn all crossbows.
# Posted By Brad loomis | 2/19/13 2:53 AM
Brad loomis's Gravatar Right on there David from n.c well said brother.
# Posted By Brad loomis | 2/19/13 2:59 AM
Brad loomis's Gravatar Hey bob stout go back to ur compound bow then if there AIN'T no Nichols worth of difference in the two that doesn't make any sense.
# Posted By Brad loomis | 2/19/13 3:04 AM
Gene's Gravatar Ah, the haters have appeared. They also are the same ones that refuse to acknowledge what they despise within their own ranks.
It is much easier to bash others instead of looking introspectively.
# Posted By Gene | 2/19/13 1:48 PM