Hunters in Maine are training to use crossbows this year thanks to a new rule expanding the tools people can use during bow season. Hunters can now use crossbows in addition to compound and recurve bows starting this fall.
Crossbows offer hunters a couple of distinct advantages over traditional and compound bows, including better accuracy, and they require less physical strength to use well. Crossbows will be allowed for the October deer season and the fall wild turkey season.
Prior to this year, crossbows were restricted for use only during firearm season and by disabled hunters or hunters aged 65 years and older with specific permits. Now all hunters will have extra time and an opportunity to take game with crossbows in Maine with the new rule in effect.
The new rule is somewhat experimental and will be in place through 2022. After that, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, or IFW, will evaluate its effect on wildlife and the deer population before making firm changes to the hunting regulations.
Hunters looking to use crossbows are required to take an archery or firearms hunting class in addition to a crossbow safety course and have a crossbow permit. Resident permits run $26 for the year and non-resident permits $56.
Even before the new rule went into effect the number of hunters seeking crossbow permits rose steeply in 2020. In 2009, 326 hunters received crossbow permits, compared to 2019, when the IFW issued 1,168 crossbow permits.
“A lot more people who have health issues and can’t shoot a regular bow have been getting the special permit,” said Maine instructor Steve Dunsmore, who owns Lakeside Archery to Central Maine. “But changing the law has certainly increased its popularity. I’ve got a waiting list for classes.”
“It is crazy,” said Maine Rod and Gun Club President Shawn Sage. “And it’s a sport you can get into for under $100. Crossbows range from that to $400 to $3,000. But you don’t have to spend a lot.”
“I’ve had three shoulder surgeries, so I was heading in this direction anyway,” said local Andrew Goode. “With a crossbow there is a little more advantage. You don’t have to move while holding it. There’s less disturbance to the animal. And crossbows are more accepted in other states. Maine is a bit late to the party in allowing them.”
“I’m getting older,” said Nelson Begin, another Maine hunter with over 50 years experience in the field. “Things are not working as well. I like that it’s easier and the shot is more ethical.”
Depending on the style and model of crossbow, crossbows can fire bolts with as much if not more energy than bows and can easily shoot bolts with more power than most people who aren’t full-time archers can draw. But the big advantage is accuracy.
Because of the static nature of crossbows, hunters can lift and aim crossbows more easily and steadily compared to compound or recurve bows. This means they can take much more ethical shots as well as longer shots without spooking game.
For more information about crossbow hunting and hunting in Maine in general, visit the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department.