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Crossbow hunting bill gets a hearing

MADISON (WRN)   The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage holds a hearing Wednesday on a bipartisan bill (AB 194) that would allow crossbows for all, in the archery season.

A sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mary Czaja spoke candidly about her upbringing as a bowhunter and her subsequent treatments for breast cancer that led to pain and discomfort when pulling a bowstring. She said the bill would expand opportunities for persons like herself. Crossbows are currently allowed for those who are 65 and older, or for disabled hunters. But it can be a costly process as co-sponsor Rep. Chris Danou said insurance will not cover the medical testing necessary to prove the need for a license.

A number of outdoor groups such as the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and the Wisconsin Crossbow Federation showed up in support of the legislation; however, Wisconsin Bowhunters Association and a branch of Safari Club International spoke in opposition. The Bowhunters Association and SCI are in favor of expanding crossbow hunting but would like to see it take place in a separate season from bowhunting. Bowhunters Association President Mike Brust expressed concerns a shared season can lead to overharvesting and difficulty in assessing data for proper harvest limits.

“Michigan is one of the first states that included crossbows that actually kept the (deer) data separate,” he said. “The hunters success for crossbows over archery equipment was substantially higher. But more than that, it was substantially higher than gun hunters for their season.”

Rep. Al Ott, chair of the committee, said there could be other factors at play. “The deer kill in Wisconsin can vary because of the weather, significantly because of the weather.”

The bill is a result of a compromise among all the aforementioned groups which made Ott question why those opposed are now speaking against its language.

The proposal would allow those buying an archery license to pay an extra $3 for a crossbow license, or vice-versa. The number of animals allowed per hunter would not change with the additional license.