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By FRED JAMES Special to the Times-News
HARRISBURG – Once again, crossbows are legal to be part of the bowhunting scene in Pennsylvania for all archery seasons.
That was assured last week at a special meeting to address a proposal to limit their use held by the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of commissioners at agency headquarters. As a result of the board's 4-4 vote, a preliminary proposal that would have restricted crossbow to the first 12 days of the upcoming statewide archery season was defeated.
Crossbows were legalized by the board at its spring meeting, but those opposed to them took advantage of the terms of two supporters expiring to reopen the issue in July. At that time, commissioner Ron Weaner made a proposal to restrict the use of crossbows that passed by a 4-3 vote, and the proposed rule-making was – as required by state law reviewed by the state Office of Attorney General and published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Aug. 22.
Since then, commissioner Ralph Martone was appointed to fill the vacancy on the board, and he joined commissioners Greg Isabella, Dave Putnam and Bob Schlemmer in supporting the unlimited use of the crossbows. Weaner and commissioners Tom Boop, Dave Schreffler and Jay Delaney continued to support restricting their use, thus the deadlock failed to overturn the regulations for unrestricted use as are printed in the "Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest" that is supplied with each license purchase.
"By keeping the regulations as printed in the digest, we saved ourselves a lot of potential problems and embarrassment," Isabella said. "We're giving hunters a set of printed rules and regulations, then if we had made changes, put the onus on them to find out about the changes.
"I've been told that several district magistrates said they would have thrown any case out of court if we would have issued a field citation to a hunter using a crossbow after the first 12 days of the season. You're asking for problems and a lot of trouble you don't need by changing the rules after you've printed the rule book."
Pennsylvania has had an archery season since 1951, but much has changed since hunters took to the woods with longbows, recurve bows, wooden arrows and single-blade broadheads. Compound bows were legalized in the mid 1970s, and since then let-offs have gone from 30 to 85 percent, arrows have gone from aluminum to graphite and broadheads are now multi-blade fixed and expandable.
Just as some traditional archers once predicted that the inclusion of compound bows would destroy bowhunting, some who hunt with compound bows are now predicting crossbows will destroy bowhunting and making disparaging comments about those who use them. Isabella said he finds it ironic that most of the protests are coming from compound bowhunters who are too young to have hunted when only traditional archery equipment was used.
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