- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board wants to expand the use of crossbows during the fall archery deer-hunting season, hoping to lure more hunters by making shooting easier and more precise.

Vermont currently allows archers to use crossbows only if they have a physical condition that prevents them from using a traditional vertical bow. Crossbows have rifle-like stocks and telescopic sights.

Officials hope the change will make an aging population of hunters stay with bow hunting or bring in others who don’t feel they can master the vertical bow.

“That’s a huge change,” said Rick Sanborn, the owner of R&L; Archery in Barre, a store that sells archery, both traditional and crossbows, and other hunting and outdoors equipment.

About 6,000 of the 20,000 archery licenses sold each year go to crossbow users, and the number is going up, officials said.

“We have an aging population of hunters,” Sanborn said. “I’m a part of it. We’re the Baby Boom Generation, and we’re starting to fall apart. Every year there’s more people who qualify.”

The Fish and Wildlife Board, which implements hunting and fishing regulations in the state, wants the new crossbow regulations implemented in time for this fall’s archery hunt. The change must also be approved by the Legislature, said Mark Scott, the wildlife director for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The crossbow proposal and several other changes to hunting regulations were developed by the board after a deer management study and two years of public input.

The archery season would also be expanded by 10 days, starting a week earlier and lasting three days longer into October, and archery and muzzle loading season deer limits would be reduced from three deer to two.

The board must approve the proposal three times before it can take effect. The first approval was last month.

Officials are planning to hold a series of hearings across the state at the end of March. Interested people can also submit written comments to the board through the Fish and Wildlife website.

Scott said nearly two dozen other states have some form of liberalized hunting with crossbows beyond just allowing disabled hunters to use them.

“The plus with crossbows … is that people can become more proficient using the implement with a lot less practice than with a traditional bow,” Scott said. “The reality is that’s probably not a bad thing.”

It will make it easier for people who might not have the time to practice with a bow to get out and bow hunt.

But it doesn’t guarantee people will be able to get a deer.

“You still have to put yourself in the woods, in a natural environment, probably within 35 yards or less, to make a good, accurate clean shot,” Scott said.

The proposal isn’t universally favored.

Arick Miller, 26, of Barre Town, who bow hunts every fall until he gets a deer, was practicing with a traditional bow on R&L;’s indoor archery range on Tuesday. He doesn’t believe the use of crossbows should be expanded.

“Why not learn the bow and do it traditionally?” Miller said. “I was brought up on this thing. I’ll never pick up one of those (crossbows) unless I’m disabled.”

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