- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

MOUNT VERNON, Maine (AP) — During the Middle Ages, a Roman Catholic edict labeled crossbows as “deadly and God-detested.” Even today, archery purists cast a wary eye toward the weapons long associated with medieval warfare.

But times are changing.

In Maine, a bill allowing crossbow use during deer firearms season has worked its way through the legislative process and likely will be signed into law by Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat. Neighboring New Hampshire has a similar law, as do a growing number of other states.

“People are becoming educated about it,” said Daniel James Hendricks of the American Crossbow Federation in Glenwood, Minn.

Many hunters think acceptance of the crossbow, a bow fixed crosswise on a wooden stock, is long overdue.

“It’s a silly fool who thinks killing an animal with one tool is different than killing him with another,” said Bill Smith of Mount Vernon.

The relative ease of handling a 7- or 8-pound crossbow adds to its growing popularity, said Mr. Smith, 60. Longtime bow hunters who are getting older find it much easier to hold and aim, without straining to keep pressure on the string.

The American Crossbow Federation says many states recognize crossbows as a legal hunting weapon, but under conditions that vary widely. Some states allow them for big or small game during general hunting seasons, as well as special muzzleloader seasons and even for fishing.

At the other end of the scale are Maine and a few other states where the federation says crossbows are not recognized as a legal hunting weapon.

Mr. Hendricks said several states are considering joining more than a half-dozen that allow crossbows during archery season.

Maine state Rep. Stan Moody, the bill’s Democratic sponsor, first submitted a broadly worded measure that would have allowed crossbow use to hunt any wild animal or wild bird, even during archery season.

But he soon clashed with bow hunters, who saw potential competition. Mike Rovella of the Maine Bowhunters Association said the original bill would have more than tripled the ranks of archers during bow season, compromising landowner relations with hunters and prompting heavy deer kills, Mr. Rovella warned.

“It’s really not a bow. It is shot from the shoulder with a trigger and with a laser sight,” Mr. Rovella said.

But Mr. Moody, a registered guide who has a bowhunting license, contends that the much-maligned crossbow is ballistically the same weapon as a compound bow. The main difference, he said, is “it is more accurate.”

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