Maine’s three largest hunting organizations spoke against a bill Wednesday that would allow the use of crossbows during the archery season for deer, arguing that the change would reduce deer hunting opportunities for other hunters in Maine.

A few hunters at the same hearing before the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee argued the exact opposite – that allowing crossbows would create more hunting opportunities.

Rep. Tim Theriault, R-China, the sponsor of L.D. 27, “An act to allow crossbows in archery season,” said allowing crossbows would entice more people to hunt deer in Maine because crossbows are easier to use than compound ones.

“More youth could enjoy bow hunting without the struggle to pull a compound bow. They could safely harvest a deer without wounding it,” Theriault said.

Crossbows require less strength than compound bows, because the bow string needn’t be held in place by hand until it is released – instead, it is held in place mechanically and released by pressing a trigger. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife already allows crossbow use during moose and bear seasons, and for hunters with disabilities.

Tim Peabody, IFW’s deputy commissioner, testified that in the last five years 400 hunters with disabilities have received crossbow permits. He said the department would neither support nor oppose the bill.

Gary Hilliard of Belgrade, who has served on the Legislature’s IFW committee, testified in favor of the bill. He said that some hunters with disabilities consider the process of applying for the special permit a burden, and he added that crossbows would be another tool to help IFW manage the state’s deer herd.

But the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the Maine Professional Guides Association and the Maine Bowhunters Association all oppose the bill. Allowing crossbows, they said, would increase the number of deer taken during archery season, thus reducing firearm hunters’ chances of finding deer later in the fall. It would also force hunting guides and traditional bowhunters to share the field with people using a weapon that is easier to hunt with.

Don Kleiner, the Maine Professional Guides Association director, told the committee he has spoken against crossbow bills before, including one just two years ago.

Allowing crossbows would increase hunting pressure in northern Maine, where the deer herd is already smaller than elsewhere in the state, he said. If that happens, the state might respond by shortening the hunting season in northern Maine, which would harm hunting guides.

Ken Scribner, liaison for the bowhunters association, agreed.

“(The bill) keeps coming up,” Scribner said, “because people just want to shoot deer.”

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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