Despite the controversy that surrounds Wisconsin crossbow deer hunting, the actual impact is surprising.
2014 was the first year that Wisconsin allowed hunters to use crossbows to hunt deer during archery season. The results speak loudly, but may not be exactly what you think. Overall, the number of bucks harvested by bow in 2014 hit a state record. Results also showed that the average Wisconsin crossbow deer hunters were older, but overall, there was a higher success rate amongst all hunters that used this method.
By the numbers, the entire state had lower deer hunting license sales as well as lower than normal volume of deer harvested. At the end of the day, even though hunters were more successful with crossbows, fewer deer were still taken resulting in a very minimal effect at all.
The numbers included 47,449 total crossbow or archery upgrades tags, that allowed the use of both bow and crossbow, sold. 26,891 deer were taken with a crossbow whereas 54,810 were taken with a vertical bow. In comparison, 222,588 deer were taken by gun.
A success rate was also given by hunters that used any particular weapon and harvested at least one deer as well. Crossbow users found success at 29.9%, compared to 23.0% for vertical bows, and 29.4% for firearms.
Hunters that purchased a conservation patron license, which allowed use of crossbow, vertical bows, and firearms during their coinciding seasons, had the highest success rate at 45.9%. These also tend to be the more avid hunters.
When only one buck was registered, success rates dropped significantly. These buck-only hunters factored out to 9.5% for crossbow, 13.6% for vertical bow, and 13.8% for gun.
Overall in 2014, 304,289 deer were harvested, which happened to be down 11% from the previous year. The total archery season harvest was down 7%, and the total deer hunting license sales were down 2%.
The only increase that Wisconsin saw from the use of crossbows during their first season is the total amount of bucks that were harvested. In 2013, the bucks harvested was 46,201 with only 15,768 coming by way of crossbow. In 2012, the total number of bucks harvested was 45,988. This represents an increase of 213 bucks taken for the entire state of Wisconsin in 2014, on an otherwise down year for everything else.
These results are only the numbers from one year of Wisconsin crossbow deer hunting being legal. After next year, and even the year after that, trends will start to show the true effects of hunting with crossbows.