DNR Proposes New Crossbow Hunting Regulations

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In an effort to provide an additional hunting tool to help curb the increasingly dense deer populations statewide, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Heritage Service announced today proposed crossbow-hunting changes.

After receiving input from stakeholders across Maryland, the Department has chosen Regulation Proposal Number 2, which allows crossbows across the state during all firearm and all muzzleloader deer hunting seasons, and during the following segments of the 2003-2004 Bow Season – October 1-15 and January 15-31, 2004.

Regulation Proposal Number 1 would have allowed for statewide expansion of the crossbow during all deer seasons by any licensed deer hunter. The two proposals were developed after a series of stakeholder meetings with input from the hunting and wildlife community.

“While some supporters and opponents remained in disagreement about this change, the Department appreciated the spirited debate and the substantial feedback we received on the two proposals, ” said Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul A. Peditto. Additionally, the Department received and reviewed over 500 emails, letters and phone comments on the original proposals over a two-week period.

“The comments were split fairly evenly on either side, but more importantly, the volume of input is evidence that the public finds this to be a reasonable and effective method of voicing their opinion on important hunting issues,” he said. “We are looking forward to following through on our promise to monitor the impacts of this change and correct any unforeseen consequences should they occur,” Peditto added.

Steve Rupert, newly elected President of the Maryland Bowhunters Society expressed support for the decision: “While this outcome remains a concern to our membership, we believe it represents a reasonable compromise that will be scientifically measurable regarding its effects on deer management, and deer hunting in Maryland.

“We are confident that DNR will follow through on their plans to evaluate this decision. We knew this issue was not going away,” Rupert added, “We are happy to have had the opportunity to participate in this discussion and remain hopeful that we can continue working with DNR on other issues of mutual importance.”

DNR's long-term goals for deer management are to ensure the present and future well-being of deer and their habitat; maintain populations at levels necessary to ensure compatibility with human land uses and natural communities; encourage and promote the recreational use and enjoyment of the resource; and inform and educate Maryland citizens about biology, management options and the impacts that deer have on landscapes and people. Both native white-tailed deer and exotic sika deer populations are managed through legally established hunting seasons.

Regulation Proposal Number 2:

  • Legalize crossbows for hunting deer statewide during all firearm and all muzzleloader deer hunting seasons, and during the following segments of the Bow Season – October 1-15, 2003 and January 15-31, 2004
  • Any hunter who is 65 years of age or older and qualifies to hunt without a license, or possesses a Resident Senior Hunting License, a Resident Senior Lifetime Consolidated Hunting License, or a Nonresident Hunting License, can hunt deer with a crossbow in all Maryland deer hunting seasons.
  • As they are now, vertical bows would remain legal during all deer hunting seasons.
  • A Bow Stamp will be required to hunt deer with a crossbow during the Bow Season.
  • A Muzzleloader Stamp will be required to hunt deer with a crossbow during the Muzzleloader Season.
  • Hunters who possess a Resident Senior Lifetime Consolidated Hunting License are exempt from the stamp requirements.
  • Deer taken with crossbows during the Bow Season count against the Bow Season deer bag limits.
  • Deer taken with crossbows during the Firearm Season, when Bow Season is closed, count against the Firearm Season deer bag limits.
  • Deer taken with crossbows during the Muzzleloader Season, when Bow Season is closed, count against the Muzzleloader Season deer bag limits; and
  • Crossbow hunters will be required to wear hunter orange when hunting during the firearm and muzzleloader seasons.

The new regulation will distinguish the rules for crossbows from vertical bows, and additional information about the safe and effective use of crossbows will be included in future publications to be distributed to the hunting public and hunting equipment retailers. The regulation proposal will be posted in the Maryland Register this summer. Adopted regulations will be in effect for the 2003-2004 deer seasons.