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Maine’s crossbow laws have changed

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Although crossbows have never held a lot of appeal for me, I have hunted with a borrowed crossbow in the deer-rich state of Maryland. For me it just seems awkward to carry while still hunting, and it doesn’t have the visual appeal of conventional longbows, recurves or compound bows. As a hunting device it is accurate and lethal and, in the eyes of the law and the hardcore bowhunters, neither fish nor fowl. The Maine Warden Service considers the crossbow not to be a firearm. The Maine Bowhunters Association (MBA) could never warm up to the medieval contraption, deeming it not a true bow.

Crossbows have a place, however, despite their controversial background among Maine sportsmen. A crossbow provides additional hunting opportunities, especially for older folks or people with physical limitations. This is a good thing. Once the Rodney Dangerfield of Maine hunting devices, the crossbow has “arrived” so to speak and, while it will never take on the swashbuckling aura of the conventional bows, Maine hunting regulations now validate the legitimacy of the once-maligned crossbow.

Not unlike our state fishing regulations, the new crossbow regulations are anything but simple. Here are the crossbow rules and regulations as best as I can fathom them:

To hunt big game with a crossbow, you must hold a big game license and you must have completed an archery hunting education course and a crossbow hunting course.

If you are under 65 years of age, you may use a crossbow to hunt any wild bird or animal in a season except that a crossbow may not be used to hunt deer during the expanded archery season, the October archery season, the muzzleloading season and the fall turkey season,

If you are 65 years of age or older you may use a crossbow to hunt any wild bird or wild animal in season including deer during the expanded archery season, regular October archery season, muzzleloading season on deer and the fall wild turkey season.

Convicted felons, who cannot hunt with firearms, may hunt with a crossbow if they have taken and successfully completed all of the required courses above.

Persons with permanent disability, who have been issued a special handicap permit, may use a crossbow to hunt any wild bird or animal in season as long as they have the required permits and have successfully completed the required safety education courses enumerated above.

Valid junior hunting license holders may hunt with a crossbow without purchasing permits.

By the way, the Maine Warden Service will enforce the requirement that a hunter wishing to hunt with a bow and arrow hold a valid archery license. Reading between the lines, no more Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to bowhunters without archery licenses! Even if you were only bowhunting deer during the November firearms season, you still must hold an archery licenses as well as a big game license. And you cannot purchase a Maine archery license without first having successfully completed an archery safety course.

Word to the wise.

To look at a list of upcoming archery safety courses in 2018 go online at: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/education/safety/archery.htm.

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The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications

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