More Minnesota hunters take a shot at using crossbows for deer hunting

Misty Stoll scans the area as she waits for a deer to pass her blind.
Misty Stoll scans the area for movement as she waits for a deer to pass her blind during archery season.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News 2017

Expanded use of a crossbow for hunting appears to be popular with Minnesota deer hunters. The change allows any hunter participating in the archery season to use a crossbow rather than a traditional vertical bow.

Since the deer archery season opened on Sept. 16, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been asking hunters about their choice of weapon when they register killed deer.

“We have recorded 790 deer being taken with a crossbow, which is running about 40 percent of our total archery harvest,” said DNR Big Game Program Leader Barb Keller.

The crossbow option is popular because the powerful weapon is easier to use than a traditional vertical bow, she said.

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Crossbow use is not new in Minnesota, but it was limited in the past to those aged 60 or older and those who received a permit due to disability.

Keller said the agency never tracked how many archers used a crossbow in the past. But she expects interest in crossbow hunting will lead to a shift in deer harvest.

“I'm really not anticipating that our overall or total deer harvest is going to change substantially due to this. And that's based on what other states have seen that have made this change.” said Keller.

“I do expect that we're going to have a higher archery season deer harvest, but many of those will be potentially people moving over that were traditionally firearms deer hunters, deciding instead to partake in this earlier season.”

The archery season is attractive to hunters because it’s longer, allowing hunters more opportunities to spend time in the field and weather is often more pleasant in September than early November when the traditional firearms season happens, Keller said.  

a crossbow on a log
More Minnesotans are moving toward the crossbow for hunting purposes.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

“We expect it to grow in popularity. We'll see an increase in the number of people that are participating in that season over time,” she said.

The agency will be monitoring changes in deer harvest for any possible impact on management decisions in the future. For example, archery season hunters are not subject to the lottery system used in some parts of the state to limit harvest of antlerless deer.

“So, with more of our firearms hunters potentially shifting over into the archery season, we need to be aware of what potential effect that's having on higher antlerless harvest,” Keller said.

Next year, the DNR plans a survey of archery deer hunters to ask more detailed questions about the crossbow use. A report on expanded crossbow use is due to the state Legislature in 2025.