BLAINE, Minn. — Archery hunters have been in Minnesota's woods for a couple weeks now, but this year another kind of hunter is joining them.
Thanks to a new law, this is the first season that people of all ages are allowed to use crossbows to hunt deer.
When the temperature drops, Sam Oftedahl, owner of Capra's Sporting Goods in Blaine sees business pick up. But this fall hunters are looking for more than just firearms and compound bows.
"This shelf has been re-arranged a hundred times the past two months because if we have crossbows here, they aren't going to last long," said Oftedahl.
From last year to this year, and since the law went into effect, Oftedahl estimates crossbow sales have gone up about 500%.
"I wish I had 600 crossbows in stock because I know they'd go," said Oftedahl.
In the past, hunters had to be 60 years of age and older, or have a disability, to be eligible to use a crossbow. The new legislation took away the age requirement.
"They are easier to use typically, than a compound bow. We will likely see an increase in archery-hunter participation," said Barb Keller with the Department of Natural Resources.
Keller is the Big Game Program Leader with the DNR. She says they weren't expecting the new law to pass this year. As a result, they'll be keeping an eye on how many deer are harvested with a crossbow. Especially in areas like northern Minnesota, where deer numbers have been down in recent years, due to harsh winter weather.
"There are some concerns we've heard from hunters about potential increases in deer harvests," said Keller. "As the popularity grows, we may need to make some changes to our rules and regulations to account for that antlerless harvest in lottery areas."
In the meantime, Oftedahl sees the change attracting sportsmen and women of all ages. He's heard from hunting traditionalists who are against the new law, but points out that there have been technological changes in the past.
"We use 4-wheelers to go to our stands, we use state of the art stands, we use heaters in blinds," said Oftedahl. "I think it's a pro. Gets more people in the woods."
The DNR anticipates that more firearms hunters will participate in the archery season because of the new law. As part of the change, turkey hunters will also be allowed to use crossbows in the spring.
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