This week is a little long, but some very good reading, at the bottom is list of legislation and how to contact your legislators. There have been several bills introduced in the legislature this year that would enhance our hunting opportunities and those that would make them worse. One bill that the IBA supports would enhance hunting for non-ambulatory hunters. House File 325 would allow non-ambulatory hunters to use the weapon for the season they are hunting. Previously they could only use shot guns or muzzle loaders regardless of the season. There are two other bills the IBA supports that would enhance not only hunters’ opportunities but outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. The Iowa Resource Enhancement and Protection Fund (HF77) and the Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund (HF114) would help fund several new initiatives that would increase opportunities across a wide spectrum of activities. Along with the good comes the bad. House Study Bill 163 would allow the use of crossbows in late archery season with an archery license. Currently a crossbow can be used in late season as an alternate weapon using a license issued for muzzle loader not an archery license. HSB163 is an innocent sounding bill, but the unintended consequences of this bill could have onerous effects for deer and archers. We spoke with legislators who support this bill. They promised that crossbows will never be allowed in the archery season. We are sure that is their intention. Unfortunately, they are on a two-year election cycle and the IBA measures cycles in generations. While we would like to see them retain their seats two things can happen, they could lose an election or retire. What happens then? Well-meaning legislators inadvertently opened the door to crossbows in archery only seasons. Several states allow “full inclusion” of crossbows in archery seasons. These states passed the full inclusion laws based on the assumption that the crossbow would increase hunter recruitment and aid in deer population control. What has actually happened is the inclusive crossbow laws shifted firearm hunters into the archery season using crossbows. Sales dropped for both archery and firearm licenses in states that sold separate crossbow licenses. The addition of crossbows in those states did not increase overall license sales. We cannot show numbers and crossbow manufactures cry foul when this is brought up, but it stands to reason that the newly added crossbow hunters will displace current archers from lands they have been hunting for years and further over crowd what little public hunting ground Iowa has. It is entirely possible that part of the drop in archery license sales is due to archers buying crossbow licenses or is it possible that archers are buying fewer licenses because they are being displaced on hunting land by crossbow hunters and they elect to give up hunting? In the states that do not differentiate between an archery license and a crossbow license comparisons are difficult but including crossbows as a method of take in any season did not increase license sales to the levels promised by the crossbow manufacturers. States that allow crossbows in the archery season have seen a continued increase in the number of bucks being taken in archery season while the number of antlerless deer taken remains constant. This does nothing to support the claims of enhanced population control, it only means the age structure of bucks in those states is dropping. Iowa has taken years to build world class deer hunting that crossbows have the potential to ruin. As previously stated, gun hunters move into archery seasons to use crossbows and most continue to gun hunt as well. This shift to taking two bucks a year by hunters who normally take one buck per year would have detrimental effects on buck age structure. To compensate for the alteration in age structure Iowa may need to adopt a one buck and done, earn a buck or some sort of antler restrictions to ensure our world class age structure remains intact. Crossbows fall well short of the stated goal of new hunter recruitment and an aid in population control. We feel there is too much to lose in the long term if HSB163, allowing crossbows to be used with an archery license in late season, is allowed to become a law. Our legislature continues to try and micromanage the Wildlife Division of the Department of Natural Resources as evidenced by the flurry of bills this year that would negate the gains in the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund made last year by the more than fair license fee increases. These proposed bills would decrease the amount of revenue from the sale of licenses by approximately 4.1 million dollars. Last year’s increase was to gain approximately 4.5 million dollars for the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund. Without adequate funding the Wildlife Division of the DNR cannot afford to support fishing, hunting and trapping in Iowa. Perhaps that is what some in the legislature are trying to accomplish. There is a character limit on posts, this post blew right through the limit. Please see part 2 for the rest of the weekly update.