For many years the policymakers at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W) resisted bringing the crossbow into the mix of legal hunting devices. All the while, other states were adopting fairly liberal allowances for the crossbow.
The Maine Bowhunters Association long opposed the crossbows, arguing that they did not fit the bow criteria like traditional bows, recurves and compound bows. The non-purists, on the other hand, argued that the crossbow was just another hunting device, ethically no better or no worse than compound bows when it came to the ethical dimensions of fair chase. The same group insisted that not all hunters are physically capable of handling the draw weights of compound bows, and that crossbows opened up new hunt opportunities for older folks, the disabled and others less capable physically.
All of this is relatively moot now. MDIF&W is finally on board with the crossbows, albeit with some minor restrictions and seasonal parameters for hunters. The crossbows regulations are changing rapidly. This fall’s crossbow rules are quite different from last year’s. Here are the highlights:
1. You don’t need to take both the archery safety course and the crossbow safety course, if you already hold a firearms big game license. And the crossbow safety course is now offered online.
2. If you are 64 years old or younger, and hold a crossbow license, you may hunt with a crossbow during the October archery season and the November firearms season, but unlike conventional bow hunters you cannot take a doe unless you have a doe permit for the zone in which you are hunting. Neither can you hunt with a crossbow during the muzzleloader season or the expanded archery season in September.
3. If you are 65 or older, the world is your oyster! You may, with a crossbow, hunt any wild bird or animal during any open season. You may also hunt deer with a crossbow during the muzzleloader season and the expanded archery season. You may also take a deer of either sex during the October archery season without a special doe permit as long as you are hunting in a wildlife management district that issues doe permits.
There are particular regulations about crossbow equipment. Draw weight must be at least 100 pounds. Crossbows must have a trigger safety. Pistol grip crossbows are prohibited but scopes or sights are allowed.
Regulations regarding disability permits and youth hunting with crossbows are a bit complicated, so you need to check for the details on the MDIF&W website.
Be advised, too, that there are some specific areas of the state, Marsh Island in Old Town for example, where crossbows are not permitted. Ditto some of the offshore islands and state sanctuaries. Check the law book.
I have had limited experience hunting deer with crossbows in Maryland. Although somewhat awkward to carry through the woods when still hunting, they are extremely accurate and effective as a deer hunting device. The ones I used required cocking and some physical effort.