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Brookfield mayor worried about bowhunting in city

State has placed limits on local ability to regulate

Ken Sheatsw, Archery supervisor at the Waukesha Gander Mountain, with a compound crossbow.

Ken Sheatsw, Archery supervisor at the Waukesha Gander Mountain, with a compound crossbow. Photo By Staff Photo by C.T. Kruger

Dec. 30, 2013

They aren't flying off the shelves yet, but crossbows at Gander Mountain in Waukesha are at the ready after Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation that opens up crossbow use to all hunters, with the first season beginning next fall.

Previously, only those older than 65 or those with a physical disability could use crossbows, while other hunters were limited to using a traditional bow.

"People have been coming in and asking questions, wanting to try them out on our range," store manager Tim Hollfelder said, motioning to the archery room behind him. "They're just really excited to have it open to everyone."

Crossbows, which look like bows turned on their side, require less strength to operate than a traditional bow, and can shoot arrows that travel faster and slightly farther, Hollfelder said.

Loss of control

But Mayor Steve Ponto is concerned about another act, also recently signed into law by the governor, that sets limits on how municipalities can regulate the use of crossbows and traditional bows. He has spoken to lawmakers about his concerns.

"One of my criticisms of the Legislature is when they encroach on local control, and this is a prime example, where it says local communities cannot outlaw bow-and-arrow hunting and crossbow hunting within the city limits," Ponto said.

He asked the city's Legislative and Licensing Committee to consider what regulations it can apply. The act outlines two ways communities are able to restrict the use of bows: prohibiting hunting within 100 yards of an occupied building without that owner's permission and requiring arrows to be shot in a downward direction.

Ponto said he thinks the city should consider adopting both provisions. Hunting by any means will remain prohibited in city parks, Ponto said.

"There are all kinds of places you can go bowhunting, but we don't need it in the city of Brookfield," Ponto said. "The concern in my mind is, first of all, people getting hurt inadvertently, and also deer being wounded and going substantial distance and then dying."

Defending crossbows

Tom Sermersheim, president of Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs and Educators — which spent 15 hours lobbying for the bill establishing the crossbow season — said he doesn't think crossbows will pose more of a threat to safety than bowhunting that is already allowed.

"In some ways it can be argued it's more accurate because you don't have to worry about holding it up and you can be more steady," Sermersheim said.

He also said it could be more ideal than hunting with shotguns in suburban areas because of its shorter range.

The crossbow hunting season will coincide with the regular archery season beginning in fall. Crossbow hunters will have to get a specific license, which requires an education course, separate from the archer license for traditional bowhunting.

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