Say your goodbyes. Bureaucrats at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Natural Resources Commission got their way and drove the final nail in the coffin of the long-standing tradition of bow hunting in Indiana.
For the first time since Indiana created an archery-equipment-only season, crossbows are legal to use all year.
The first handful of dirt on the coffin gets tossed on Oct. 1 when archery season opens and crossbows start their gradual domination over vertical bows.
Look no further than the history of other weapons for solid evidence this is the beginning of the end for vertical bows.
Within years of the first mass-produced percussion cap muzzleloaders, few hunters continued to use flintlock muzzleloaders. When inline muzzleloaders were commercially mass-produced, they gradually did away with both the percussion cap and side lock muzzleloaders.
Of course there are still some diehards who use less modern muzzleloaders and some will continue to shoot vertical bows, but they will eventually be a novelty.
For a more depressing look at the future of bowhunting in Indiana, consider Ohio’s experience.
Crossbows were first legalized for deer hunting in Ohio in 1976. In the beginning, hunters were only allowed to use crossbows during the final three weeks of the regular four-month archery season.
They were given full inclusion to the archery season in 1982, and in 1989 they surpassed vertical bows in the number of deer harvested for the first time. Crossbows have harvested more deer than vertical bows in Ohio every year since.
Obviously, crossbows haven’t killed Ohio’s deer herd, but deer there don’t have to also survive the longest gun season in the Midwest as they also have to do in Indiana.
No one, including me, thinks crossbows should be outlawed. They are fun to shoot and a legitimate deer weapon.
They belong in gun seasons with all the other point and hold weapons, however. To not see that they are more a gun than a bow speaks to the lack of experience in the field by the people who shoved them down Indiana hunters' throats.
The difference between vertical bows and crossbows is easily illustrated with a challenge. I will hold a crossbow on a target ready to shoot next to anyone with a similarly drawn vertical bow. Let’s see who can hold the weapon the longest.
The movement required to hunt with all vertical bows is a real handicap and is the reason many deer are alive today.
But the saddest thing about watching the beginning of the end of bowhunting is that it is part of a larger mentality by bureaucrats that deer in Indiana are nothing more than vermin.
If someone wanted to create a set of rules intended to turn hunting into nothing more than a plan to extirpate deer from Hoosier soil, they would likely come up with the rules now in place. The only thing missing is the allowance of night hunting, silencers and longer-range rifles.
Oops. Two of those ideas are being floated right now.
This dumbing-down of the hunting experience in Indiana by the IDNR and INRC matters because we lose real hunters and gain more last-minute shooters who don’t practice or care about conservation.
The IDNR and INRC must think Hoosiers are incapable of killing deer without them making it easier every year.
So, what can be done? For now, nothing can be done.
Even if epizootic hemorrhagic disease wipes out a large portion of our deer herd this fall, the rules can’t be stopped.
Ultimately, the only way to fight the special interests, greed and bureaucrats that created the new rules is with more bureaucracy.
Regardless of who wins this fall’s governor’s race, the majority of hunters need to show the new governor how the current IDNR and INRC administrations are a political liability.
He needs to know how IDNR and INRC officials alienated nearly every hunting organization here for the first time in history. He needs to see the mistrust between outdoorsmen and women and the people they once trusted to manage the outdoor sports. He then needs to look at places like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania where burned deer hunters rose up and made a difference.
The fallout from the liberalization of all our deer seasons won’t be felt right away, and bow season isn’t quite dead yet. It’s probably a good idea to start saying goodbyes this year, however, just in case.
Don Mulligan can be reached at