DULUTH, Minn. -- Crossbow use by deer hunters continues to grow in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, outdoor retailers say. Both states have relaxed regulations on crossbow use in recent years.
The devices, which shoot arrows -- called bolts -- accurately at high speeds, appeal especially to hunters who have difficulty drawing back compound bows. With a crossbow, the hunter cocks the weapon, and it holds the arrow in place until the hunter pulls a trigger to release it.
"It's probably 30 to 40 percent of my sales," said Randy Graber of Custom Archery and Outdoors in Superior.
John Chalstrom of Chalstrom's Archery north of Duluth said his crossbow sales are increasing, too.
"Years ago, we'd sell one crossbow a year," Chalstrom said. "In the last five years, we've been selling probably 15 crossbows a year. There's a lot more interest among people."
Mike Lemay at Sportsman's Choice in Superior has seen the same trend with crossbows.
"When they legalized them (in Wisconsin) it was really good," he said. "It's still pretty good, actually. I've sold more crossbows than bows in the last couple years, but bows are starting to make a comeback."
Harvest figures from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources bear out the growing popularity of crossbows. In Douglas County, 58 percent of the total archery kill in 2016 was done with crossbows. And statewide, 45 percent of the archery harvest in 2016 was with crossbows.
Recent innovations in crossbow technology, particularly in the Mathews Mission crossbows and the new Ravin crossbow made in Superior, are helping drive interest in crossbows, retailers say.
Minnesota changed its crossbow regulations in 2014 and now allows any hunter over age 60 to use one, as well as people of any age who have physical limitations verified by medical authorities.