By Bill Cooper
In my 35 years as an outdoor writer, never have I been the victim of libel until the response of one individual to my crossbow article in the September issue of the Traveler. Libel is a written or printed statement tending to injure a person’s reputation unjustly. This individual strayed far from the issues at hand to attack my reputation and integrity in news print. I totally agree with Editor Styron that it is sad when people who disagree with a point choose to ignore facts as stated and instead attack a person’s integrity. This individual went so far as to cancel his subscription, maybe in hopes of getting me fired.
The individual at hand deliberately changed facts in my story to make me look bad. He changed the yardage figures at which I shot a crossbow at deer and assumes he knows my mental state of mind. He, in fact, knows nothing about me.
I stated in my article that I became proficient with a crossbow at known distances. I used a rangefinder during practice sessions. It is not any easier to be accurate at unknown distances with a crossbow than a compound. Most archers know that range finders are an efficient tool which helps to reduce misses and losses. That is the ethical thing to do. However, range finders are not mandatory by law. People have a choice.
This individual also stated that I am not interested in the hunt, only killing. I have harvested deer with recurves, compounds, rifles, pistols and muzzleloaders. At this stage in my life, I must use a crossbow to continue bow hunting. And $10,000 will not make my war and work injuries go away.
I did not harvest one single deer last year. It would have been easy to walk the 150 yards to my food plots that I love to care for at my own expense. I allowed others to hunt on my plots.
This gentleman goes on to say that I have lowered the bar of bowhunting. Does he not realize that he has lowered the bar of basic human respect one for the other? He went so far as to insenuate that I am lazy.
Sir, allow me to introduce myself. I grew up the a child of poor cotton farmers, worked my way through college earning a Masters’ in Outdoor Education and Park Management and an officer’s commission in the U.S. Army. I fought to preserve our freedoms-freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom to have an opinion and a choice. I intend to keep exercising all of them.
Besides my jobs as a park superintendent and naturalist, I have been an outdoor writer for 35 years with credits in several national magazines, many websites, including Bass Pro and Cabela’s, and numerous periodicals and newspapers. I also hosted my own outdoor radio and TV shows for years. Too, I regularly attend media hunts sponsored by Ray Eye, outdoor products companies and state tourism commissions.
I have dedicated my life to educating people about the outdoors and intend to continue. I directed youth hunting camps for the NWTF and the Land Learning Foundation for 20 years. I have received several awards over the years, including the “Conservation Educator of the Year -2000″ from the Conservation Federation of Missouri. I have taught outdoor skills at church youth groups, scouts, Bass Pro’s Wonders of the Outdoor World Conservation School and NWTF’s Women in the Outdoors program.
My list of memberships would be boring, but I have belonged or now belong to outdoor writers groups which hold me accountable for my ethics as well as my writing.
I studied the history of crossbows long and hard before I ever picked one up. I, too, was once a purist, slow to adapt to the new stuff on the market. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that position. However, I have moved on and enjoyed the experiences. I was flabbergasted to learn that the Chinese used the crossbow in combat well over 2,000 years ago. I was even more amazed to learn
English longbowmen once soundly defeated an invading army of crossbowmen. And our own Special Forces troops fought with Montagnard natives who used crossbows in combat as late as 1967.
Next, I began studying the states that have legalized crossbows for regular archery seasons. The long terms studies of some `15 states soundly kills every argument about crossbow hunters decimating deer herds or products companies running the show. Their research also demonstrates that women and kids do pick up the sport. And crossbow hunters tally the same kill ratio as compound bow hunters, 15%.
We all know that our freedoms to hunt are in jeopardy. Our MDC deer biologist made the statement recently that Missouri would lose 125,000 deer hunters in the next 25 years. A former director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri challenged my stance last year on crossbows with the statement that legalizing crossbows would bring 160,000 new hunters into archery. Why would he not want that? One reason. The same reason I read into my critics statements. They do not want the competition. In my 40 years of studying why one user group opposes the other, the bottom line is always competition.
One critic suggested that I not talk about misses and wounding deer. I am under oath to tell the truth. Doing anything else would only hurt the hunting sports.
The guy behind the crossbow, me, is credible. I made a lousy shot and wounded a deer on my own property. I had watched that deer for months. It had fed in my food plots all summer. To wound any animal and not retrieve it brings anguish. I spent the better part of two days looking for that deer. I wounded one deer with a recurve, one with a compound and one with a muzzleloader which I did not retrieve. Many dozens have made it home to my freezer, however.
Anyone who tells me that they have hunted for many years and never wounded a deer, well, I don’t believe. Thus far, no one has ever told me that. Critics, how ’bout you?
Bottom line. The facts are in. Crossbows are not the wicked tool that many believe. Check the facts yourself. If you have a computer, Google the “history of crossbows” or “hunting with a crossbow”. Find the websites of the states who have legalized crossbow seasons. I could list them for you, but if you are as concerned as you state, you will do the work yourself. Too, look at the posts on Traveler’s website.
In the meantime, let’s pull together to preserve hunting. Our MDC is the greatest, but sometimes misguided. If they don’t legalize crossbows soon, they may one day wish they had those 160,000 new hunters in the woods.
As a closing thought: I love the stimulation of criticism. I have been on the phones and e-mails. You’ll not believe where my next crossbow article is going to appear. Thanks for the stimulation!
Forgiving my critic,