Committee recommends technology-friendly changes to bow hunting regulations

By Dick Mason, The Observer September 24, 2010 12:44 pm
Tradition versus technology — sparks fly wherever debates concerning it are raised, including the bow hunting arena.

La Grande outdoorsman Phil Gillette understands this first hand. He is a bow hunter and a member of a committee of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission created to recommend what, if any, technological devices should be allowed for use by bow hunters. The committee, following some lively discussions, is concluding that technology is a good thing as long as it does not make bow hunting less challenging.


The committee, comprised of about half a dozen people from throughout the state, will submit a report to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Sept. 30 recommending that:

• bow hunters be allowed to use lighted arrow nocks.

• archers be able to attach video cameras to their bows while hunting.

• crossbows be legal to use by some hunters with disabilities.

Lighted nocks

Gillette supports lighted nocks since they make it easier for hunters to find arrows and determine if they hit an animal or missed it completely. When hunters find an arrow with blood on it they know they should continue pursuing the animal because it is wounded. A clean arrow of course means the animal was missed completely and that the hunter can relax, said Gillette, the owner of Phil’s Outdoor Surplus & More.

He recalled several years ago a hunter using lighted nocks illegally came to him late in the day and told him he had lost an arrow after firing at an animal. Gillette took out his binoculars found the arrow in about two minutes because of its lighted nock. The arrow was clean, a big relief to the hunter who had worried that he had injured the animal.

“He was sick (thinking he had wounded the animal),’’ Gillette said. “He was able to go back to camp (after finding that his arrow was clean) and have a good night’s sleep.’’

Ron Babcock, a La Grande archer who is not on the committee Gillette serves on but is knowledgeable about the tradition versus technology issue, also supports the use of illuminated nocks.

“They help with game retrieval, which is a good thing,’’ said Babcock, who co-owns Alpine Archery with his wife, Michelle.

Bow video

Video cameras on bows will also be recommended for approval by the state committee, Gillette said. He endorses their use because they not only preserve hunters’ experiences, but also allow them to evaluate their shots and tell if they wounded the animal they fired at. Babcock also supports their use.

“They allow you to keep another aspect of your hunt,’’ he said.

Should the State Fish and Wildlife Commission later vote to allow video cameras on bows, it would represent a major shift from present state law. Today nothing electronic is allowed on bows. This means that even attaching a digital wristwatch on a bow is illegal, Babcock said.


Gillette is glad his committee supports allowing disabled hunters to use crossbows. He said that several years ago he sold a crossbow to a disabled Union County man. He had not been able to hunt with it yet because crossbows are illegal in Oregon.

“It is about time that he had a chance to use it,’’ Gillette said.

Babcock also endorses making crossbows available to the disabled. He said they would be easier to use and safer than a device disabled bow hunters must use now. The contraption includes a steel bar and a trigger clamp.

“It is ridiculous how cumbersome it is,’’ Babcock said.

The archery device is also dangerous because before firing, its bow must be drawn and lifted without an arrow. A bow accidentally released at full draw without an arrow can injure the archer and anyone around the individual.

The state committee Gillette serves on opposes allowing bow hunters to use range finders or laser sights because they would make it easier for hunters to hit their targets.

“They would take away from the challenge,’’ Gillette said.

Range finders, for example, would prevent hunters from having to estimate how far away their target is. Calculating distance is a major part of bow hunting.

Gillette’s committee will present its bow hunting-technology recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Commission on Sept. 30 at a meeting in Salem. It is not known when the commission will make decisions regarding the recommendations.