The Truth and Lies about Bowhunting

The Lie: “Early season bowhunting and bowhunting in general is very dangerous because leaves are still on the trees and bushes and deer and hunters can’t be seen. Especially since bowhunters don’t have to wear orange and instead wear camouflage.”

The Truth: Bowhunting is substantially less dangerous to non-hunters and hunters alike than other forms of hunting and many of the activities we all engage in. This is supported in fact:

  • National Safety Council statistics on injuries and deaths indicate that the sport of archery and bowhunting combined are safer than golf, tennis, fishing, swimming, and bicycling (“Injuries/ deaths per 100,000 participants”). Injuries or deaths by bowhunters to non-hunters are virtually non-existent.
  • According to the Massachusetts Division of Environmental Law Enforcement, an archer in the state of Massachusetts has never injured a non-hunter.

Bowhunting has gained substantial acceptance as a means of controlling deer populations in suburban areas because of its compatibility with other uses of land. This is because bowhunters, by choice of hunting implement, have limited themselves to taking shots at ranges of 25 yards or less. In order to get this close to a deer, most archers hunt from elevated stands resulting in shots with a downward trajectory. This means an arrow is in the ground within 3 to 5 feet of its intended target. The very nature of bowhunting requires clear identification of the intended target as well as any potential obstacles between the archer and the target. In my opinion, it is much more important that a hunter can discern my presence than I can his if we are sharing a property for different purposes.

The Lie: “Bowhunting is cruel.”

The Truth: While bowhunting is significantly more challenging than other forms of hunting, comprehensive scientific studies have found that bow and arrows are comparable to firearms in speed of dispatch. Animal rights activists often refer to a 50% wounding rate by bowhunters based on a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department study. However, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials characterize their own study as “incomplete in methodologies with little application to archery hunting as it is practiced in Texas.” The only scientifically comprehensive study on wounding by bow and arrow rendered results some 4 to 5 times lower than those animal rights activists like to quote. Even that study does not account for deer that recovered from any wound. Broadhead arrows typically cause death in seconds, not the hours or days that anti-hunters describe.

The life of a deer is filled with cruel realities. Bowhunting does little to add to those. As it currently stands, the Massachusetts deer herd is subject to the harsher realities of car collisions, predation by canines, and the horrors of starvation as the population exceeds the capacity of the land to feed all animals. These are all factors that professional wildlife biologists across the nation have taken into account in evaluating and selecting bowhunting as an integral tool in managing suburban deer populations.

The Lie: “Bowhunters are cruel with little thought for the animals they kill.”

The Truth: All true sportsmen strive to harvest deer as quickly and humanely as possible. With bow and arrow, this is a matter of seconds. Some people are not comfortable with even those few seconds. We respect the fact that many people are not comfortable with aspects of the hunting process. The decision to take an animal’s life is a serious and complex one that requires a great deal of introspection on the part of anyone contemplating hunting. However, we also believe that bowhunting continues to serve a vital role in wildlife management in addition to providing a wide range of positive experiences in our own lives.

Humans have hunted deer for as long as there have been humans and deer. Much of that time with bow and arrow. In many ways, hunting has, and continues to contribute to the diversity of our society. We would all be better served if animal rights activists respected that diversity and focused on more legitimate issues like the unchecked development that has contributed most significantly to the demise of many animals. The truth is that hunters have done more than any other group to preserve and protect wildlife: On a national level through self imposed taxes, and on a statewide level through license fees and the self imposed Land Stamp whose $5.00 purchase is required with the purchase of every license in Massachusetts.

The Lie: “Massachusetts wildlife managers are insensitive to the welfare of animals.”

The Truth: While animal rights activists prattle about insensitivity to “animal welfare”, they neglect to address the impact of deer populations on human welfare. Several people in Massachusetts have died within the last year of the tick born disease, “babesiosis”, which deer perpetuate. Deer/car collisions are increasing in most Eastern Mass. communities with at least 1 documented human death in the past year. Bowhunting can help to minimize these dangers. The forms of management that organizations like People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) advocate; transplantation or sterilization, have proven ineffective and extremely cost prohibitive. The use of “sharpshooters” is costly and wasteful of an abundant, renewable resource that hunters are willing to pay for and utilize.

Massachusetts has an established and conscientious Fisheries and Wildlife Board that receives input from professional biologists and the general public. The Board uses both sources of information to act on behalf of both the citizens and wildlife of this state. Judging by the numbers and diversity of wildlife in Massachusetts…from bald eagles to wild turkey, I’d say the Board has done an outstanding job for all concerned.

The Lie: “The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is hunter run, controlled by hunters, accessible only to hunters, and not accessible to the other 97% of the state’s citizens.”

The Truth: Animal rights organizations and activists don’t like the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife or their policies because they allow hunting, fishing, and trapping as part of the wildlife management process for certain species. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has had the good sense to recognize and reject the “high on emotion, low on logic” arguments submitted in very public processes by animal rights activists in the past. Massachusetts has an established and conscientious Division of Fisheries and Wildlife that receives input from professional biologists and any member of the general public wanting to provide input. Few, if any other state agencies provide this level of access to all citizens.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MDFW) is 100% accountable to all citizens of Massachusetts in 3 ways:

First, the Division is accountable through the current governor’s administration via the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs whose Secretary and Commissioners are appointed by the governor we all elect. Second, the Division is held accountable through legislative processes conducted by a legislature we all elect. And finally, the Division is accountable through very public processes conducted by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board to set and modify regulations pertaining to game and non-game species throughout Massachusetts. It can even be said that there is a fourth level of accountability through the referendum process that resulted in the 1996 Wildlife Protection Act.

Anti-hunters have decided that the easiest way to advance their agenda is to gain seats on the Fisheries and Wildlife Board or steal control of wildlife from the educated and conscientious professionals of the MDFW. Their attempts to discredit the Board and the Division are part of this strategy.

The Lie: “Hunters should pay for the privilege to kill animals.”

The Truth: To suggest that Massachusetts sportsmen and women have been willing to pay for the privilege to kill is an indication of a significant lack of understanding of what the processes of hunting, fishing or trapping are about. Using this kind of simple and emotional logic, we should all be asking for our money back if we don’t get anything…but that’s not what it’s about. The concept of paying for a license to hunt, fish, or trap was one developed by sportsmen and women. The privilege of enjoying the outdoors while engaged in any of these activities is one sportsmen and women have been willing to pay for with the understanding that they were also paying to preserve and protect wildlife and, as importantly, the habitat they needed. No other group has done more to preserve and protect wildlife on a state and national level through such self imposed taxes and fees.

The Lie: The passage of Question 1 and the resultant “1996 Wildlife Protection Act” serve as a blanket rejection of any wildlife management practice that animal rights activists deem to be “inhumane”.

The Truth: It’s a nice try, but studies indicated that the majority of those who voted for passage of Question 1 were reacting to the proponents cry to “ban cruel traps” with little knowledge or understanding of the issue’s complexities. Massachusetts is now burdened with a beaver population growing out of control and causing significant problems in many Massachusetts communities. This is a perfect example of why we need to leave wildlife management in the hands of knowledgeable professionals and not the well meaning, but easily deceived General Public.

Absolutely nothing having to do with bowhunting was included in the language of Question 1.



  • Animal rights advocates have clearly stated their belief that the life of a rat has the same value as that of a child. Michael Fox, Vice President, HSUS: “The life of an ant and that of my child should be granted equal consideration.”
  • Animal rights leaders consider owning pets, going to the zoo or circus, swatting mosquitoes, wearing leather, suede, and silk, fishing, and riding horses immoral. PETA’s own web page states that feeding children meat is child abuse and their president has called drinking milk “racist”.
  • PETA serves as a mouthpiece for the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which the FBI has labeled as a terrorist organization and which has claimed credit for research lab bombings that have killed lab workers.
  • Animal rights activists oppose the use of animals to accelerate research that may cure AIDS, Breast Cancer, and Children’s Cancer.
  • PETA targets children’s charities like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the March of Dimes, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for attack.


  • The animal rights industry raises and spends in excess of $200 million a year. HSUS pays its top 2 executives in excess of $440,000 in combined salaries.
  • The HSUS raises more than $40 million a year and claims some 5 million “constituents”. HSUS does not operate a single shelter and you can find their magazine in a majority of veterinary offices.
  • National animal rights organizations contributed in excess of $1 million to promote Question 1 in Massachusetts in 1996. The majority of that money was used to provide TV advertisements.

* Footnote: Excerpts taken from the column, “Hunter’s Rights”, by T. Allan Wolter, Buckmasters-Beards & Spurs Turkey Hunting Magazine, 1999 Issue

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Massachusetts Bowhunters Association Website