HELENA — State lawmakers should reject a bill allowing bowhunters to use lighted nocks on their arrows because it violates the “primitive nature” of the sport, spokesmen for bowhunting and other hunting groups said Tuesday.
“The concern is that this is the beginning of (allowing) electronics,” said Jerry Davis of the Montana Bow Hunters Association. “The majority of our membership is opposed to any electronics to being added to bows or arrows.”
Davis and others testified against House Bill 26, sponsored by Rep. Ted Washburn, R-Bozeman, that would prohibit the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission from barring lighted nocks, as it does now.
Washburn told the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee that lighted arrow nocks — the grooved end of the arrow that fits around the bow string — are allowed in many other states, and help bow hunters find animals that are wounded and flee into the woods.
“The purpose of this bill is to cut down on the wanton waste of animals” that can’t be found after they’re shot with an arrow, Washburn said.
He also disputed the notion that bowhunting is a “primitive” sport, saying most bowhunters have “state of the art” equipment and often use electronic range-finders. While bowhunting and hunting organization leaders may oppose the use of lighted nocks, the rank-and-file hunter is more supportive, he suggested.
Jean Johnson, executive director of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, spoke in support of HB26. She said her group recognizes that bowhunters want to use a primitive weapon but that using a lighted nock will help find wounded animals, which also is important.
Yet most of the witnesses who spoke Tuesday on HB26 opposed it.
Marvin Drake, a bowhunter from Helena, said the “foundation” of bowhunting is using limited equipment and placing the hunter at a greater disadvantage against the animal.
“How do you draw the line at the next piece of equipment?” he said. “(Bowhunting) will be indistinguishable from other types of hunting if we continue to allow these advances.”
Drake also said he doubts that lighted nocks really help anyone find a wounded animal, because if the arrow is still in the animal, the nock probably will get broken off when the animal flees.
The Montana Wildlife Federation and Joe Perry of Conrad, a member of the Montana Sportsmen Alliance, also testified against the measure.
Perry said he’s not a bowhunter, but that if the bowhunters group has chosen to oppose the measure, their will should prevail.
“They’ve drawn a line in the sand and said, `This is enough,’ and I salute them for it,” Perry said.
The state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department took no position on the bill.
Ken McDonald of the state Wildlife Division said the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission already has the authority to change the rule, but that no one has raised the issue recently.
The House committee took no immediate action on the bill.