Wildlife carers say there are an increasing number of bow and arrow attacks on native animals, prompting calls for the weapons to be prohibited.
But bow hunters say their sport is being tarnished by the actions of a few reckless amateurs. Wildlife rescue organisation WIRES says it is seeing an increase in the number of native animals being shot with arrows, with devastating consequences.
“The animal is lame, sometimes the animal has been shot in the head, or in the body, hasn’t been killed, there’s usually infection at the entry site and maybe damage to internal organs,” WIRES general manager Leanne Taylor explains.
“They’re often dehydrated, they’ve been exposed to extremes of either heat or cold because they’re not as mobile, they may be underweight because they haven’t been able to access food. “It can be anything from days to weeks with an animal in that state, and they suffer prolonged pain.”
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge wants to see the modern compound bow listed as a prohibited weapon, like the crossbow. A compound bow uses wheels and cables to reduce the draw weight of the bow, making it easier to hold while aiming.
“Compound bows are extremely lethal weapons. They’re designed to kill, and in NSW there is literally nothing regulating their sale, nothing regulating their use,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Compound bows are freely available to buy online and at markets. High-quality compound bows are available for sale at Paddy’s Markets in Sydney’s Chinatown, priced between $400 and $900.
“They are weapons of death which the law simply doesn’t touch,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“You don’t need a licence to buy them, there’s no age limit on when you can buy them, and there are few, if any, laws restricting their use either in suburban Sydney or in parks or in open spaces.”
Mr Shoebridge said arrows typically used for hunting are broad-head arrows designed to cause maximum injury, with barbs to lodge the arrow in flesh.
“When you combine those lethal arrows with a modern compound bow you have a genuine killing instrument,” he said.
Number of bow and arrow offences on the rise
Figures obtained by the ABC from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics show the number of incidents involving bow and arrows, crossbows and blowguns increased from 11 in 2009-10 to 41 in 2013-14.
Most offences were malicious damage to property, which jumped from six in 2009-10 to 23 in 2013-14. The next most common offence committed with bows were assaults, rising from four in 2009-10 to 10 in 2013-14.
In 2012, a man was practising with his compound bow in his backyard at Macquarie Park when the arrow flew onto the street and hit a pedestrian in the neck. A court heard the archer bought the compound bow at Parklea Markets.
Just two weeks ago, a Central Coast man was attacked with a crossbow. He had to use his laptop to deflect the arrow. A man is in custody charged with his attempted murder.
Archery is ‘not a blood sport’
Bow hunters say the compound bow is nothing like the crossbow, and should not be listed as a prohibited weapon. Archery coach and bow hunter Lynne Fairhall said her sport was being unfairly tarnished.
“Archery is not a blood sport. There are people who go out and hunt and 99 per cent of those who go out and hunt are ethical hunters, are doing the right thing,” Mrs Fairhall said.
“Unfortunately it’s the small percentage that give our sport an incredibly bad name and they’re the things that are highlighted – people doing the wrong thing unfortunately get the press, people doing the right thing don’t get that press.”
Mrs Fairhall said she took her two young boys hunting, and the experience had taught them discipline and respect for the environment.
“It was a way for us to teach the children ethical hunting. The children learnt how to stalk in on an animal. You have to be very close to get a good shot away,” she said.
“They would not be allowed to take that shot unless we knew the animal would die.
“Our children learned how to harvest the animals, so if it was a goat, we would take meat, the skins, the horns or whatever. So there was a lot of stuff involved in it that taught our children not to be stupid, that they had a responsibility, and to do the right thing by the environment.”
Mrs Fairhall, who teaches archery in schools and is an international field archery coach, said archery equipment suppliers had a responsibility to educate their customers on how to use bows.
“A golf club, a baseball bat is a weapon if you want to use it as a weapon. A compound bow is just a piece of sporting equipment,” she said.
“It’s a kneejerk reaction to ban something that is a piece of sporting equipment. We really are being very silly if we do that, a bit like a nanny state.”
NSW Police Minister Stuart Ayres said hunting bows were not prohibited weapons, but the misuse of bows could constitute a criminal offence under a range of statutes.