THE citizen-run Natural Resources Board that opened up crossbow hunting to people of all ages just six years ago now appears to be backtracking, toying with the idea of shortening that deer-hunt season.

An advisory question to that effect, limiting the crossbow hunt to October and after the nine-day gun deer season, will be one of at least six questions related to potential changes in the deer hunting season framework.

And once again, the deer-hunting world has to be asking what is wrong with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its governing body.

When they made the initial decision from the ivory towers of Madison, hunters statewide were simply pushing to lower the crossbow age limit from 65 to 55.

Proponents were citing age and physical limitations involving shoulders, arms and eyes as a reason for more aging hunters to be included in this exclusive group.

Public sentiment was barely in favor of that change when suddenly, it was determined that Wisconsin should join Michigan and other states that made the wholesale change to allow anyone to use a crossbow.

Under the tentative question that got approved for the spring hearings on April 13 in every county, the board noted that crossbows would still be able to be used by hunters over 60 and disabled hunters during the full archery season.

It’s a travesty that the state would allow and promote the use of more effective weaponry, getting thousands of hunters to invest in the high-tech shooting gear, only to then limit that opportunity.

As written previously in this space, what did the state think would happen when they legalized a more effective, more accurate weapon for taking deer with an arrow?

So suddenly hunters using crossbows are killing 10,000 more deer (51,000) than hunters using traditional archery equipment (41,000), and the state is somehow surprised by that development. They didn’t see that coming?

There’s a huge contradiction in messages being delivered by state officials. While they seem to want to maximize hunting opportunity at every turn and they always want more antlerless deer taken, they now suggest the elimination of crossbow deer hunting in September?

Go figure. I’ve tried to understand the back and forth inconsistencies of the DNR for decades, to no avail. This is the agency that pushed for the legalization of deer baiting in 1980, only to switch gears and start pushing heavily for its elimination some 30 years later.

They are now proposing to eliminate most of November to the majority of crossbow hunters because of significantly higher buck-harvest rates than traditional archers.

So in reality, this question is about reducing the crossbow-related buck harvest during the November breeding season — the rut — because some feel too many bucks are being taken away from traditional archers and even gun-deer hunters.

That’s the core of the entire proposal, and with that, they should modify it to include September and October for the sake of antlerless deer opportunities. There’s not a lot of serious buck hunting going on in September.

Exploding buck-harvest rates for crossbow hunters are the reality, but it certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise.

We’re talking about a weapon that’s often equipped with a high-power, lighted scope that’s easily capable of accurate shots out to 50 yards and beyond. And you don’t have to draw it with a deer standing in front of you, because it’s pre-cocked to shoot at the pull of a trigger.

From a fairness standpoint, it’s probably true that Wisconsin gun-deer hunters get the short end of the rut-hunting equation. And therefore, they get less of a chance at the very best buck hunting this state has to offer.

Michigan starts its gun-deer hunt on Nov. 15 every year and Minnesota is even earlier than that, while Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season opens somewhere between Nov. 17 and Nov. 23.

Our traditions are tied to an opener on the weekend before Thanksgiving, and gobs of proposals to change that have always failed over the years.

But the Natural Resources Board is still throwing out some other advisory ideas, including a question about adding 10 days to the end of the nine-day gun-deer hunt. The trouble is, that’s not going to help gun hunters shoot more bucks because it comes too late, after the rut is over.

Also, the agency that extended the archery season to include the Friday before the gun hunt opens and the entire nine-day gun hunt is now asking if maybe there should be a two-day or five-day no-hunt period before the gun-deer season.

That’s a little compromise in favor of rifle-toting hunters, settling the woods down before the big hunt and probably saving some bucks from archers in those final pre-hunt days.

It’s all advisory questions for now. Only time will tell on how the proposed crossbow restrictions shake out.

Mark your calendars now for Monday, April 13, so you don’t forget to weigh in on the spring hearing questionnaire.