Maybe I’m ahead of my time, but I expect the surge in crossbow popularity that has consumed Eastern whitetail hunters to catch fire in the West.

Mule deer hunting is tailor-made for crossbows, but I have only seen a handful of these “horizontal bows” in the Western prairies and mountains.

Check out this video. It illustrates my argument in favor of crossbows. For open-country stalking, they just might trump compound bows. Because you can load an arrow and cock the action before finishing a stalk, crossbows are perfect for the sort of sneak-and-rise situations that mule deer hunters often encounter.

And consider that many mule deer scenarios involve waiting in ambush for a buck to walk past your hiding place. Crossbows, which can be loaded and cocked and ready for action, are suited for this sort of hunting, which often happens in close quarters of ambush spots–boulder fields, under tree canopies, and in thick grass and foliage.

Here’s the rub. Most Western states don’t allow crossbows in their archery seasons, figuring that they’re not bows because they don’t require muscle strength to hold at full draw. In my home state of Montana, the only season in which I can use a crossbow is the firearms season.

Is that right? Should crossbows be allowed in big-game archery seasons? Or should they be relegated to firearms season? Or, should crossbow hunters should be given their own season, just as muzzleloader hunters have special seasons in many states?