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Buzzkill: Critics Want To Curtail Mississippi Bowfishing Tournament

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Buzzkill: Critics Want To Curtail Mississippi Bowfishing Tournament

What do you think of the complaints?

The teams of fishermen arrived with a seemingly unusual array of equipment, loud airboats, powerful searchlights and scores of bows and arrows.

After their tournament on the Mississippi River ended, it had drawn enough complaints that federal regulators were considering tighter restrictions on the fast-growing but little-known sport of bowfishing, in which anglers shoot fish with arrows attached to fishing line. The competition took place at night, with teams using bright lights to spot their prey.

“It turned night into day and blasted our ear drums like we were on an airport runway,” said Tim Mason, an environmental activist from McGregor, Iowa, who spends summers with his wife on a houseboat in the area.

The grumbling began soon after members of the Bowfishing Association of America gathered late last month for a world tournament in western Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa, home to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

The competition featured 43 teams, many using boats with aircraft-style propellers and powerful engines to zip across the water and low-lying land from dusk until early morning. They went after only invasive fish such as carp and gar. Cash prizes went to teams with the most fish (318) and the heaviest 20 fish (380 pounds).

While the contest thrilled the 130 participants who came from as far away as Alabama, some campers and cabin dwellers along the river complained of loud noises, lights and potential disturbances to habitat and wildlife.

Mason said he was able to read a newspaper at 2:30 a.m. and could hear boats coming from 3 miles away. He questioned the effect of the boats on water lotus and other plants that were in bloom, as well as river otters, bald eagles and other animals.

Tournament Director Matt Harris downplayed the complaints and defended bowfishing as a proper use of the protected area.

“It’s just something a lot of people along the river aren’t used to seeing, a lot of boat traffic at night,” Harris said. “At least where I was shooting, I can’t really see how our boat noise would be anything that would be all that disruptive.”

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