A Deer Hunting Crossbow Guide
The modern crossbow is a much simpler tool than it often appears to be, particularly for novice hunters and those with no experience of bow hunting. The standard design is not as intricate as it looks, because a crossbow is, essentially, just a smaller vertical bow affixed to a regular stock. From a technical perspective, however, crossbows are a little different from standard vertical weapons.
For example, the arrows used for crossbow hunting are smaller in length and this kind of weapon offers a reduced power stroke, in comparison to a vertical bow. Whilst crossbow arrows and arrows used in tandem with standard bows actually move at very similar speeds, the ‘airborne’ properties and features of each are drastically different. In fact, this is where the real disparity between the two types of bow lies, because this is also where their respective advantages and disadvantages lie.
The contemporary crossbow is steadily growing in popularity and use, but it is still thought of a kind of ‘joke’ weapon in some shooting circles. Yet, it is important to realize that this weapon can be every bit as powerful as a standard vertical bow in the right hands. If you are interested in mastering the crossbow, there are some things that you must learn first.
1. The Crossbow Is a Short Range Weapon
The crossbow is designed for short range shooting; much more so than the vertical bow. In fact, the maximum advised range (suggested by the majority of manufacturers) is around forty yards. However, 25-30 years is thought to be the ideal shooting distance.
As every experienced hunter will know, it is very important to stick to your recommended shooting distance. The design of the bow is extremely specific and has been created to handle certain dimensions and measurements, so work with it and not against it.
There is an awful lot to say about the specificities of crossbow distance shooting, but the real lesson is this; in contrast with the weightier and lengthier vertical bow arrows, crossbow arrows fall quickly and lose pace even quicker once they have left the rail. They are wobbly over long distances and if you are looking to make a target from a distance, this is not the tool for it.
2. The Crossbow Must Be Uncocked
In theory, once you have uncocked a crossbow, it has the potential to stay locked onto a shooting position for as long as you need. The reality is that some game hunters keep their weapons cocked for days and even weeks at a time. Yet, just because it is possible, does not mean that it is a helpful thing to do.
If you leave your crossbow coked for a long time, the pressure on the limbs, strings, cables, and trigger components will expand and potentially cut short the lifespan of your weapon. As such, you are advised to trigger the bow at the completion of every period spent hunting. The quickest way to achieve this is to use a practice arrow (with a field tip) and shoot it into a safe area when you are finished.
It is important to remember that the majority of states do have laws governing the uncocking and cocking of bows. For instance, there are some areas in which a hunter must, by law, have his bow uncocked before the legal shooting period has ended. The bottom line, anyway, is that shooting and re-cocking is the ideal way to preserve the life of your weapon.
3. A Crossbow Can Take Poor Conditions
There are hunters who use bows in the sweltering heat of the Deep South and others who shoot in the icy cold of the northern states, but either way, their crossbows function perfectly. In other words, there should be no real impact on precision or performance, no matter where you choose to hunt with your crossbow. On the other hand, it is not a good idea to leave a weapon in direct sunlight for too long, because a lot of heat will degrade the strings and damage the life of your bow.
4. You Must Take Care of Your Bow
This is a lesson that needs to be learned quickly and early too. The role that frequent upkeep and care plays in preserving the lifespan of your weapon is huge, so look after it if you want to enjoy prolonged precision, performance, and success. The manufacturer of the weapon should provide an instruction booklet with details of how to clean, repair, and replace strings and other components, as needed.
The typical crossbow needs to have its cables and strings changed once every three years, but if these components break, you can replace them earlier. Over time, and with prolonged use, the strings, cable stretch, and metal cables will gradually degrade and start to produce a reduced draw weight. This will have an impact on speed, accuracy, distance, and trajectory.
The rails of the bow needed to be kept oiled (or lubed) with a reliable product (consult the instruction guide). You are also advised to wax the strings, but do not treat the middle serving – follow these instructions carefully and the strings of the bow will last longer. For hunters who take good care of their weapons, strings can end up lasting for 145 shots or longer.
On occasion, your weapon will need fine-tuning and altering. It will usually be the braced height (the length between the braced string and the bottom end of the riser, calculated from the middle string) and the tiller, or the balance shared by the two limbs. This balance needs to be equivalent in pull length and heft. If your weapon keeps triggering too high or too low, check your brace height – there could be a slight imbalance.
5. The Crossbow Has To Be Cocked Right
This next lesson is essential, so pay attention. The majority of precision issues come when the weapon is not cocked correctly. In fact, this is usually the case with brand new weapons or hunters who are only just starting out with crossbows (cocking by hand can be tricky too).Whilst there are lots of different reasons why precision might be poor, most of the time, learning how to cock right will solve the problem.
To gain a precise and constant arrow trajectory, the string has to be pulled and secured in position with an equivalent distance of serving on both ends of the rail. Without this, the trigger is activated with an imbalanced degree of power and the shot ends up being inaccurate or falling short of the target. The reality is that even ½ an inch can make a massive difference when it comes to killing a target at mid to close range.
For those who like to cock manually, the issue is quickly solved by indexing or labeling the server with a Sharpie, on both ends of the rail – do this only when the bow is not active. Once the weapon is ready and locked, the labels will be in the same spot on both ends of the rail, making it easier to check the accuracy of your cocking.
6. Choose Your Arrows Carefully
Whilst picking out crossbow ammunition can be a tricky process sometimes, it only tends to be difficult if you are going against the grain and the advice of your manufacturer. In other words, check your manual – use the arrows which have been recommended. The recommended ammo will have been carefully considered and chosen for its dimensions, weight, spine, combined heft, fletching features, nock type, and a whole host of other things.
If you are determined to go against the advice offered, you have to accept the fact that precision and performance could be compromised. Plus, you can also end up degrading or even breaking your weapon altogether – if you break the bow using unsanctioned ammo, there is no guarantee that your warranty will stand either. There is no need to make this part of the process a big chore, not if you listen to the advice of the experts.
7. Safety Is a Top Priority
Needless to say, crossbows are not to be treated with a casual hand. They are weapons and they can be dangerous. Whilst this might sound like an obvious piece of advice, accidents occur every year because people do not respect the power of the crossbow. The best tip that a hunter can be given is to consider their instruction manual or guidebook as a veritable Bible.
If you have a question or a concern, phone the manufacturer – the guide book is there to solve most problems, but not all. On a simpler level, treat a crossbow like you would a gun. You should never carry it after it has been cocked or loaded and you must always keep your hands below the height of the shooting rail. If you do not, a nasty injury could occur.
It is a good idea to give your weapon a brief once over before you start hunting, just to make sure that any damage or degradation is identified and inspected for safety concerns. The retention spring, strings, serving, and cables can be fragile things and will need your attention and care. It is important that you never trigger a crossbow without an arrow inside.
During sighting, shooting, and even practice, all other individuals must be stood directly behind the person with the weapon – standing to the side is still dangerous. Plus, when shooting from a raised platform, your bow must be cocked on the ground, lifted to the platform with a rope, and cocked only after you have sat down and prepared your stance.
8. The Bow Needs To Be on a Level
The term ‘cantering’ refers to the scenario in which one limb of the bow is positioned below the second. This is a frequent gripe for inexperienced hunters, but even skilled bow hunters can run into problems in high pressure moments. If you canter the weapon to the left, the arrow will shoot left and likely a little too high or low – the range will dictate the direction.
The opposite will occur if you canter the bow to the right and this is called ‘cantering.’ To fix the issue, your weapon limbs have to be completely balanced whilst the trigger is unloaded. You will find that cantering hardly ever occurs during sighting or practicing, but off hand triggering can become frustrating if you do not keep limbs on a level.
9. Real World Shooting Is Essential
Whilst there are lots of different ways to practice hunting skills, nothing compares with real world shooting or hunting. In other words, if you want to be a great hunter, you need to practice how you hunt and hunt how you practice – simple. The arrows which are sold with fixed blade or adjustable heads do not offer the same speed as those with field points on the heads.
If you want to know exactly how a weapon will behave with a hunting head affixed, you need to practice with the head at a selection of different distances, in order to get a real world feel for the bow. To reiterate, this means practicing with the same ammo and heads, with the same dimensions, heft, and design. Once you have sighted with a field head, switch to a hunting head and you will quickly realize how many alterations need to be made.
If possible, any alterations to style, distance, and stance really do need to be implemented before you head out hunting for real. Plus, do remember that bow arrows lose pace and energy much more quickly when using a crossbow than they do a vertical bow. For those shooting from raised platforms, practice needs to be conducted from the same height.
10. It Is Best To Keep Things Simple
There are lots of things about crossbow hunting that can be intricate and fussy, so do not make mountains of the things that should be easy. Whilst there are some experts who like to claim that bow hunting is a complicated affair, it does not have to be. The modern crossbow is designed to offer as much precision, performance, and force as possible, without the hunter having to step in and make adjustments.
With the right care and attention, a willingness to follow the offered recommendations, and a genuine love for hunting, you can learn how to master your weapon without too much stress or effort. The days of the caveman are over – we do not hunt for necessity anymore, so let your modern man take over and ask questions when needed, exercise caution at all times, and treat your weapon like a respected friend.
I’m John Hillman & I absolutely, love camping, hiking and hunting in the wild. Before, I was in the military service for 10 years. After I was done with my service, I became a licensed hunter and a mountain guide. Not only, I’m experienced in camping & trekking but also, I hold a licensed a game hunting license.