You’ve been up in your tree stand since an hour before sunrise. In pitch dark you listen to the sounds in the woods around you, while coyotes yip and yelp off in the distance. Toward dawn, you hear rustling to your right. Something’s rooting beneath the apple trees you chose to hunt near. Good choice! As light improves, you see shapes, and can make out a couple of whitetail does feeding. Suddenly they startle, and skip away. Why? Because a buck has arrived. A big buck. Ten points at least. He saunters under the tree like he owns the place. You’re about to show him he’s wrong. Dead wrong. You slowly shoulder your crossbow, with 100+ pounds of kinetic force stored for immediate use in the compound limbs. The buck is facing directly away from you, sniffing the wind. He’s lost interest in the apples and has turned his attention to tracking those does. He begins to walk away, offering no good shot. You risk a low grunt…he stops and angles toward you, exposing his vitals for a split second. His mistake, and you’re hoping to make it his last. With controlled breathing and steady hand you squeeze the trigger…
Welcome to the exciting world of crossbow hunting! Crossbows have a long history as military and hunting weapons, but have only recently made a comeback in the North America. Crossbows were outlawed for hunting for years, before some states began changing their laws. First, crossbows were made legal for hunters with physical limitations only. But hunting enthusiasts continued to work in for changes, and now a majority of states allow some type of crossbow hunting, including their use by any hunter regardless of age or physical condition. In states where hunting with a crossbow is allowed, they are typically permitted wherever and whenever standard hunting bows are permissible. Before you hunt with a crossbow, check the hunting guide you receive when you purchase a license, or visit your state’s hunting regulation webpage. Crossbows are an accurate, fun choice for hunting deer, bear, wild turkey, and anything else you’ve got a tag for.
When selecting the right crossbow for your hunting needs, there are several keys to consider. First of all, do not automatically select the most powerful model on the webpage. There are crossbows available from some manufacturers that will give you arrow speeds of 350 to 370 fps. Experienced hunters with plenty of strength may find those models easy to use, with their 200 to 225 lb draw weights. Beginning and intermediate hunters, women, youth, and guys who are not as strong as they once were, will do better with a bow featuring a 150 to 175 lb draw weight. They are easier to draw and lock. The trigger is often smoother and lighter, more in the 3-4 lb range, rather than 6-8 lb range. If you have to tug on the trigger, your aim will not be true! These lighter bows will still deliver speeds of 250 to 300 fps, and that is plenty fast for “clean through” kill shots. Therefore, with any bow in this discussion, the key feature is accuracy, and that comes with a crossbow you can handle and have practiced with. When your 10-point is displayed on the buck pole, no one will care what draw weight you used.
Secondly, most crossbows use a cam and pulley system to store energy in the limbs. They are nice due to the left of, usually at about 50%. Other crossbows use recurve limbs, with no let off. While they are harder to draw, they have their advantages. They are quieter than compound units, in general. No matter how smooth the wheels are on a compound, they will make noise; more than a recurve. And recurves deliver plenty of power – up to 325 fps. Recurve crossbows may also be slightly more compact and lightweight. If you like to hunt on foot, from ground cover, for example, maintaining the lowest, smallest profile is important, making a compact recurve a good choice.
Thirdly, before taking the bow on a hunt, spend a couple of hours at the range or in the back yard become familiar with its action, and perfecting your aim. Create good release habits, and the muscle memory athletes rely on to do the same action correctly over and over. It will pay dividends when meat for the table or antlers for the wall are on the line. Enjoy the hunt with a fun, accurate, deadly crossbow!