Deer season will be here before you know it. And if you live in one of the many states in which crossbow hunting is legal, you may be considering the purchase of a crossbow.
Crossbow hunting has seen a huge upswing in popularity and with more states legalizing the use of crossbows for deer hunting, crossbows are providing a new way for those who have never hunted before to join the fun.
If you’re a newcomer to the sport and considering the purchase of your first crossbow, the best place to start is at your local archery pro shop where you’ll find a variety of crossbows that are safer, faster, more accurate and easier to use than ever.
Even seasoned bowhunters will find that there are some unique things about crossbows that require special attention to ensure safety, so read the owner’s manual carefully.
Beyond that, here are some basic tips for newcomers to crossbow hunting that will keep you safe and just might help ensure that you fill your deer tag this season.
Choosing Your First Crossbow
When choosing your first crossbow remember that affordability may not equal dependability. Choose a crossbow manufacturer that offers a limited lifetime warranty and has a long-standing reputation for providing quality customer service.
Check your state and local game laws for the minimum (and maximum) required draw weight when hunting with a crossbow. This will help determine the draw weight range you should consider.
Choosing Bolts and Broadheads
Crossbow bolts (arrows) come in a variety of weights. You’ll want to choose heavier bolts in the 300- to 350-grain range (not including a practice point or broadhead).
Heavier bolts will deliver additional downrange energy resulting in better penetration. Check your owner’s manual for the proper length as well as the recommended weight.
Both fixed-blade broadheads and expandables will work well on medium-sized game. Whatever broadhead style you choose, practice with the arrows and broadheads you intend to hunt with, as hunting broadheads rarely shoot to the same point of impact as field points. Many broadhead manufacturers include a practice head with their products and are an acceptable substitute for the real thing.
Many crossbows come with an attached, pre-sighted scope made specifically for crossbows. Like a scoped firearm, though, it must be fine-tuned at the range before it’s used in the field. That means you’ll need to spend time at the range.
When sighting in your crossbow opt for a solid rest or shooting aid and take your initial shots at a distance of 20 yards. Make your necessary windage and elevation changes and zero at 20 yards before extending your range. Refer to your owner’s manual to ensure proper sight-in with the optic of choice.
Load (and Unload) with Care
Crossbows should be treated just like a firearm. All of the common sense gun safety rules apply: Treat every crossbow as if it is loaded and ready to fire. Never point a crossbow at anything you do not intend to shoot. Always keep your crossbow pointed in a safe direction.
Never climb into a stand or hoist a loaded (bolt in the barrel) crossbow into a treestand. Always remove the bolt when entering and exiting your treestand.
It is also best not to walk to and from your hunting location with a loaded crossbow. Load the crossbow once you are in your hunting position and only then.
Beyond the basic safety rules, special care should be taken when loading and unloading your crossbow.
You may also consider TenPoint’s ACUdraw or ACUdraw50, which offers an integrated and user-friendly cocking system.
Rule number one when unloading and discharging your crossbow: don’t attempt to dry fire it. Always ensure the crossbow is pointed in a safe direction before discharging. The best option is to always use accessories designed for safe unloading. Choose either a portable target designed for discharging or a bolt designed for the same purpose.
Let your local archery store representative walk you through the loading and unloading process on their range, then take time to practice on your own at the range, well before the season starts.
With the crossbow pointed in a safe direction, double check to make sure the safety is on, then slide the odd-colored vane into the slot that runs the length of the barrel.
Push the arrow up and under the arrow retention spring and then make sure it is seated tight against the latch.
Practice is Paramount
Just like hunting with a firearm, you should always try and use a stable rest when firing your crossbow. Just as important is practicing real-world shots before you hunt with it.
Practice taking angle shots from an elevated position to simulate hunting from a treestand. Shoot from a sitting position to simulate hunting from a ground blind. Also shoot during low-light conditions. Equally important is learning how to judge ranges and shoot accurately at those ranges.
This is why a quality rangefinder is so important to carry afield. Take the time to range objects around your stand so you’ll understand key distances before that big buck comes into range.
No matter where you shoot, make sure the limbs of your crossbow won’t strike any obstructions when you pull the trigger. That will not only affect your arrow’s flight, it will likely damage your bow.
Crossbows have a variety of built-in safety mechanisms and accidents are extremely rare, but you still need to follow all basic safety rules. Always keep your bow pointed in a safe direction, never carry it with the safety off, never climb a tree with a loaded bow and make sure your fingers are always below the barrel.
It’s virtually impossible to dry-fire a TenPoint crossbow, but never attempt it. Of course, once you get into your stand, make sure you wear a harness. Treestand falls are the most common type of hunting accident.
Know Your Range
Despite what you may have heard, a crossbow is not the equivalent of a rifle. How far you can shoot depends not just on your ability but on the arrow and broadhead you choose.
As an arrow travels downrange, it loses speed and therefore, energy. Shoot too far and you could end up with a wounded and unrecovered animal.
In most cases, 40 to 50 yards is the maximum range you should be shooting at game. There’s nothing wrong with having fun on the range, though. If it’s safe, feel free to take longer shots, just because you can. Why not? Crossbows aren’t just an effective hunting tool, they are a fun addition to any shooter’s toolbox.