July 19, 2012
By Doug Koenig
One of the comments I've heard from non-crossbow shooters or just hunters who don't want crossbows used is you shouldn't allow crossbows in archery season because hunters can shoot deer with a crossbow at 100-plus yards.
First off, you can kill a deer with a lot of weapons out to 100 yards, but that doesn't mean you should try. Sure, someone could aim really high with a vertical bow and let one fly and kill a deer if they hit it at 100 yards. That doesn't mean they would — or should — try it! The same is true for a crossbow. The trajectory of a crossbow bolt is no flatter than the trajectory of an arrow from a compound bow. Yes, if you aim high enough, you can hit a target at 100 yards. But personally, I feel it is highly unethical to take shots much past 50-60 yards. Even the most expert shots wouldn't shoot past that. There are simply too many things that can go wrong between the time the shot is taken and the time the bolt arrives. All the animal has to do is take one step and you'll have a gut shot! Wind becomes a real factor also. A 5 mile per hour breeze will move your bolt 10 inches or so at 50 yards. Just imagine a higher gust!
Flatter and More Powerful?
Another myth is that crossbows shoot as flat as a rifle. The laws of physics say that's impossible. Think about it; a 400-grain bolt moving at 350 fps is nothing like a .308-caliber, 150-grain bullet moving at 2900 fps — more than eight times faster than the bolt! Crossbows simply don't shoot flat. In fact, as I said in the previous paragraph, they have roughly the same trajectory as a vertical bow.
If you don't believe me, just head out to the range and see for yourself. Invite one of your buddies who owns a crossbow to come over and shoot long-range targets side-by-side with you and your compound. I guarantee you will both see some serious arc in your shots!
Another myth is crossbows have more knockdown power than vertical bows. You can go back to the previous paragraph. A crossbow that shoots a 400-grain bolt at 330 fps is no different than a vertical bow shooting a 400-grain arrow at 320 fps. It is almost exactly the same.
Do crossbows wound more animals than vertical bows? I say no; I don't see how. I know plenty of archery hunters who have wounded deer with vertical bows and crossbows, but I've never seen a pattern of one group wounding more than the other. If anything, I would argue that — given the ability to shoot a crossbow off a rest for added accuracy — the chance of wounding an animal with a crossbow might be somewhat lower.
I also know a lot of gun hunters who have wounded deer too. Unfortunately, it happens to even the most ethical, conscientious hunters. It's part of hunting. Nobody wants to wound anything, but when you put a moving, living target in the mix, sometimes the unforeseen happens.
Another myth I sometimes hear is that allowing crossbow hunters into archery seasons will decimate the deer herd. I'm not sure how. Do vertical bowhunters decimate the herd? Nope. As I've already discussed, the ballistic performance of crossbows is very similar to vertical bows. Therefore, they are no more deadly.
Numerous states that allow both vertical bowhunting and crossbow hunting have examined harvest figures and found the overall success rate between vertical bowhunters and crossbow hunters is roughly the same. None of the states where crossbows have been legal archery weapons for many years have experienced a precipitous decline in their deer herd. For example, Ohio is probably the best-known crossbow-hunting destination. Yet despite decades of legal crossbow use during archery season, Ohio's deer population continues to thrive and the state enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of North America's premier destinations for trophy bucks.
Another thing I hear people say about crossbows is you don't have to move as much as you would with a vertical bow. This one is actually TRUE! That, to me, is the single biggest advantage crossbows offer versus vertical bows. You can have it cocked and ready while you sit in your treestand or ground blind. When the animal approaches, there is very little movement needed to execute the shot.
Another advantage crossbows offer is that you don't have to hold the draw weight like you do when you are at full draw on an animal with a vertical bow. This is an advantage that is a great help to many youth hunters, and there is no doubt it has added years of field enjoyment to the archery-hunting careers of many older bowhunters.
One of the downsides to the crossbow is that you must be aware of where your fingers are. Make sure they are below the rail when you squeeze the trigger, because anything above the rail is going downrange. Ouch!
Also be aware of things horizontally as you move the crossbow. Your limbs are out on the sides now, instead of straight up and down. Even when the crossbow is cocked, it will still be around 14 inches wide at the ends of the limbs. Whether you are hunting out of a treestand or ground blind, you need to be careful that your limbs have enough clearance to complete the shot cycle without hitting the tree trunk or blind wall.
Regardless of which weapon you choose to take into the woods this year, practice hard, know your equipment well and stay within yourself.
Good luck, and happy hunting!