Determining Maximum Range for a Crossbow

Determining Maximum Range for a Crossbow
Before taking your crossbow into the field, it's important to practice until you are familiar with your bolt trajectory at various ranges. This photo shows the point of impact from Doug Koenig's TenPoint crossbow using the 20-yard crosshair at 20, 30 and 40 yards.

What is the maximum range for a crossbow? That's a tough question to answer. Modern crossbows typically generate speeds anywhere from 280-350 feet per second, with some models topping 400 fps. Despite the speed advantage today's crossbows hold over the average compound bow, I still believe the maximum effective range for crossbow hunters is about the same as it is for vertical bowhunters.


It really comes down to the hunter; his or her practice, techniques, patience and shooting skill.



CROSSBOW TRAJECTORY

The trajectory of a crossbow is very similar to that of a compound bow that shoots roughly 300 fps. A crossbow bolt weighs around 450 grains. So, you can see how it is similar to a vertical bow shooting a 400-grain arrow at roughly the same speeds. These are very close figures and, as you know, there is always a variance with every piece of equipment. My TenPoint crossbow, sighted in at 20 yards, will shoot three to four inches low at 30 yards and 10 inches low at 40 yards.


Here are a few tips for becoming familiar with your crossbow's trajectory: Practice at all the yardages you think you could potentially encounter on your hunt, then stretch it out another 20-30 yards. Shoot your broadheads, and make sure they hit the same point of impact as your fieldpoints. Just because your broadheads are the same weight as your fieldpoints doesn't mean they'll hit the same spot. Once you get your zero with fieldpoints, you need to put your broadheads on your bolts and make your final sight adjustments.

Another thing I recommend is simulating real-world shooting scenarios during your practice sessions. If you are going to be hunting from a treestand, shoot from an elevated position as much as possible. If you will be doing spot-and-stalk hunting, find some hills and practice shooting at awkward uphill and downhill angles. I also recommend attending local 3-D shoots with your crossbow. You may get a few strange looks from the vertical bow guys, but so what! It's the best way to prepare for the hunting season or for that once-in-a-lifetime outfitted hunt you saved your hard-earned money for. The change in target distances, target sizes, target species and the realistic scenarios are a great way to tune up your shooting.


HUNTING CONSIDERATIONS

When it comes to determining your maximum effective range in a hunting scenario, there are many factors involved beyond the technical capabilities of your weapon. I'm very comfortable, when utilizing shooting sticks, shooting six-inch targets at 60 yards with my crossbow. But that is a stationary target under controlled conditions. When you are considering similar shots at animals, you have to factor in not only your equipment and marksmanship abilities, but also the unpredictable nature of your target, which can move at any moment.

I can speak from experience here. During a recent trip to New Zealand, I had my eyes opened up while hunting red stag and fallow deer with my crossbow. Prior to that trip, my crossbow-hunting experience had been, for the most part, focused on whitetails from a treestand and a few bears on bait. This hunt in New Zealand was spot-and-stalk, on free-range animals, in big country. The distances were long, and there wasn't a lot of cover in some situations. I learned a great deal from the trip and had to learn new techniques in areas that I had previously taken for granted.

I practiced every other day for six weeks before I left on my trip. I was very confident with my shooting skills, my zero and the overall performance of my equipment. I was shooting two- and three-inch groups with broadheads at 60 yards. But what I quickly discovered is that making similar shots through the wind, across steep terrain, at an animal that doesn't want to stand still for very long, is an entirely different matter! This was not something new to me, given the fact I have been a vertical bowhunter since age 12. But despite my decades of bowhunting experience and years as a professional shooter, I realized that I had still assumed that my crossbow, with a little bit flatter trajectory than a vertical bow, would allow me to pay less attention to all the basics of shooting. I was wrong!

KEEP IT QUIET

Another thing I neglected on this particular outing was the importance of quieting my crossbow to the best of my ability. I have string silencers and a string stop on my vertical bow, and the bow is super quiet. I didn't take the time to put any of those things on my crossbow. I quickly learned while hunting the fallow deer, which have super keen senses, that these animals were able to jump the string at 30 and 40 yards.

In one case, I had a young fallow deer at about 42 yards, and I decided I would shoot it for camp meat. The little buck had no idea I was there. I was set up with my shooting sticks, in an elevated position, when I took the shot. He jumped it and the arrow just grazed his backside. That was when I realized I didn't do everything I could have done to make my equipment quieter. By quieting my equipment, I would have given myself a further maximum range. By not doing so, I shortened my maximum range and efficiency. I quickly realized my comfort zone was going to be a maximum of 30 yards, especially on older, mature fallow bucks or red stags.

So, as I said earlier, there are a lot of things to consider when you're talking about your maximum effective range and your equipment's maximum effective range. First and foremost is the animal you are hunting and how alert that animal is, followed by the conditions you are hunting in. I believe crossbow hunters have essentially the same maximum range as vertical bowhunters, as long as you have practiced enough to be shooting tight groups and do everything you can to make sure your equipment is quiet. By crossbow standards (crossbows are notoriously loud compared to compound bows), my Ten Point is very quiet right out of the box. But I know now, after my experience in New Zealand, that adding string silencers and some BowJax will pay big dividends.

Like I said, I'm a rookie when it comes to spot-and-stalk hunting with my crossbow, and I quickly learned I have a lot to learn!

Recommended for You

Learn how to lure wary bulls into bow range. Big Game

Elk Calling With the Experts

Tracy Breen

Learn how to lure wary bulls into bow range.

Treestand hunting is not an exact science. We all learn with experience, and there is definitely an Whitetail

10 Best Treestand Hunting Tips

Bill Winke

Treestand hunting is not an exact science. We all learn with experience, and there is...

We tested this new trail-cam technology! Scouting Tools

Moultrie Mobile Cellular Camera: Remote Scouting Made Simple

Christian Berg - July 22, 2019

We tested this new trail-cam technology!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

"Petersen's Bowhunting" editor Christian Berg and Mathews design engineer Mark Hayes talk the smooth, quiet and fast shooting qualities of the new flagship Vertix bow from the Wisconsin bowmaker.

Bill Winke

Bill Winke's Bowhunting Treestand Set-Up Tips

Field Editor Bill Winke provides bowhunting treestand set-up tips that'll help make life easier when it's go time in the fall.

Crossbow Boar Hunting

Crossbow Boar Hunting

Craig Boddington is armed with his crossbow and puts the stalk on a wild boar.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

We've rounded up the best new fixed-blade broadheads from the 2019 ATA Show. Check out our top picks! ATA Show

New Fixed-Blade Broadheads for 2019

Brian Strickland - January 10, 2019

We've rounded up the best new fixed-blade broadheads from the 2019 ATA Show. Check out our top...

Mid-Summer Is Prime Time to Watch Large-Racked Bucks — and Stoke Fall Enthusiasm! How-To

Summer Scouting Spectacular

Bill Winke - July 17, 2019

Mid-Summer Is Prime Time to Watch Large-Racked Bucks — and Stoke Fall Enthusiasm!

Going from field tips to broadheads requires arrow tuning on a higher plane.

 Good broadhead flight How-To

4 Steps to Perfect Broadhead Flight

Bowhunting Online Staff

Going from field tips to broadheads requires arrow tuning on a higher plane. Good...

See More Stories

More How-To

While summer images can be encouraging, trail cams offer critical insights during the season. How-To

How to Utilize Your Trail Cameras During the Season

Jason Snavely

Sponsored By
Moultrie Mobile
Try these tactics for sneaking out of the woods when you're surrounded by deer at dark! How-To

How To Leave Your Treestand Without Spooking Deer

Bill Winke

Try these tactics for sneaking out of the woods when you're surrounded by deer at dark!

Follow Bill Winke's tips for avoiding some of the most common problems that could ruin your chance at the buck of a lifetime. How-To

Common Bowhunting Equipment and Execution Errors

Bill Winke - September 22, 2018

Follow Bill Winke's tips for avoiding some of the most common problems that could ruin your...

See More How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×