Trigger Tactics For Crossbows

Trigger Tactics For Crossbows
When selecting a crossbow, pay careful attention to the quality of the trigger. A crisp trigger mechanism that allows you to execute the shot with minimal travel is key to maximizing your accuracy.

One of the most important features on a firearm is the trigger. I would rather have a really good trigger on a gun that's not super accurate than a great-shooting gun with a horrible trigger. This holds true for me when I'm transitioning to a vertical bow with a release or a crossbow. What I look for in the trigger is not necessarily the poundage but the overall feel and movement. I like a clean trigger pull with very little movement. I like as little movement as possible — no creep! The weight is not that important. Whether it's four pounds or six pounds does not mean that much to me. Anything in the medium weight range is fine. It's the lack of movement in the trigger that gives me the best opportunity to execute a consistent, perfect shot.

Executing the Shot

I approach the execution of a shot on the crossbow in the exact same manner I do in my pistol shooting. I'm not really from the school of "surprise release." This may be very important for vertical bow shooters who are using back-tension or thumb-style release aids. But with my experience utilizing firearms, I approach the shot sequence differently. I want to know when the shot breaks. That enables me to call the shot much more accurately. In my mind, if I don't know when the shot is going to go off, how do I know I'm paying full attention the moment it happens?


I start the process by taking a few deep breaths and concentrating on my general aiming at the target. I inhale as I increase pressure on the trigger. If it's a four-pound trigger, I try to take up about two pounds of weight. As a real bull's-eye shooter would say, I "stand on the trigger" just a little. I then hold on my aiming spot and then I finalize by focusing all my energy on the spot I want to hit. Once I'm satisfied with my aiming, I slowly exhale and apply the remainder of the pressure on the trigger, keeping full attention on the crosshair, dot or whatever aiming aid I'm using.


Whether I'm shooting a vertical bow or crossbow, I try to keep all my focus and attention on the target. When I was younger, I could see the target and my pins in relatively clear focus pretty much at the same time. As I age, my focus needs to be either on the target or on the sight. I can only see one clearly at a time. I prefer to see the target very clearly, especially in a hunting situation. I feel that making a shot in the field, whether it's a turkey, deer or a bull elk, calls for having all your attention on the animal. You pick that small spot and stay in sync with the target. If the animal takes a step, and you're focused on it, you will still hit where you're looking.

If you allow your attention to drift back toward the sight, you will increase the chances for a bad shot. If I'm shooting at a stationary target in the backyard, or at the range, I can allow my focus to drift back to the sight with a lot fewer consequences. It's pretty much the same technique I use while shooting a handgun — especially on moving targets. If I keep my attention on the target and have a pretty good idea when the gun is going off, I'm a lot more accurate. When my focus drifts back toward my sight (it's a red dot sight on my pistol), I find my shots land on the front leading edge or rear edge of the target, because I lose connection with the target. The term I like to use is being "hooked up'' with the target. Hopefully, in a hunting situation, the animal is not moving, but sometimes they are walking or taking a step, and to me it's the same technique I use in competition. So, that's how I shoot my crossbow.

Follow-Through

Just as with a vertical bow, follow-through is extremely important when shooting a crossbow. I tell myself to follow through with my eyes. I keep focus on the target and watch the arrow hit the target. That's another reason why I keep my focus on the target, especially in a hunting situation. I want to know exactly where I hit that animal. If the target fuzzes out, then I can't be really clear on the exact point of impact. A close target sometimes makes it more difficult, given the speed of the crossbows in use today. The arrow travels to the animal and hits before you know it. And if you're not focused on the target, you cannot call the shot in an exacting manner. You might say, "Well, I saw the pin on the right spot when the shot went off, but I'm not exactly sure where it hit." Focusing on the target will help with that deficiency.


As I stated earlier, I follow through with my eyes. I try to watch the arrow hit the target. I try to hold the bow on the target until I see impact. That, to me, is the correct way to follow through. For some of you, this will be a different technique than you're used to. You must practice, with many repetitions, time and time again in the backyard or at the range. Repetitions, or should I say correct repetitions, of your shooting skills and fundamentals are critical to success.

Fundamentally, shooting a crossbow is easier than shooting a vertical bow. The opportunity to rest your elbow on your knee, lean against a tree or use some other sort of rest is a great aid in enhancing your marksmanship. But shooting a crossbow is still not as easy as shooting a firearm. The only real similarities are the stock, trigger and ability to support it while shooting. Other than that, it's more like shooting vertical bow or even an air gun because of the relatively long amount of time it takes for the projectile to leave the weapon. For that reason, follow-through is even more critical with a crossbow than with a firearm.

In the firearms world, we use the term "lock time." This is the time it takes the projectile to leave the weapon once the trigger is pulled. When shooting a rifle with a bullet that travels 3,000 feet per second, the lock time is very short. With a crossbow at 330 feet per second, there's plenty of time for you to mess up the shot before the arrow is gone. Therefore, following through properly is extremely important! Practice hard, and practice often.


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

Recommended Articles

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.

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Designed exclusively for their crossbows, Ravin has announced three new mechanical broadheads to maximize penetration and overall performance.

Center Shots: How to Improve Your Bow Tuning

Center Shots: How to Improve Your Bow Tuning

Field editor Bill Winke goes over steps you can take to improve the tuning on your bow.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Fields and food plots aren't the best places to kill big bucks. How-To

Avoid “Gun Stands” When Bowhunting

Bill Winke

Fields and food plots aren't the best places to kill big bucks.

Follow these 4 steps to early-season success. Whitetail

How to Pattern Bucks in the Early Season

Clint Casper

Follow these 4 steps to early-season success.

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

Summer Scouting Spectacular

Bill Winke

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

Don't give up on that seemingly untunable bow just yet. Bows

Untunable Bow? Nock Travel Could Be Your Problem

Bill Winke

Don't give up on that seemingly untunable bow just yet.

See More Trending Articles

More How-To

To find consistent success, you must be better than average in every respect. How-To

How to Successfully Bowhunt Public Land

Clint Casper

To find consistent success, you must be better than average in every respect.

Great stand sites aren't born; they're made. Whitetail

Finding the Best Deer Stand Locations Over Time

Bill Winke

Great stand sites aren't born; they're made.

You're going to perform better if you can complete the entire shot sequence in fewer than 8 seconds. How-To

How Long Should a Shot Take?

Christian Berg

You're going to perform better if you can complete the entire shot sequence in fewer than 8...

A perfect shot requires a perfect release. How-To

Proper Archery Release Aid Technique

Larry Wise

A perfect shot requires a perfect release.

See More How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Bowhunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now