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Dos and Donts: Crossbow Hunting

Shooting a crossbow is a skill that takes time to learn. These tools are powerful and they can be dangerous. Fortunately, they are quite fun to shoot, so many people enjoy the time they spend on the range learning to master these effective and accurate weapons. To get the most out of the crossbow, it is helpful to learn a few dos and donts to become an effective, efficient, and accurate shooter. These dos and donts involve more than just shooting, they include choosing the right bow and accessories, learning how to put it all together and take care of it, and making good decisions when you are out in the field.

Ten Important Do’s When Hunting with a Crossbow

(1) Practice, practice, practice. When it comes to learning any new skill, practice is the key to success. It doesn’t matter what type of bow you are using; you should practice as often as possible. Many hunters recommend shooting in the field, but if you don’t have a field to use, a range is just as good. When you practice, shoot from different positions. Shoot from high up and from your knees. If you can practice from a tree stand or a blind, you will be more accurate and comfortable when you really shoot from those locations.


(2) Take good care of your bow and accessories. Crossbows are precise instruments that require proper care. The bow that you own needs to be maintained. It is a good idea to inspect the string and cables because friction and abrasion can wear them out. If you see any flaws, you should replace those pieces. It is also important to clean and lubricate the parts that the manufacturer recommends after each practice session or hunting trip.

(3) Buy a good quality crossbow. When it comes to hunting, a good crossbow can make a big difference. The inexpensive models will not have the same features and quality that the higher priced models have. Most of the inexpensive models will not last long, so you will eventually spend just as much repairing or replacing a cheap model that you would buying a good quality model for a higher price. It is also helpful to buy a package that includes the accessories that you need, like some arrows, a scope, a quiver, and a cocking rope.

(4) Be sure the draw weight is sufficient for your hunting neds. If you are trying to shoot big game, you will want a draw weight that will make the kill. States do have minimum requirements for crossbows, so be sure that your bow meets the requirements before you venture out in the field. It is best to choose a heavier draw weight because it will kill the animal. The best choices are 150 pounds and up.

Body TypeSuggested Draw Weight
Small child (40 to 70 lbs.)10-15 lbs.
Child (70 to 100 lbs.)15-20 lbs.
Women and large-framed boys (100 to 140 lbs.)30-40 lbs.
Women with a larger frame & youth boys (140 to 160 lbs.)40-50 lbs.
The majority of males (160 to 190 lbs.)55-65 lbs.
Larger males (190+ lbs.)60-70 lbs.

(5) Learn the physics of the crossbow. When you shoot a crossbow, the arrow will fire in a parabolic arc. A good scope and crosshairs will show you where the arrow should land, but being in the field can change the arc slightly. It is important to learn how the arc changes from different distances and how to get the arrow where you want it – especially if the target could move.

(6) Rest occasionally. Since crossbows are heavy, it is easy to get tired out if you use one several times. Once you get tired, you might find that your accuracy drops. So, it is helpful to rest occasionally so you can be at your best. No one wants to be injured from their own crossbow, but accidents tend to happen when people are worn out from a long day of shooting. Find a way to rest, even if you shoot from a kneeling or sitting position. Some people will pad the forearm of the crossbow to reduce the recoil.

(7) Buy arrows with the right velocity. Crossbows will shoot an arrow at an incredible speed, so you need to buy arrows that can handle the speed. It is a good idea to get arrows that will managed 300 feet per second. If you can find arrows that will manage 400 feet per second, then you have made a good choice.

(8) Get a good scope. Crossbows often come with scopes, but they not be the best ones on the market. The best scopes have magnification, from zero to five times. A really good scope will have a reticle, which are commonly called the crosshairs. Many of the best scopes will be sighted to 20 yards as well as intervals at 30, 40, and 50 yards. Hunters do like to shoot with scope that have dots to help measure the distances.

Crossbow  scopes

Crossbow scopes

(9) Broadheads make all the difference. You can have a good arrow, but if your broadhead is not good, then you will not get your target. The broadhead is the blade that will puncture the animal that you are aiming at and they need to fly straight and true. Many people like to shoot with replaceable-blade broadheads that weigh 100 grains. Some people prefer 125 grains and the mechanical broadheads, too. With experience, you will be able to decide which style and weight you like the best.

(10) Master the trigger. Each crossbow will feel slightly different – even those made by the same manufacturer. They all have their own little quirks, which is why it is helpful to really get to know the trigger. Because timing the shot is as important as the aim, you should work hard to understand the pressure required to release the arrow. Practice shooting with and without gloves so you know how the trigger feels in different types of weather.

Two Important Don’t When Using a Crossbow

(1) Don’t ignore your hand placement. No one wants to hurt their fingers and thumb when shooting their crossbow. But, it is all too easy to do. People who are new to shooting crossbows will often hold them like rifles, which puts their fingers and thumb in dangerous places because the digits get in the way of the bowstring. The arrow releases quickly and it can remove fingers and thumbs before you know it. Be sure you hold the crossbow properly, every, single time.

(2) Don’t shoot with your weak hand. When you shoot with your weak hand, you run the risk of injuring yourself. The balance of the crossbow makes it difficult to shoot accurately and safely from your weak side. Instead, move your body so you can get the shot using your strong hand.

(3) Don’t shoot beyond your ability. If you can place an arrow accurately at a distance of 20 yards, then shoot from your preferred distance. If you have difficulty hitting a target from 40 yards, then do not try to shoot an animal from that distance. You are wasting your time and most importantly, your arrows because you are more likely to miss if you shoot from a distance that gives you trouble during practice.

Shoot Outside Your Own MESR

Many years ago, I coined a phrase for bowhunters, Maximum Effective Shooting Range, or MESR. Your MESR is the maximum distance you can consistently place a hunting arrow into the bullseye. For some crossbow hunters that’s 20 yards; for others it is 60 yards. For most of us, it is somewhere in between.

You will learn your own MESR as you practice. At some point, you just won’t be plunking that arrow into the bullseye on a regular basis. When that happens, it’s time to back off a few yards until you are once again placing at least 90 percent of your shots into the center of the target. At the same time, you should try and push the envelope and stretch your MESR in small (say, 5 yard) increments. But once I get into the field and I know my own MESR is, say, 40 yards, I will not take a shot at a game animal any further than that.

Crossbow Safety Tips for Hunter

Good archers understand that their tools are not toys. Despite the fact that bows and arrows are fun to use, it is important to follow safety practices at all times. There is no time to be relaxed when using a deadly tool like a crossbow. Since they are relatively easy to use, it is also easy to become lax when aiming, cocking, and firing. But, even with the safety settings included in most modern crossbows, it is still important to always use them with care and concern.

There are several easy safety tips to use at all time when you are around or using a crossbow.

One of the first safety tips is to always carry an empty crossbow. If you walk, carry, or drive with a crossbow that is loaded, it could shoot and seriously injure you or someone near you. Once you load the crossbow, you should never put any part of your body in the direction of the release path – especially fingers or hands. If you have to make an adjustment to the crossbow’s string, remove the arrow first, then make the adjustments.

There are several archers who don their safety glasses when they are using their crossbows. They put them on at all times when they are around their crossbows, not just when they are shooting. They wear them when they are assembling and adjusting their crossbows – because there is tension involved in the crossbow at all times, it is better to be safe than sorry.

crossbow hunting tips

Crossbow hunting tips

One important bit of safety advice involves shooting the crossbow. This safety tip is the first rule of shooting an arrow from any type of bow. Never point the loaded bow at anything or anyone other than your target. You never turn to talk to someone when you are shooting. If you must talk to someone before you shoot, remove the arrow and return to a safe position with the bow.

Safety during shooting, whether at stationary targets or at moving animals, is important on several levels. It is always a good idea to be sure there are not any obstacles in the path your arrow will take. When your target is moving, be sure that you can shoot without hitting anything other than your target. And, it is important to be sure your crossbow limbs are clear of any obstacles if you are shooting in tight confines.

Crossbows have safeties, so it is important to keep the safety on until you are actually ready to shoot. Your finger should be off of the trigger until that moment, too. It is too easy to accidentally shoot if your finger is on the trigger and the safety is off. Preventing accidents and serious injuries is more important that hitting the target.

Another important safety tip involves knowing who is around you before you shoot. It is always important that your friends, family, and fellow archers are behind you, not next to you or in front of you. When strings break, the shrapnel flies to the sides. It does not go backwards, so that is the safest place for people to stand. You should remember this as an archer and do the same when you are with other people who are shooting.

Shooting from treestands involve different rules. The experts suggest that hunters cock the crossbow before they enter the treestand, then carry the crossbow up cocked, but unloaded. Hunters should not cock their crossbows in the treestand because the action involves leaning over. It is best to lift the crossbow to the stand using a haul line that keeps the crossbow facing down the whole way up. Since the crossbow is cocked when it reaches the top of the treestand, make sure your fingers never go on the rail of the bow.

If you must de-cock your crossbow, the safest way to do it is to shoot it. Dry-firing a crossbow can be dangerous. If the crossbow is used for hunting, removing the bolt by hand can result in injuries. There are special bags that you can buy that allow safe shooting instead of de-cocking it. You can also de-cock a crossbow by shooting the arrow right to the ground.

Always remember that a loaded crossbow is just as dangerous as a gun. Even if the crossbow is cocked, but not loaded, it is still extremely dangerous. Always follow the safety standards set by the manufacturer to prevent debilitating injuries.

How to Choose the Best Crossbow Arrows

Purchasing a crossbow is the first step in building an archery hobby. Once you buy the crossbow, you need to purchase arrows, too. If researching and buying the crossbow wasn’t challenging enough, getting the right arrows for your needs can also be a challenge. It can be helpful to have some tips to make it easy to find the right arrows so you can get busy shooting instead of shopping.

What to Know Before Buying Arrows for Your Crossbows

There are a few important considerations to have before you spend any money on arrows. First, check out the recommendations from your crossbow manufacturer to see what arrows will perform the best with your bow. It is never a good idea to use arrows that weigh less than the recommended amount. Your broadheads and points should be equal in weight, too. If you decide to purchase arrows that are heavier, you should be aware that the velocity of your crossbow could decrease slightly.

Learn the Terminology: Arrow vs. Bolt

When you begin your shopping, you should know the terminology. Arrows are often known as bolts. When it comes to shooting a bolt, this can only be done out of a crossbow. The only difference between the two is that an arrow will have a stabilizer at the back, but a bolt will not. Since a crossbow does not require the stabilizer like a recurve bow. Let’s refer to them as arrows.

Arrow Construction

It is also helpful to understand how an arrow is constructed. First, arrows are usually somewhere between 16 and 22 inches long. Most are 20 inches in length. Read about the manufacturer’s recommendation for arrow length, because they will need to fit in the rail. Arrows that are too short will not fit properly.

Each arrow is made of relatively the same parts. The shaft is the long part of the arrows. Today’s arrows are usually made of carbon fibers or aluminum which makes them strong and lightweight. The stiffness of the arrows is measured, just like the length. This measurement is known as “spine.” The shaft of the arrow is also measured in weight. This measurement is called “grains.” Sometimes the measurement is known as “Grains Per Inch” or GPI. The measurements are usually combined, so if the shaft is given a measurement of 12 GPI and the shaft length is 20 inches, then the grain is 240.

Crossbow Arrows

Crossbow Arrows

Arrows have a part called “the nock.” This is usually a plastic or aluminum part that connects to the back end of the arrow shaft. The nock is used to keep the arrow from sliding around the bow. Nocks can come in a half-moon shape or a flat shape. They often have grooves that line up on the bow string. Like the weight of the arrow, the crossbow manufacturers will also recommend the type of nock that best fits with the crossbow design.

The next part of the arrow to know is the fletching. These are the little feathery wing-like parts that help keep the arrow traveling where you aim it. The trajectory stays because the fletchings make the arrow spin. These are usually made of plastic for crossbow arrows. Recurve bows often use arrows with actual feathers as fletchings. The fletchings are usually glued into place and they can be long; in fact, longer arrows will have longer fletchings to keep the arrows accuracy. Since the manufacturer will recommend the length and weight of the perfect arrow for your bow, the fletchings will coordinate with the size arrow you buy.

Types of Arrowheads

Another part of the arrow to know is the head. These are referred to as bolt heads or arrowheads. There are different kinds of arrowheads that you can use with your crossbow and they have slightly different functions. It is in your best interest to use the arrowhead that meets the needs of your archery practice.

Target Points

Target points or field points are designed for use on a range. They are designed to shoot target practice. The only sharp part is at the point, so they can penetrate the target, but not an animal hide. In fact, they are not recommended to be used during hunting because they would be determined to be too cruel, since they would not kill an animal quickly enough. No one wants their targets destroyed by a dangerous field point.

Field points are usually lightweight, around 140 grain – give or take a few grains. The points are either glued onto the arrow or screwed into it. The glued ones tend to more affordable. It is important to stick with the manufacturer’s recommendations by using field points that are the same weight; lighter ones can create a misfire or dry fire, which can damage the bow.

Broadheads

The broadhead is the other type of arrowhead to know. These are the points that you want to use when hunting. These are usually not glued on, simply because they need to be better made to be able to take down animals in the wilderness. They are available in three different styles. The fixed-blade broadhead is one unit with a dangerously sharp blade and point. There are removable broad-heads that have blades that can be taken off of the arrow point. The expandable broadheads have blades that pop out when the target is hit; these are the most potent arrows due to the blades doing internal damage to the animal. Expandable broadheads have less resistance, so they release from the crossbow quickly and the velocity remains. Because they are more efficient and effective, they are more expensive than the other types of broadheads. You can usually find them in three-packs with a weight around 140 grains, too.

Conclusion

Shopping for a crossbow arrow does not have to be difficult. It is best to buy an arrow that will fly straight and penetrate a target. It should also fulfill the manufacturer’s recommendations (or exceed them). The arrow needs to fit the type of target to expect to hit. If you just shoot targets on a range, you will not need to spend as much as you will if you prefer to shoot targets with four legs.

Why Should You Teach Your Kids Archery

infographic Why Should You Teach Your Kids Archery

Infographic Why Should You Teach Your Kids Archery

It is no secret that children do not get enough exercise. Schools are shortening or completely removing physical education. If children do not start playing a sport at a young age, it is nearly impossible for them to get involved in extracurricular sports at school. These are big reasons why archery has become a popular sport, especially for kids. You do not have to buy your child the best compound bow or a fancy recurve bow to get them started. It is an affordable sport that anyone can learn to do.

Archery is Safe

With all of the reports about concussions, parents are no longer encouraging their children to get involved in sports like football. There are plenty of other sports that have safety issues, too. Kids who play team sports like baseball, cheerleading, and soccer often end up with injuries to their knees, hips, and elbows. But, archery is one of the safest sports for people of all ages. The safety rules are well-established and easy to follow.

Anyone Can Shoot an Arrow

Archery is a sport that anyone can do. Literally. Everyone. Arrows can be shot by people in wheel chairs. They can be shot by people who are young and old. There are accessories that can be added to help people shoot a crossbow with ease. While other sports require a serious level of physical fitness and training, archery does not – so it is truly a sport for the people.

Archery kids

Archery is a Season-less Activity

Many competitive sports have special seasons. For example, baseball is a summer sport and football is a fall sport – usually because the sports are played outdoors. Baseball cannot be played in the snow. And, the equipment that football players wear makes it difficult for playing in the excessive heat of the summer. But, archery can happen inside or outside. There are no weather restrictions on the equipment. So, while a young baseball players cannot swing their $300 bats in weather under 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a recurve bow, crossbow, or the best compound bow can be shot in any temperature.

Archery Develops Problem Solving Techniques

Archery can develop focus and problem solving. Anyone who has spent time with a small group of children can quickly see that focusing on one thing for an extended time is difficult for them. All too often, children are quick to give up when problems come their way. But, in the world of archery, archers quickly learn that they need to figure out what they did wrong when the arrow doesn’t hit the target. Archers are also required to slow themselves down so they can focus on the target. Quick shots rarely work as planned. The skills learned on the archery field are carried over into the classroom.

Archery Builds Fitness Levels

Archery also provides opportunities for physical fitness. Students do get to stretch and they build strength when they draw the bow. Archery improves the muscles in the upper body. And, when young archers begin participating in tournaments, they can walk miles back and forth between the fields. Of course, walking is always good for the body. Along with muscle tone and fitness, archery also develops balance and hand-eye coordination.

Archery Scholarships are Available

Most parents do not know this, but children who are good archers have a fair chance of earning a scholarship as a reward for their abilities. There are school programs that reward scholarships on an annual basis. There are also awards like cash or scholarships given out a many archery tournaments around the country.

Archers Learn to Set and Achieve Goals

Children who participate in archery learn how to set goals and strive to achieve them. Many children do not know how to set goals and they do not understand the work it takes to succeed. They also learn how to solve problems when they do not reach their goals. Learning to deal with setbacks is a vital part of life that too many children never get to experience. Learning early makes the later setbacks easier to manage.

Archery is Fun

Finally, archery is a fun activity. It is easy to do with the family and with friends. There are so few activities that an entire family can do together that provides so many positives like archery.

How to Maintain a Hunting Bow (Compound bow & Crossbow)

A good crossbow or compound bow is an investment and investments need to be maintained. Most crossbows and compound bow maintenance is easy to do and it should be completed the way the manufacturer recommends.

Care for Strings

The best crossbow maintenance involves caring for the strings. In most cases, this is the one step that should not be overlooked. It is important to have wax specifically designed for your crossbow strings and in most cases, the cables will need to be waxed, too. The bow strings need to be waxed regularly and the owner’s manual will explain exactly how often it should be done. When applying wax, be sure to avoid the trigger box. It is important to use your fingers to rub in the wax because your body heat will soften it to a point where it will properly stick to the strings.

Strings crossbow

Strings crossbow

Lubricate to Reduce Friction

Along with caring for the strings, the crossbow rail will need to be lubricated to keep friction to a minimum. With added friction, the accuracy of the shot decreases. The rail can usually be covered by using only two drops rubbed in with the fingers. The trigger box and mounting bolts often need lubrication, too. The only mounting bolts that require lubrication and the ones that are visible. This will reduce damage from moisture caused by weather conditions.

Crossbow rail lube and string wax

Crossbow rail lube and string wax

Inspect the Weapon Regularly

Prior to shooting, it is a good idea to take a good look at the bow and the arrows. Because the crossbow is a weapon, any problems with it could cause injuries. Check the bolts, the limbs, and the shafts of the arrows to be sure everything is in good working order. It is also helpful to check the string to see if it is separating or becoming frayed. Most strings will last for hundreds of shots, if they are properly waxed on a regular basis.

Clean the Scope

The lens of the scope will also need to be properly cleaned. It should be cared for like a good pair of glasses, using lens cleaning products instead of towels, fingers, or other abrasive materials. Fingerprints, dust, and smudges can reduce the accuracy of the shot.

clean crossbow scope

clean crossbow scope

Clean Out the Small Spaces

Many hunters will use canned air to remove dirt from the small spaces in the crossbow. This is a good habit to get into after every hunting expedition and it is wise to remove dirt and debris prior to lubricating the bow. You will most likely spend a few minutes completing this task, but it will be worth every second.

Tighten Bolts

The bolts will also need to be tightened occasionally. The spots that will require tightening are on the quiver mount, the stock, and the stirrup. Since most crossbows come with hex keys or Allen wrenches, it is easy to keep the tools in your crossbow case. Most crossbows need to have the bolts tightened after 50 shots.

Care for the Compound Bow

Caring for a compound bow involves many of the same steps that crossbows need. The best compound bow will require regular maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape. Like the crossbow, the compound bow does require bowstring wax to be applied regularly. Manufacturers will suggest how often the bowstrings need to be waxed, but in most cases, a weekly waxing will suffice – especially during hunting season. The wax should be applied to strings and cables. But, unlike the crossbow, the wax should not be rubbed into the strings, because it could stretch out the strings. If the wax is hard, it should not be used either, for the same reasons.

Care Compound Bow

Care Compound Bow

Check for Damage Prior to Use

It is also important to check the compound bow for damage. If the bow makes strange noises, it is helpful to bring it into a pro shop to have it serviced. These are weapons, so damaged parts can cause injuries. It is highly recommended to avoid shooting it if there is anything wrong with the bow. If the strings are worn out, they should be replaced. Since bows have such quick FPS speeds, the strings can become worn out rather quickly.

Avoid Dry Firing

Crossbows should never be dry fired. If this does happen, whether by accident or on purpose, it is important to check the arrow and the bow to be sure everything is ok. If arrows are damaged or nocks have cracks, it is best to properly dispose of them and use new ones. Using damaged goods can cause problems that can be costly or dangerous.

Bowtech Avoid Dry Firing

Bowtech Avoid Dry Firing

Respect the Limits

It is also a good idea to respect the bow and not push it beyond its limits. The draw length should not be over extended because the cam could break. Cams can survive small dents, but if the dent is large and close the cam, the cable could break during a draw. This could seriously hurt the shooter.

Store the Bow Properly

Lastly, anyone who owns a crossbow or compound bow needs to properly store it when not in use. Most states require bows to be in cases when they are not being used and when they are in a vehicle. The bow cannot just be locked, it should be in a protective case. The case needs to be able to fully close and hard cases should be able to lock without any difficulty.