Hunting Horizontal

By Ace Luciano published on in Archery, Bowhunting, Deer, Guest Posts, Hunting

This has been a year of firsts for me. In an earlier series, I wrote about my transformation from tactical neophyte to MSR owner and shooter. I shot my first coyote with an arrow. I was there when my daughter shot her first deer during Wisconsin’s youth deer hunt; my first time hunting a private, Mississippi River duck club, and I hunted Kansas for the first time.

Hunter in camo shooting crossbows from 4-foot high shooting sticks

“Crossbows are similar to rifles- Shot from the shoulder, they need to be held steady in order to shoot well. A bipod or shooting sticks can help.”

While on that hunt, I had another “first.” It was my first time hunting with a crossbow. For the last several years, more and more companies are jumping in to the crossbow business. The technology is leaps ahead of where it was even a few years ago, similar to the renaissance of muzzleloading rifles, seasons, and opportunities. Like most things hunting-related, it is a TON of fun!

This hunt started two years ago, with the Christmas gift of a crossbow to my father who, due to advancing age and some serious back problems, can no longer effectively draw his bow. Dad hunted with his crossbow last season, shooting a doe on the second to last day of his trip, and said he was really impressed with its performance. This year, he bought a crossbow with reversed limbs (a Barnett Vengeance) that he felt was better balanced.

For most states, I can only use a crossbow during the rifle season (I feel like I’m handicapped enough with a rifle at times…). However, this year Kansas opened its general archery season to crossbow hunting for everyone. All you need is a crossbow and equipment, and about 30 seconds on the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism website to obtain a Crossbow Survey Number after you purchase your deer license.

In many circles, crossbows get a bad rap. Arguments I’ve recently heard include: it’s easier to shoot, easier to hold steady, has greater accuracy at longer ranges, is faster and requires less movement to take a shot—therefore, they shouldn’t be allowed. After reserving my judgment until after having direct experience to effectively compare, I whole-heartedly disagree!

The Concerns

Let’s go through these concerns one at a time.

  1. Crossbows are easy to shoot. I did not have an easier time shooting my crossbow, a Barnett Quad 400, than I do my regular bowhunting setup, a PSE Axe 6. It was different, and the crossbow has a 4x scope on it compared to a pin and peep sight. I have no issues with either as far as acquiring a target during legal shooting light.
  2. Crossbows are easier to hold steady. Not for me, and not even with a bipod rest from a tree stand. As a matter of fact, I stopped using the bipod from the tree because it was such a hassle to deal with. With a sling and my modified cross-legged shooting position that I also use with my rifle, the crossbow was certainly steady enough to shoot.
  3. Crossbows have greater accuracy at longer ranges. This one is true. Well, maybe. If you have a solid rest, if there is little or negligible wind, and if you have a good trigger and trigger-pull technique. From a bench, I could put three arrows into the bottom of a pop can at 80 yards. I also know guys that can do that with a bow. A bow shot from a machine designed to hold it steady would perform the same. Bows today have tight tolerances, arrows are matched, and speeds have increased over the years. With both, the difference is in the shooter, not the equipment.
  4. Crossbows are faster. Maybe. Mine shot close to the speed of my bow with the equipment I used. My bow does not shoot IBO rated speed with my hunting setup.
  5. Crossbows require less movement to take a shot. Sometimes. If you have the crossbow in your lap, perhaps it would require less movement to get the shot. If it is already on the sticks, in position to shoot, and the deer is walking and stops in that specific area—probably. When hanging on the tree, I actually had to move more to get it, but less once I did. Just try to get a follow-up shot with a crossbow. It takes a ton of movement and sound.

Conclusion

As you can see, my conclusion is that hunting with either method is of the same difficulty. I like new things, and really wanted to do something different. I urge you to try crossbow hunting and expand your hunting horizon and season.

What do you think? Are crossbows getting a bad rap? Share your experiences in the comments below. 

 

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Ace Luciano is first a seasoned hunter, an accomplished angler and experienced outdoorsman. He is also a published outdoor author, seminar speaker, consultant and entrepreneur. Ace is involved in numerous conservation and youth-oriented projects. He spends much of his time pursuing his passion of introducing youths to the outdoors through the United Sportsman’s Youth Foundation. Over the years, Ace has traveled the globe in pursuit of both game and fish, from North America to Africa, from Europe to Australia. Ace’s highly successful booking agency, World Game Hunts, Ltd., specializes in affordable, unbelievable hunting and fishing trips. You can contact or learn more about Ace at www.AceLuciano.com.

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Comments (15)

  • Ed S.

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    Let me start by saying that in the 70′s, I started archery hunting deer with a fiberglass stick bow, so I’ve been shooting a long time. I’ve started shooting a compound bow shortly after that and taken a number of deer with them. 2-3 years ago PA started letting crossbow hunting for deer. I’m sure glad they did. I’m 51 years old now, I have bulged disks in my upper back and neck and it is very difficult to draw and hold a compound now. Last year I bought a PSE TAC 15 crossbow and a tripod that I practice a lot with. I’ve since taken 2 turkey and one whitetail buck with it. Without the new change in rules , my archery hunting would not exist. To all the opponents of the crossbows my hope for you is to never get old with physical problems. The deer I shot with the crossbow went 60 yards and expired as fast as they do with a rifle shot through the lungs.
    Whatever tool you use to harvest animals, be proficient and know your limitations with it, for the animals sake.

    Reply

  • Bill From NJ

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    On a serious note! I’ve seen state game management data that showed bow hunting was peaking for certain age groups, since they legalized crossbow hunting in my state, many old timers who had stopped bow hunting, have gotten back into the sport.

    This is golden. I often have little positive to say for state officials, but in this case, legalizing crossbow hunting in NJ has been a blessing for many older hunters. Cough, cough, cough, like me! Crossbows….. Super Duper!

    Reply

  • Richard Williams

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    I agree with Ed I am 50 yrs. old and have Bursitis and Arthritis.Last year I missed quite a few deer from having problems getting my bow drawn without a lot of struggles.I also had a big problem seeing my pin through my peep even in good light(degenerative sight)I have taken 2 does and one spike this year with my crossbow.All you macho (young) guys say whatever you want my hunting State allows crossbows with scopes and I will use one as long as the law allows.
    Comment by Richard – Hunting in SW Alabama

    Reply

  • Leon

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    Ed,
    Were your arrows through the turkeys long enuf to become rotisserie spindles when you got those birds back to the house? LOL First I’ve read of turkey hunting that way, but then, I’m a newbie, and as a retiree from the Army (field artillery computer geek), I prefer to acquire my targets and sight them in before they know I’m in their neighborhood, which isn’t quite as easy with short-range weapons as it might be with a 300-yard holdover 30-06 shot. But then, I wouldn’t be looking for turkey that way anyway, only shotguns 20 gauge or larger are legal for that here in NY. Crossbows for deer were legal until last year, no idea why they were discontinued.

    Reply

  • Ed

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    Leon,
    First, Thank You for your service.
    Sorry that NY discontinued crossbows. (not politicly correct?) Call your Reps.
    First turkey was shot at 21 yards with 1″ Steel Force turkey head in which I did not recover the arrow. Second turkey was shot at 43 yards with a 100 gr. Swacker head. Deer was 17 yards with Swacker head.
    Crossbow shoots 26 1/4 ” arrow in the mid 390 fps.with a 100 gr. head. Crossbow is topped with a mill dots scope. The cross hair is sighted at 60yrds.. Top dot set at 20 yrds and bottom dot hits very close to 90 yrds. Each dot is 10 yrds. apart with the scope power set slightly above 3 power. (3.2)ish
    I’ve shot all 3 with the aid of a tripod and I used a rangefinder on 2nd turkey.
    My 12 gauge is hard on my shoulder!!!!

    Reply

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