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