Hunting Horizontal

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

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.


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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Comments (15)

  1. 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!!!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. Wait a minute–you know guys that can regularly do an 80 yard shot in the bottom of a pop can? How many and how often?

    I’m not sure what this article was supposed to present–the fact that crossbows are just as “difficult” as regular bows?

    I guess that is why every archer prefers to shoot a regular stick bow–because “compounds are just as difficult to shoot accurately as stick bows…” –LOL!!!

    As for me, I’ll stick to reality and state that if you are merely a hunter looking for an excellent archery experience with a minimum of dirt time in practice, get a crossbow.

    If, on the other hand you are constantly focused on obsessing about your release, form, stance and consistency, get a stick bow. You won’t be doing any 80 yard shots in a 3 inch disc–but you’ll be a lot happier and prouder for having done what is necessary to harvest game.

  7. This argument between the crossbow and the vertical bow is pretty much the same one that took place when the compound bow came onto the scene….it’s more accurate,it’s faster,so on and so on. The crossbow is just another method to hunt with.Same argument can be made about muzzleloaders/rifles….rifles/pistols etc.Until you shoot a crossbow you will never know the limitations of this type of bow. I,myself,use both types of bow and enjoy them both.It depends on what type of hunting I am doing as to which bow I use that day….same as with a rifle.I find that the ones who put up the biggest argument are the same ones that have never used a crossbow, they are not talking from experience, just out of their backside.The current models of vertical bows are faster,quieter,easier to get a 2nd shot,lighter in weight and more accurate than most of the crossbows out there. As far as I am concerned the argument is null and void.My choice of tools to hunt with has been expanded with the addition of a crossbow and the challenges that it brings to the experience of the hunt!

  8. I realize this discussion is about cross bows but DB your absolutely right as rain and don’t forget to include all the other hazards to our children, such as slingshots and that horrible “put your eye out” BB gun,that first pocket knife and of course there are baseball bats and sharp sticks, just to name a few. They should all be banned and sent the way of those most awful Yard Darts!!! And “Parental Supervision”,WHO NEEDS IT? There’s TV and video games that take care of that! Oh and DB I’m sure sorry about that nausea. When you get to feeling better you should run for office because I think you would make a great politician. You would sure have my vote!

  9. Tom, I agree.
    I was very impressed with the crossbow’s performance.
    I had a clean miss at 37 yards due to the buck flinching and me over-judging the distance. I stood there for another 2 or three minutes while he looked around, trying to figure out what had just happened. Then he just turned and walked off. (on a side note, I had just grunted and snort-wheezed and he came charging in looking for a serious fight. Way cool!) A cocking-harness is a LOT of movement, and a ratchet crank is awfully loud.
    Follow up shots are practically unheard of, unless the deer leaves and comes back.

  10. I plan on purchasing my first crossbow in Jan. I’ve been doing a lot of research and the technology (weight,speed, etc) is incredible. I’m using it to hunt resident blacktails in my area. During hunting season they tend to stay close to residential areas for obvious reasons and people who own small acreage are not to fond of letting someone with a rifle hunt their property, but I found several that would let me use my bow. I took one of the nicest 3x I have ever seen in this area from a stand and I was less than 75yrds from the owners house.

  11. As a gift to a family member for December we bought a Horton cross bow, additional bolts, some broadhead items, and a rope cocker and assembled a CD to show some online info about the wole matter, and a bag for all of it. All here inexperienced in these things, but have firearm experience.

    The thing I noticed is you best be darn good and like Elmer Fudd, be very, very, quiet to bag anyhing and have the strength of a moose to hold the thing up. To any of the users of these, my hat is off to you, a formidable weapon but you don’t get another shot for a while, but that is the talent you must have. I am impressed with the crowd who have these out there and are good with them.

    Tom Potter

  12. Well when the SHTF and ammo is no longer available or you can’t afford it, or maybe due to a tactical reason for concealment I don’t care what anybody says my crossbow will probably be my goto source of taking especially larger (deer sized)game in order to keep my family supplied with meat protein.

  13. Crossbows and regular bows are much to quiet for the general population to own and should be banned. And Most quivers hold much more than 5 arrows and should be outlawed.

    Speakers should be attached to all bows so that they emit a loud bang sound when fired and arrows should have whistles on them to make noise as they fly through the air. You all should agree with me as this must be done to protect the children.

    Think I’ll go barf now.

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