Deer hunting with a crossbow can be a great way to bag that trophy buck or put food on the table for weeks to come. There are many tips to help you have a successful crossbow hunt for deer, but here are a few of the basics on gear selection to get you started:
Regulations differ from state to state, and even area to area, so hunters should be sure they know what is legal and what isn’t, including where and when they can use crossbows, before planning a hunt. Crossbow rules in many places are different than bow hunting rules. So first, check the regulations. You will also want to know what is considered “loaded” in the area you wish to hunt as well as when the crossbow must be uncocked. Also check to see if there is a minimum draw weight for crossbows based on the area and the game you are hunting.
The right crossbow will depend on a few thing, with your budget not being the least of them. Crossbows can cost hundreds of dollars, so set you budget first, and then look at several within that price range.
Crossbows also come in a variety of sizes and weights. Remember that you will be hauling your crossbow around in the woods, so don’t choose a model that is too cumbersome or big for your size.
A crossbow’s shooting power is rated in feet per second. The most popular crossbows for deer hunting are rated at around 350 fps with many models ranging from 300 to 400 fps.
Using a cocking device, that may or may not come with your crossbow, will help improve accuracy. You will be pulling and cocking the bow exactly the same each time.
Optics are also important. Use only optics specifically designed for a crossbow with 3 dots or crosshairs: one at 20 yards, one at 30 yards, and one at 40 yards.
Crossbow arrows drop quite quickly compared to longer, heavier arrows from a vertical bow. Even the best crossbow arrows are best used at a shorter range. 40 yards is about maximum for good accuracy with 25-30 yards being optimal.
Standard weight arrows with 400-435 grains are the best all-around choice for most types of hunting. They work well in most models of crossbows. They have a good mix of kinetic energy as well as speed. They have a fairly good downrange accuracy and penetration.
In situations where you are hunting game with tough hides or you’re in an area with a lot of debris the arrow may deflect off of, or in heavy rains, a heavy weight arrow may be better (up to 750 grains). These arrows lose trajectory much faster, however, so using a rangefinder to pinpoint distance is highly recommended.
For best results, a hunter simply cannot fire his or her crossbow only during deer season and expect to be accurate. Hunters should practice year round in a variety of conditions. Just as with any other skill, the more it is practiced, the more accurate you will be when it counts.
Hunters should practice shots from 15 to 35 yards. If possible, practicing in terrains and conditions like those you will be hunting in is best. If there is a 3-D course available in your area, make several trips to that course throughout the year.
If you use your crossbow frequently, the strings and cables should be replaced every other year. If you are a light user, every 3 – 4 years might be fine. But check then strings, cables and draw cords before every hunt. If they look worn or damaged in any way. If they are, replace them. Keep in mind that strings and cables can stretch over time, which can affect your arrow speed and trajectory.
Crossbows require more maintenance than a standard vertical bow, and the last thing you want is a broken string to ruin a hunt for you. Keep a close eye on your crossbow and, if need be, take it to your local hunting supply shop for service every year before the season starts.
I know from see many friends that maintain their gear regularly but also do so for their sons. I personally recommend you do this with your son as it is a life skill worth passing on.
Following these tips is a great starting point to make sure you have a good hunt. If you’re unsure about what is best for your hunting area, talking to a reputable guide or sporting goods shop owner can go a long way toward ensuring you have the best equipment for your needs.
Don’t forget your maintenance routine, either. Make sure your equipment is in top condition and that you have been practicing throughout the year. With all of these things combined, your chances of a successful hunt are greatly improved.