Compound Vs. Recurve Crossbows

Wherever deer hunters gather, you can count on one thing: lively discussions. Hunters love to trade stories, tactics, and opinions on deer behavior, venison recipes and deer hunting equipment.

Babe Winkelman
Babe Winkelman

One of the discussions that came up last time I was at deer camp was crossbows. And more specifically, whether hunters are better off with either a compound or recurve crossbow.

I just sat back and observed, and it was really interesting listening to what the different guys had to say. One fellow absolutely swore by his compound crossbow, insisting that it was faster than anything he could get in a recurve.

He said he was getting more than 360 fps and that a recurve couldn’t touch that speed. One of the other hunters then responded, “Oh yeah? Well my Excalibur recurve beats that by about 20 fps!” Oh boy, the sparks really started flying then!

The Barnett Recruit Compound Crossbow.

Then another one of my pals chimed in and said, “What the h— difference does it make? 340, 360, 380, one speed doesn’t kill a deer any deader.” Good point. All the guys agreed that shot placement was key, making crossbow accuracy the most important thing. I couldn’t agree more.

So, the discussion went to whether compound or recurve crossbows were more accurate. It was decided that both were equally accurate, as long as the compound variety was properly tuned. A mis-tuned compound crossbow is an inconsistent shooter.

With the recurve crossbow, tuning was considered a non-issue since recurve limbs are inherently in tune with one another and have no cams, cables, moving parts, etc., that can go out of tune.

Which Is More Dependable?

Next up for discussion, springing from talk of cams and cables, was dependability. The boys agreed that the recurve won on dependability because of its simplicity. Moreover, the recurve earned extra points because it required no professional service. If a compound crossbow needs tweaking, off to the pro shop it goes (unless you’re an owner with a bow press and that kind of tech savvy).

Related to dependability was durability, and the general consensus was that the recurve crossbow was tougher, too — given the absence of cams and other elements that could conceivably break by accidentally dropping the crossbow from a tree or something.

Noise was also discussed. And while modern crossbows today get more and more silent, the nod went to parallel-limb compound crossbows for noise. Then there was a big argument about whether a deer at 40 yards can hear a bow and then have time to even react as a crossbow bolt is zipping his way at 350-plus feet per second.

I continued listening and was definitely in the recurve camp on this debate. But what sealed the deal completely was the fact that at the end of a hunt with a compound crossbow, you have to fire that weapon to unload it. That means carrying a target with you, having to remove your broadhead and replace it with a field tip (to preserve blade sharpness), or worse yet firing your bolt into the ground. The owner of the Excalibur recurve crossbow said, “I can just take my bolt out and uncock the crossbow, it’s that easy.”

Bottom line, no matter what your compound vs. recurve preference, crossbow hunting is a total blast. Today’s crossbows are wickedly accurate. Modern bolts and broadheads are devastating. If you haven’t hunted with one yet, I strongly encourage it and would love to hear how you like it by dropping us a note or posting a picture on my Facebook page.

Good Hunting.

Shop The Sportsman’s Guide for a fine selection of Compound Bows and Recurve Crossbows!

Babe Winkelman hosts “Good Fishing” and “Outdoor Secrets,” the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America, Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York and many local broadcast channels. Visit for air times and more information.

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