Judging from the number of phone calls and e-mails we have received here at Crossbow Magazine over the past several months, I’d say that the crossbow revolution is alive and well and shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. Throughout the year, I’m continually fielding questions about equipment preferences, hunting techniques and crossbow regulations.
However, I’m starting to see a troubling trend amongst many of the new crossbow converts joining our ranks and I feel these issues need to be addressed. As a whole, the crossbow community has done a tremendous job of lobbying for additional hunting opportunities, promoting the sport and recruiting new hunters. What it appears to have failed at miserably is educating these new bowhunters on how to hunt with a crossbow.
Lately, I’ve been inundated with calls from new crossbow hunters that want information on how fast a crossbow needs to shoot, the effective killing range of a crossbow, and what’s considered adequate arrow grouping at extended distances. When I reply that any crossbow shooting 300 feet per second is more than sufficient for killing any big game animal in North America and that I’m more than pleased with 3-inch groups at 30 yards, there’s generally a long pause on the other end of the line.
Unfortunately, most new crossbow hunters have been led to believe that their new wiz-bang crossbow is as deadly as their trusty old .30-06 and that every animal within sight is within range. Nothing could be further from the truth! Regardless of its speed, ergonomics and accessory package, crossbows are and always should be used as a close-range weapon.
It doesn’t matter how many shiny trophies you have on your mantle, or what an awesome shot you are in those homemade YouTube videos; even under the best of hunting circumstances things can and will go wrong occasionally. Keeping your shots in close is always the best way to ensure success. There’s nothing worse than turning a majestic creature into a quivering mass of puss and suffering because you lack the skill or ability to get within effective bow range of it.
The goal of each and every hunter should always be a quick, clean, ethical kill. That’s why experienced bowhunters always try to stack the odds in their favor by reducing the human error element. There are several ways to go about this. Practice and become familiar with your equipment, scout your quarry, clear shooting lanes prior to the season, and keep your shots in close. The latter is the number one reason for missed opportunities and crippling losses.
Instead of worrying about the effective downrange performance of a crossbow and how fast it can get an arrow there, beginning bowhunters would be better served if they focused on improving their own hunting abilities.
Crossbows are a very effective weapon and in some ways much easier to master than vertical bows. However, this is no excuse for being lazy or entering into the season unprepared. Bowhunting is about the journey, not the end result. It’s a wonderful, magical, sport. The biggest part of its appeal is observing unpressured game in their natural environment and at close ranges.
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