Nearly everyday someone asks me how far they can shoot an animal with a crossbow. Unfortunately, I’m never able to give them the cut and dry answer they’re so desperately seeking. Actually, it’s not a fair question and deserves some looking into.
Any crossbow on today’s market can easily launch an arrow several hundred yards. Under the right circumstances, that arrow could still be very deadly at the end of its range. Thus, launch distance really has very little to do with the crossbow’s effective hunting range.
Effective hunting range is the determined distance that you can reliably shoot your crossbow to accurately and humanely dispatch an animal. And it can actually change from species-to-species. It’s much easier to place an arrow into a 12-inch kill zone at 50 yards opposed to a 2-inch kill zone at the same distance.
The animal itself along with the current weather condition must also be calculated into the equation. Shooting at a relaxed unsuspecting animal in calm weather conditions is always a better case scenario than shooting at an animal on high alert or one moving during inclement weather.
Knowing your equipment and its limitations also factor heavily into any shot sequence. Generally, better equipment can help compensate somewhat for a poor shot. This should not be used as a crutch or as an excuse to take a questionable shot, but a faster, quieter crossbow can compensate for an error in yardage estimation and may be the difference between a hit or miss.
An arrow launched from a crossbow is lethal at great distances, but only if the shooter can control it. With practice the average crossbow shooter will be able to place shots accurately out to 30- or 40 yards. Beyond that distance there are a lot of other variables that can influence the accuracy of the shot. And, of course, the greater the shot distance, the more time the animal has to react before the arrow’s impact.
The bottom line is as a responsible hunter, it’s up to you to decide how far away you can shoot an animal. You must set your own ethical standards based on your equipment and skill levels. Ultimately, the distance at which you can shoot an animal falls upon your own personal abilities.