Three Tips That Should Make You a Better Crossbow Hunter

Here are three things to keep in mind that will make you a better crossbow hunter.

Purchase The Proper Equipment
The most important aspect of becoming a successful crossbow hunter is to start with the proper foundation. Starting with a crossbow and accessory package that complements your shooting abilities will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

When establishing your budget for that new crossbow, you’d be wise to allot some extra money for additional accessories. The first accessory to consider is a cocking device. Your ability to comfortably cock the crossbow should be your No. 1 priority before purchase. Regardless of how well you like the crossbow, if you cannot cock it, it’s useless to you. If no cocking aid is available, move on to other models that you can cock.

Once you’ve narrowed the list of crossbows that you can comfortably cock, it’s imperative that you handle and shoot as many of them as possible. It won’t take long until you find one or two crossbows that feel more comfortable than the rest. Then it’s only a matter of personal preference.

Once you’ve settled on the perfect crossbow, you may want to upgrade the optics and arrows. Many of today’s crossbow packages come with a lower quality optic and moderate arrow tolerance. It will serve you well to research both, and if necessary, upgrade them at the time of the initial purchase. Better optics and arrows can turn a good shooting crossbow into a great shooting crossbow.

The author says to make sure  your crossbow accessories are top notch.
The author says to make sure your crossbow accessories are top notch.

Purchasing products that are specifically designed for crossbows will also afford you a better opportunity at success. Individual products such as crossbow-specific broadheads are designed to withstand the energy unleashed upon them by today’s fastest crossbows. Crossbow-specific broadhead and field point targets are also a necessity. Your shooting sessions will be much more enjoyable if arrow stoppage and extraction remains effortless.

Know The Yardage
The most frequent reason why crossbow shooters miss their intended target is because they misjudge its distance. During the moment of truth, it’s not uncommon for even the most experienced crossbow hunters to get a little “excited.” When that big buck steps out in front of you, it’s rarely when or where you expect it. Events will be happening fast and your mind may be less than clear. With fading daylight and a moving target, judging distance can be difficult.

The best way to compensate for this problem is by purchasing a good rangefinder. They are well worth the cost and will serve you for many years. Whether your stands are placed the day of the hunt or well before the season, use the rangefinder to identify individual landmarks around the area.  You can mark them physically with paint or surveying ribbon, or you can make a mental note of their location and distance. When an animal appears next to one of the pre-ranged objects, you’ll have an accurate idea of the distance.

You can also practice range estimation on your own or with a hunting partner. If you’re by yourself, simply stalk and spot objects while walking through the woods or around your yard. Whether it’s rocks, trees, stumps, or animals, your estimations can easily be confirmed with the range finder. After several practice sessions, you’ll have a much better idea of how to judge yardage.

If you have someone that you frequently spend time afield with and have access to a 3D target, one person can stand stationary while the other places the target at various yardages and angles. This is probably the most precise way to learn yardage estimation.

Also, if you regularly hunt from an elevated position, you should practice your yardage estimation the same way. The higher from the ground you get, the more your perception will change. The same goes for low light and shadowy periods of the day.

Regardless of what steps you employ to become accurate at yardage estimation, it will be one of the most important aspects of your hunt. If given the opportunity, the only way to be certain of your target’s distance is to actually range it immediately before taking the shot. This will remove any yardage estimation errors from the equation.

(Proper) Practice Makes Perfect
Initially, your crossbow should be sighted in from a bench rest so the element of human error can be eliminated. Most hunters set their top reticle (crosshair) at 20 yards and adjust the additional reticles (crosshairs) accordingly as the distance from the target increases.

I’m a strong advocate of shooting the daylights out of your crossbow immediately after purchase. History has proven that the majority of crossbow failures will happen within the first 300 shots. The sooner you can get that number of shots through your crossbow the better. In the event that you do encounter any problems during this time frame, the crossbow should still be safely under warranty.

There are other advantages to getting as many shots through the crossbow immediately after its purchase as well. The crossbow will “settle in” much quicker. Any string or cable stretch will occur within the 300-shot time frame and can be adjusted for. Screws and attachments will also need continuous monitoring and tightening, but will eventually secure during the process.

Once the crossbow is sighted in and has clearly held up to the rigors of extended shooting sessions, you should turn your attention towards real world hunting practice. At this point I prefer to limit my practice sessions to five shots or fewer three- to four nights a week. The focus should be on making every shot perfect.

If you hunt from a ground blind, you should practice from a ground blind or at the very least shooting from the sitting position. If you hunt from a tree stand, you should practice from an elevated position. Your practice times should also correlate with your hunting times. If you frequently hunt mornings, then practice in the morning and the same with other times of the day.

I’m not an advocate of long-distance shooting unless you’re extremely competent with your equipment. However, I do like to practice at greater distances in the controlled environment of the practice range. Long-range practice will reveal shooting form flaws and make normal range shots much simpler.

If you’ve purchased the proper equipment, learned yardage estimation and practiced diligently before the season, you are well on your way to punching your tag and becoming a successful crossbow hunter!

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(Article courtesy of Crossbow Magazine,

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