Crossbow hunting is the fastest growing archery hunting style in the United States. In the last several years many states have changed their game laws to either allow all archers to hunt with a crossbow or have made it easier for an archer to obtain a crossbow hunting permit. Many of these new crossbow shooters purchase equipment online or from box stores and do not receive hands on training or instructions in proper crossbow shooting techniques. Here are three simple tips all crossbow hunters should follow to achieve the best possible accuracy with their crossbow.
1. Cock your crossbow properly – If you want repeatable accuracy it is vital that your crossbow string is latched at the exact same place for every shot, preferably the center. If you are cocking by hand it is easy to vary the latching point. Most people have a “strong” arm which over-pulls compared to their other arm and places the string off center. Cocking aids can also place the string off center if they are not centered at the start of the pull cycle. Off center cocking can vary the impact point as much as 12 inches at 20 yards. To prevent this problem center the string with your hands or the claw of the cocking aid and keep it centered throughout the draw cycle. The string can be marked with a permanent marker on either side of the barrel at rest. These marks are then used as visual aids for determining center when cocked. If you have cocked the crossbow and your string appears off center, pull up on the string as if cocking and carefully work it sideways until it is back to center.
2. Use a rest – Rifle hunters are taught to use a rest whenever possible when shooting for best accuracy. It is even more important that the crossbow hunter do the same. Even the fastest crossbows shoot at only 1/10 the speed of a hunting rifle. This means that the bolt will be effected 10 times as much by movement of the crossbow during the shot as would a bullet. Most of the accessories used by rifle hunters for rests such as bipods and shooting sticks can be used equally well by the crossbow hunter. Every crossbow hunter will increase their accuracy immediately by using these accessories.
3. Keep it close – Many new crossbow hunters imagine they will be able to take game animals easily at 50, 60, 70, or even more yards. While a bolt fired by a modern crossbow does have the energy to kill at these distances it lacks the flat trajectory needed to guarantee kill zone hits every time. A crossbow bolt traveling at 350 feet per second (only achieved by modern, high performance crossbows) will drop a full 12 inches by the time it travels 30 yards and over 48 inches by the time it travels 60 yards. This means that beyond 30 yards underestimating or overestimating target range by just a few yards can result in a complete miss. Since few hunters can judge range with the precision needed at distances past 30 yards crossbow hunters should limit themselves to shooting under that distance.