Getting Cozy With A Crossbow

Used correctly, the crossbow is an accurate and reliable weapon.
 
Riding a wave of relaxed hunting regulations and good results in the field, the crossbow has become the weapon of choice for many hunters.  “The crossbow market is still growing,” said Jackie Allen of Barnett Crossbows, ” and we’re happy to be part of it.”
 
The crossbow’s surge in popularity is good news because it enables more hunters, but crossbow hunting is not something that should be rushed into without preparation.  Like all weapons, a crossbow is only as accurate as the man or woman releasing the arrow.
 
Crossbow Basics
 
Hunting with a crossbow requires stalking capability, because you must get within 40 yards of the prey.  But crossbow hunters have an advantage over bow hunters in that the crossbow can be pre-cocked, so when a deer is in range, the mechanics of shooting are less likely to spook it.
 
Two types of crossbows are in general use today: compound and recurve.  Both offer advantages.  A compound crossbow is capable of generating more energy, but a recurve crossbow produces less vibration and is quieter.  A recurve crossbow can be serviced in the field if the string breaks, while string replacement on a compound crossbow is more complex.
 
Shooting either type of crossbow is a matter of drawing the string until it locks into place, loading an arrow, releasing the safety and pulling the trigger.  Crossbow arrows — sometimes called bolts — are shorter and heavier than standard arrows.  As with all weapons, a steady hold is essential.
 
A crossbow should never be fired withour an arrow loaded.  Doing so can damage the bow.  It’s also important to use arrows of the size and weight recommended by the crossbow manufacturer to ensure good performance.
 
While many crossbows make excellent hunting weapons, some are easier to use than others.  The Quad 400 Xtreme is one of the most hunter-friendly compound crossbows available and is capable of delivering a  400-grain arrow at a speed of 345 feet per second.  It’s available at Dunham’s in a package that includes a 4×32 multi-reticle scope, a quiver with three arrows and a crank cocking device that makes it possible for hunting.
 
Achieving Accuracy
 
Many factors affect accuracy, including damaged arrows, misaligned sights or scopes, hunter technique and mechanical defects.  When shooting with a recurve crossbow, it’s important to achieve an even draw when cocking.  In other words, if one of the crossbow’s limbs is displaced more than the other, the arrow won’t fly true.  A compound crossbow will generally draw equally if it is in good mechanical condition, but care should be exercised when cocking.
 
Crossbow hunters should do some target shooting before going out in the field.  This will not only allow time to achieve a smooth and steady release, but will also provide an opportunity to sight in your weapon and compensate for arrow drop over distance.
 
All crossbows have a sighting system that compensates for drop at a specific arrow speed and range, usually 20 to 50 yards.  This compensation allows you to aim directly at your target.  When the arrow leaves the crossbow, it drops continuously until it reaches the target.  So a properly calibrated sighting device will cause the arrow to leave the weapon on an upward trajectory when you aim directly at your target.  The arrow will then travel in an arc and arrive at the target.
 
Since arrow drop is continuous, the sighting adjustment is only correct within a specific range. But many sighting devices are gauged with multiple reference points that allow accurate aim at varying distances.  Some scopes display reticles, essentially lines, while others use dots.  A three-dot scope, for example, might be set up accurate targeting at distances of 20, 30 and 40 yards.  Range-finding reticle scopes are equipped with a scale that allows you to measure distance from target before selecting a reference point.
 
Sighting-in your scope is critical and best accomplished with a stationary target and the arrow you’ll use in the field.  All scopes have an adjuster for windage, which determines the targeting accuracy left and right of center, and another for elevation, which dials in targeting above and below center.
 
Begin by shooting from 10 yards away to make sure you’re in the ballpark.  If your results are close to target center, move out to 20 yards away.  IF they’re not even close, your scope might be incorrectly installed or way our of adjustment.  At 20 yards, you should be able to achieve a tight grouping of three shots within a 3-inch circle.
 
If you can’t achieve a tight grouping, there’s no point in twisting adjustment screws.  you should practice your aim and make sure you’re shooting with a smooth motion and steady grip.  Once you achieve a tight circle, you can tweak the adjustments to position your grouping of arrows at the target center.  If your group of three arrows is consistently to the left or right of the bulls eye, you should turn the windage adjustment to compensate.  Similarly, if the group is above or below the bulls eye, you should turn the elevation adjustment to compensate. Then retest and make further adjustments if necessary.
 
If your scope has multiple reticles or dots, you should dial in the top line or dot for your minimum shooting distance, then the other dots or lines will serve as targeting marks for longer distances.  So if the top dot of a three-dot scope is adjusted for accuracy at 20 yards, the two lower dots may will be accurate at 30 and 40 yards.  Test and verify.  The extra time on the range will serve you well in the field.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Practice Makes Perfect

Sharpen Your Deer Hunting Skills all Year Long
 
If bagging a whitetail buck or doe on your annual fall hunt has become more of a challenge, patience or practice are most likely at the root of the problem. And while patience is a virtue, a consistent practice regime using a variety of different deer targets can definitely help maximize your in-field results.
 
“Bow hunters who bag trophy deer know the importance of staying physically fit and mentally sharp all year long,” according to Jake Stark of Delta Sports Products. “They’ll make time to practice with a bag target during the spring and summer, hone their shooting skills with realistic 3-D targets as the season approaches and then take a quality foam target along on the hunt to dial-in their technique during any downtime.”
 
Top-notch sportsmen and athletes make time to practice all season long. They know the importance of exercise and a consistent approach. Eye sight, muscle memory and physical strength can all fade if not exercised periodically throughout the year.
 
Bag Target Benefits
 
If you haven’t shot a bag target in some time, you’ll really be surprised how dramatically they have evolved and how much bang for the buck they offer. Available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, new bags are super-durable, weatherproof and engineered to stop field point arrows from even the heaviest bows and crossbows.
 
The Team RealTree® Bag Target from McKenzie Targets offers a huge surface area with a realistic full-color deer image on the front and RealTree camo design on the sides. It features a tough durable synthetic filler, and allows easy two-finger arrow removal.
 
A new Speed Bag from Delta is designed specifically for practice with today’s high-speed, high-performance bows and crossbows shooting up to 400 feet-per-second. It offers a massive 24-inch surface plus all the benefits of the Speed Bag series, including easy arrow removal, a tough filler, and a heavy-duty outer shell for unbelievably long life.
 
“At the very least,” according to Stark, “you should start a few months before the season begins and shoot 30 to 50 arrows per session. Practicing with a partner may also help you improve each other’s form and technique.”
 
3-D Drama
 
As the season approaches, hone your shooting skills with a realistic 3-D practice target. Affordable tournament and practice 3-D targets are available in a variety of styles. Many include removable antlers, flexible ears, replaceable vitals, either ASA or IBO scoring options and twist-lock assembly for easy setup and teardown.
 
The new Challenger 3-D target from Delta Sports a big buck body and big rack to help prepare you for the moment of truth in any blind or stand. Tough, durable microcellular foam ensures exceptional arrow stopping, extended core life and easy arrow removal.
 
The new McKenzie Smackdown Series E-Z Mack Buck replicates a life-size deer with a huge body, aggressive posture, and a big rack. It’s designed to stop arrows that might blow through other targets and E-Z Pull Foam technology ensures it will stand up to hours of heavy practice.
 
Delta’s Archer’s Choice Real-World Magnum elevates any practice session to the next level. The AC Magnum comes with a rotating stand that spins up to 180 degrees when the target is struck by an arrow. So, once it comes to rest, you experience another shooting angle.
 

Delta’s new Kill Zone target is designed specifically for hunters on the go. The compact life-like mid-section features a handle for easy, go-anywhere portability. The durable lightweight design also ensures it fits easily in a travel bag, cargo compartment or bed of a pickup truck.
 
“Whichever 3-D target you choose,” adds Stark, “remember to concentrate on shot placement; draw back slowly and steadily, and release each arrow smoothly.”
 
Foam Targets on the Hunt
 
On the hunt, don’t waste downtime away from your blind or stand. Remember to bring along a quality foam target to dial in your shooting technique. Foam and foam plank targets are available in a variety of sizes.
 
McKenzie’s ShotBlocker® targets are the ultimate in layered foam practice targets. They feature a patented Welded-Core™ technology that eliminates the need for plates, cables, wires, straps or bands. What you get is a tougher target with layers or sheets that can’t shift, move or fall apart. They can be shot on all four sides, and best of all, the foam slivering that you get from most layered targets when shooting broadheads is practically eliminated.
 
“Make time to practice throughout the year,” says Stark, “stay physically fit and mentally sharp, practice with a variety of targets, and you’re sure to increase your chance of bagging that trophy whitetail you’ve been dreaming about.”
 
-Deer Abby
 
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An Ancient Weapon for Contemporary Hunters

The crossbow is such an excellent and logical weapon that both ancient Chinese and Mediterranean civilizations developed it independently prior to the first century. Both early crossbows incorporated some means of drawing the bowstring to firing position and a trigger to release it. But the differences in the designs from those two cultures demonstrate that they weren’t e-mailing blueprints back and forth. The crossbow was an early and obvious answer to the question, “What should I shoot?”

The Modern Crossbow

Today, crossbows are an obvious answer to that same question. While some bow and rifle hunters once scorned crossbows, they have recently become more popular. This is due in part to relaxed hunting regulations in many states. But it’s also a product of awareness. Hunters have come to realize that crossbows are accurate, powerful, quiet, safe and economical. Offering the stability of a gun coupled with the aiming and trajectory challenges of bow hunting, the crossbow is enjoying a renaissance.

Among the crossbow’s advantages over a traditional bow is that it can be precocked before the game is in range. With a bow, drawing the string can make it difficult to steady the weapon and can spook the animal.

Because the crossbow can be precocked, safety considerations are paramount. Like rifles, crossbows are equipped with devices to help prevent accidental firing. But you have to be aware of how they function and employ them consistently.

The Recurve Crossbow

Today’s crossbow is the product of thousands of years of development. Recurve versions, which most closely resemble the medieval weapons, have a reverse curve at the end of each limb, and the string attaches directly to the limbs. Recurve crossbows are quiet when fired. That’s a plus. They’re also relatively light in comparison to a compound crossbow. Because the cocking string is simply looped over the ends of the limbs, it can be changed in the field if it breaks.

 

The Compound Crossbow

Many modern crossbows are of a compound design. The draw is shorter than that of a recurve, so a cam system is employed to maximize delivery velocity and enable substantial draw weights. Because compound crossbows generate quite a bit of vibration, they are noisier than recurves. Restringing a compound crossbow is a complicated affair due to the cam assemblies. It’s best not attempted in the field.

The Crossbow in Action

The projectiles that are fired by a crossbow, which are called bolts, are shorter than arrows yet heavier. Due to their weight, they hit with considerable force on impact. Bolts are generally available in lengths of 16–22 inches, and with aluminum or carbon shafts. Carbon bolts are costly, but they will retain more velocity downrange than their aluminum counterparts.

The most powerful crossbows have draw weights of about 200 pounds and can generate a delivery speed of over 350 feet per second. Entry level weapons might have a draw weight of about 120 pounds and a delivery speed of 225 feet per second. High-end crossbows are generally lighter and more compact than the less expensive weapons.

The most basic crossbows are usually cocked by hand, while somewhat more expensive models come with a cocking assist device. Cocking mechanisms are also available as accessories that can be mounted on a crossbow stock. Hand cocking can lead to uneven loading of the limbs, which will make accurate firing impossible.

While some crossbow hunters work with a basic sight, a quality scope is almost essential for long range shooting. The least expensive scopes are nothing more than a tube through which you can look and target your prey. More advanced scopes, including both those that use a red dot for sighting and those that employ crosshairs, provide a means of gauging range and adjusting for the effect of gravity. Both have to be calibrated on a target range to work correctly with your equipment. For this, you’ll want to use the type of broadhead with which you’ll be hunting.

The Crossbow in the Field

Crossbow hunting offers many of the challenges of bow hunting. While powerful crossbows can bring down a deer at distances somewhat beyond that of a bow, you still have to get close. That means you have to know your hunting ground and choose a site where deer are likely to graze. Once you’ve chosen a site, analyze the landscape and select an ambush position. To get close enough for a kill, which for all but the most proficient hunters is about 40 yards, you’ll need a blind or a treestand. Finally, you have to be patient. Shooting before the prey is in range is the most common cause of failure in the field.

Of course, you should be proficient with the weapon. Only a well-placed bolt will bring down your prey. As with any weapon, accuracy with a crossbow is a skill that has to be acquired. A steady hold and smooth release are essential and can only be developed with practice. Those skills are easier to master with a crossbow than with a conventional bow, but proficiency is difficult to attain with either. If you can’t place bolts tightly on target at 40 yards or so, you’re not likely to end up with meat in the freezer.

The Point at the Point of Impact

 

The difference between a quick and humane kill and a wounded animal on the run is often determined by the effectiveness of the broadhead on the end of the bolt. Because broadheads are available in a wide range of configurations and a variety of weights, choosing the right one for your hunt requires a bit of research.

First and foremost, the broadhead should be matched to the prey. You don’t want to try to bring down a grizzly bear with a broadhead designed for shooting carp. Big game  requires a broadhead that will produce maximum impact on entry and cut a large hole. That same broadhead will turn the carp into fish fertilizer.

Some experts recommend that novice crossbow hunters who aren’t yet capable of tuning their crossbow and sighting the device for accuracy should use expandable broadheads, which are sometimes called mechanical broadheads. Because the cutting blades remain retracted until impact, the bolt will fly straighter than one fitted with a fixed-blade broadhead. Expandable broadheads enable a higher flight speed, since they are aerodynamically cleaner than fixed-blade broadheads.

Fixed-blade broadheads require more tuning of your targeting equipment to ensure accuracy. You can’t simply switch from a field tip to a fixed-blade broadhead and expect to achieve the same accuracy in the field that you were getting on the target range. In other words, you have to devote some target time to firing fixed-blade broadheads and calibrating your scope if you expect to come home with game.

Weight is a consideration as well. A heavier broadhead won’t fly as fast as a lighter one, but it hits with a lot of force and can be very accurate. Many hunters are now using 125- or 150-grain broadheads when deer hunting, and they’re getting results.

Your broadhead blades should be sharpened after every shot when possible.  While you should practice with a broadhead, reserve one or two just for that purpose. Don’t dull or damage your field equipment on the range. When using expandable broadheads, make sure the blades move freely and are sharp and clean before using them a second time.

-Deer Abby

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Crossbow Regulations

p>Note: While state laws widely differ and can change without notice, the information herein is intended to be a brief overview of the laws and regulations at the time of printing, and is incomplete. Dunham’s and/or its representatives cannot and will not be responsible for its content, and therefore is not liable or responsible for any damages, monetary or otherwise, which may result in its use. For more details and up-to-date information, please consult your state’s fishing and gaming regulations.
 
Illinois — Hunters 62 years of age and older are now permitted to use a crossbow without a special permit. Hunters using a crossbow will need an archery deer permit and proof of age in the form of an official ID.  Crossbows used in hunting as authorized by a permit issued under this section shall meet all of the following specifications:
 
 1) Shall have a minimum peak draw weight of 125 pounds and a maximum peak draw weight of 200 pounds.
 
2) Shall have a minimum overall length (from butt of stock to front of limbs) of 24 inches.
 
3) Shall have a working safety.
 
4) Shall be used with bolts or arrows of not less than 14 inches in length (not including point) with a broadhead. Broadheads may have fixed or expandable blades, but they must be barbless and have a minimum 7/8 inch diameter when fully opened. Broadheads with fixed blade must be metal or flint-, chert-, or obsidian-napped. Broadheads with expandable blades must be metal.
 
Crossbows also legal for handicapped hunters by permit.
 
Governor Pat Quinn recently signed legislation allowing expanded use of crossbows during the Illinois archery deer and fall archery wild turkey hunting seasons. A legally permitted archery hunter may use a crossbow from the second Monday following Thanksgiving through the end of the archery hunting seasons. For the upcoming season, those dates are Dec. 3, 2012 through Jan. 20, 2013. Illinois law continues to allow use of a crossbow throughout the entire archery season by persons age 62 or older and handicapped persons who are issued crossbow permits by the IDNR.
 
http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Pages/default.aspx
 
http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/news/Pages/IllinoisCrossbowLawChange.aspx
 
Indiana — Crossbows legal in entire archery season beginning December 31, 2011.  Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125-pounds and a mechanical safety.
 
www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2343.htm
 
Iowa- Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters with permit.  Resident hunters 70 years old and older may purchase one statewide antlerless-deer only license to hunt deer with a crossbow.
 
www.iowadnr.com
 
Kentucky- Crossbows legal for all hunters during rifle and muzzleloader seasons, and portions of archery season (dates change annually). Legal in archery season for handicapped hunters.
 
 www.kdfwr.state.ky.us/
 
Maryland- The MarylandDepartment of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Heritage Service now allows crossbows to be used to hunt any game species during any open season where a vertical bow may be used (excluding waterfowl and certain furbearers). This would permit the use of a crossbow during the entire deer bow season in all counties.  Minimum draw weight is 75-pounds, telescopic sights are permitted and the crossbow must have a working safety.
 
www.dnr.state.md.us/huntersguide
 
Michigan- August 17, 2010, Effective immediately, crossbow regulations have expanded for hunters statewide.
 
 The crossbow regulation changes include the following:
 
 1) Lowered the minimum age for crossbow use from 12 to 10 years of age statewide.
 
 2) Expanded the use of crossbows to all legal hunters during all archery and firearms seasons statewide, except in the Upper Peninsula, where crossbow use will remain prohibited during the late archery and muzzleloader seasons, unless the hunter is disabled (Crossbows may only be used in the Upper Peninsula by anyone 50 years of age or older during the Oct. 1-Nov. 14 bow hunting deer season statewide).
 
 Hunters using crossbows will still be required to obtain a free crossbow stamp. The stamp, which is free, will help the DNR monitor and survey crossbow hunters.
 
http://www.michigan.gov/dnr
 
Minnesota- Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters by permit. Also legal for anyone during firearms season and Turkey and Bear seasons.
 
www.dnr.state.mn.us

 
Missouri-Crossbows for handicapped archers by permit and during firearms season.
 
www.mdc.mo.gov/hunt/
 
Nebraska- Crossbows are legal archery equipment for big game (deer, antelope, elk, turkey & bighorn sheep).
 
www.outdoornebraska.ne.gov
 
North Carolina- Effective August 1, 2010, allows the use of crossbows anytime bow and arrows are legal weapons. Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 150-pounds.
 
http://www.ncwildlife.org/hunting/index.htm
 
Ohio-Crossbow – draw weight not less than 75 lbs. The arrow tip shall have a minimum of two cutting edges which may be exposed or unexposed and minimum 3/4-inch width. Expandable and mechanical broadheads are legal. Poisoned or explosive arrows are illegal.
 
http://www.ohiodnr.com/wildlife/dow/regulations/PDF/12-13OhioHuntRegs.pdf
 
Pennsylvania-The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners has approved the expanded lawful use of crossbows to include both the archery deer and bear seasons. The Board included a sunset date for the expanded crossbow use requiring a future vote on the measure again before June 30, 2012. The use of magnified scopes was approved on April 21, 2009.
 
 www.pgc.state.pa.us
 
South Dakota- Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters during archery season. Must have a minimum draw weight of 125-pounds and a functional mechanical safety device.  Telescopic sights and lighted sight pins are prohibited.
 
www.gfp.sd.gov
 
Tennessee-The use of crossbows is now permitted during all seasons including the regular archery season.
 
www.state.tn.us/twra
 
West Virginia-It is illegal to:
 
1) be afield with both gun and bow or with a gun and any arrows, except that persons who have a concealed weapon permit may carry a concealed handgun for self-defense only.
 
2) hunt with a crossbow and/or have a crossbow afield except for the holders of Class Y or YY permits during designated archery seasons. Crossbows must have:
 
      i)  a draw weight of at least 125 pounds.
 
      ii) a working safety.
 
      iii) bolts at least 18 inches long.
 
       iv) broadheads with at least two cutting edges at least¾ inch in width.
 
3) hunt deer with arrows having less than two sharp cutting edges, measuring less than ¾ inch in width.
 
4) use a bow-locking device, except with a modified bowpermit issued by the Director.
 
5) use an arrow with an explosive, drug-laced or poisoned head or shaft.
 
6) use an electronic call to hunt deer
 
 Wisconsin- Crossbows are not legal to use except by disabled hunters issued a Class A, B, or Crossbow permit; and hunters 65 years of age or older issued a valid archery hunting license.
 
http://new.dnr.wi.gov/Default.aspx?Page=763cade6-b5e8-4f0e-8e56-1c5e98a5adc4
 
-Deer Abby
 
*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.
 
Note: While state laws widely differ and can change without notice, the information herein is intended to be a brief overview of the laws and regulations at the time of printing, and is incomplete. Dunham’s and/or its representatives cannot and will not be responsible for its content, and therefore is not liable or responsible for any damages, monetary or otherwise, which may result in its use. For more details and up-to-date information, please consult your state’s fishing and gaming regulations.

HUNTING HORIZONTALLY

Crossbow hunting has gained tremendous popularity in the last few years. Not only are state laws much less restrictive for crossbows, but the actual mechanics of the weapon mean more people can use a bow for hunting. And it’s not just disabled people who don’t have the power to draw the string on a vertical bow. The aging of America is helping to popularize crossbows. “As the nation gets older, more people don’t have the strength for a traditional bow,” says Barnett Crossbows. “That has meant a much bigger audience for our product.”

A Long and Rich History

Crossbows have been around before firearms and have a distinguished history in warfare. They are referenced in Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War in the fifth century B.C., and they were important in ancient Greece and throughout the Middle Ages. Traditional longbows required a great deal of strength and years of practice to master, but crossbows could be adapted quickly by a large peasant population, greatly increasing the offensive resources available to a medieval militarist. The power of the medieval crossbow is perhaps best illustrated by Pope Innocent II’s 1139 decree that it was a sin to kill a Christian with the weapon (but non-Christians were fair game).

While today’s hunting crossbows are much more sophisticated than their medieval ancestors, the fundamental mechanics are similar. Crossbows have a shorter draw length than vertical bows, requiring a greater draw force to store the same amount of energy; hence the need for a mechanical cocking device. Crossbows can be kept cocked and ready to shoot for some time, with little effort.

Recurve Versus Compound

There are essentially two types of crossbows. Recurve crossbows have tips that curve away from the archer, with a longer draw length than equivalent straight bows. A more modern design, and more popular today is the Compound crossbow that uses pulleys that are both round and concentrically mounted to capture maximum available energy from the short draw length. Compound designs tend to be more compact, quieter, and cause less wear on the trigger and locks. Recurve designs are lighter and the string is easier to replace.

Crossbows are surprisingly versatile in the field. They can be used on large and small prey. While the mechanical aspect of a crossbow makes it relatively easy to shoot an arrow, the killing distance for a crossbow is not significantly longer than for a traditional bow. Crossbow hunting is like all archery — it requires superior tracking skills to get close enough to the prey for a humane kill.

Important Accessories

The very nature of a crossbow requires special accessories for effective hunting. Arrows are specially sized and weighted for the dimensions of a particular weapon, although when buying a new crossbow that’s no problem — the correct arrows are included.

Sights are important for a crossbow because the hunter needs to gauge the effect gravity will have on a shot. The farther the arrow travels, the more it will drop. Multi-retical sights use multiple lines on the sight, while red dot systems use a series of dots. They both provide a gauge to measure depth and distance of a shot.

Crossbows are significantly noisier than vertical bows, which can be a problem when you have to get very close to what you are tracking. Higher end models include anti-vibration features that minimize noise. Standalone anti-vibration features can also be purchased.

Make Sure It Feels Right

Crossbows have become highly sophisticated weapons, with many choices, features and price ranges. As with virtually anything these days, there is plenty of information available on the Internet. Barnett Crossbows says doing your homework is important, but there’s another critical step. “You really need to hold the product in your hand,” she says. “Go to the store, feel it, touch it and make sure it’s the right size and shape for you. It’s a very personal choice, and you want it to be right.”

-Deer Abby

*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.

Getting Cozy with a Crossbow

Used correctly, the crossbow is an accurate and reliable weapon.

 

Riding a wave of relaxed hunting regulations and good results in the field, the crossbow has become the weapon of choice for many hunters. “The crossbow market is still growing,” said Jackie Allen of Barnett Crossbows, “and we’re happy to be part of it.”

 

The crossbow’s surge in popularity is good news because it enables more hunters, but crossbow hunting is not something that should be rushed into without preparation. Like all weapons, a crossbow is only as accurate as the man or woman releasing the arrow.

 

Crossbow Basics

 

Hunting with a crossbow requires stalking capability, because you must get within 40 yards of the prey. But crossbow hunters have an advantage over bow hunters in that the crossbow can be pre-cocked, so when a deer is in range, the mechanics of shooting are less likely to spook it.

 

Two types of crossbows are in general use today: compound and recurve. Both offer advantages. A compound crossbow is capable of generating more energy, but a recurve crossbow produces less vibration and is quieter. A recurve crossbow can be serviced in the field if the string breaks, while string replacement on a compound crossbow is more complex.

 

Shooting either type of crossbow is a matter of drawing the string until it locks into place, loading an arrow, releasing the safety and pulling the trigger. Crossbow arrows — sometimes called bolts — are shorter and heavier than standard arrows. As with all weapons, a steady hold is essential.

 

A crossbow should never be fired without an arrow loaded. Doing so can damage the bow. It’s also important to use arrows of the size and weight recommended by the crossbow manufacturer to ensure good performance.

 

While many crossbows make excellent hunting weapons, some are easier to use than others. The Quad 400 Xtreme is one of the most hunter-friendly compound crossbows available and is capable of delivering a 400-grain arrow at a speed of 345 feet per second. It’s available at Dunham’s in a package that includes a 4×32 multi-reticle scope, a quiver with three arrows, and a crank cocking device that makes it possible for hunters who can’t draw a bowstring to enjoy crossbow hunting.

 

Like all crossbows, the Quad 400 Xtreme is equipped with a safety that engages when the crossbow is cocked. Never release the safety until you’re ready to fire and the bow is pointed safely. It’s also important to make sure that no fingers are in the bowstring’s path. Upon release, the string moves with abundant energy and can cause severe injury.

 

Achieving Accuracy

 

Many factors affect accuracy, including damaged arrows, misaligned sights or scopes, hunter technique, and mechanical defects. When shooting with a recurve crossbow, it’s important to achieve an even draw when cocking. In other words, if one of the crossbow’s limbs is displaced more than the other, the arrow won’t fly true. A compound crossbow will generally draw equally if it is in good mechanical condition, but care should be exercised when cocking.

 

Crossbow hunters should do some target shooting before going out in the field. This will not only allow time to achieve a smooth and steady release, but will also provide an opportunity to sight in your weapon and compensate for arrow drop over distance.

 

All crossbows have a sighting system that compensates for drop at a specific arrow speed and range, usually 20 to 50 yards. This compensation allows you to aim directly at your target. When the arrow leaves the crossbow, it drops continuously until it reaches the target. So a properly calibrated sighting device will cause the arrow to leave the weapon on an upward trajectory when you aim directly at your target. The arrow will then travel in an arc and arrive at the target.

 

Since arrow drop is continuous, the sighting adjustment is only correct within a specific range. But many sighting devices are gauged with multiple reference points that allow accurate aim at varying distances. Some scopes display reticles, essentially lines, while others use dots. A three-dot scope, for example, might be set up for accurate targeting at distances of 20, 30, and 40 yards. Range-finding reticle scopes are equipped with a scale that allows you to measure distance from target before selecting a reference point.

 

Sighting-in your scope is critical and best accomplished with a stationery target and the arrow you’ll use in the field. All scopes have an adjuster for windage, which determines the targeting accuracy left and right of center, and another for elevation, which dials in targeting above and below center.

 

Begin by shooting from 10 yards away to make sure you’re in the ballpark. If your results are close to target center, move out to 20 yards away. If they’re not even close, your scope might be incorrectly installed or way out of adjustment. At 20 yards, you should be able to achieve a tight grouping of three shots within a 3-inch circle.

 

If you can’t achieve a tight grouping, there’s no point in twisting adjustment screws. You should practice your aim and make sure you’re shooting with a smooth motion and steady grip. Once you achieve a tight circle, you can tweak the adjustments to position your grouping of arrows at the target center. If your group of three arrows is consistently to the left or right of the bulls eye, you should turn the windage adjustment to compensate. Similarly, if the group is above or below the bulls eye, you should turn the elevation adjustment to compensate. Then retest and make further adjustments if necessary.

 

If your scope has multiple reticles or dots, you should dial in the top line or dot for your minimum shooting distance, then the other dots or lines will serve as targeting marks for longer distances. So if the top dot of a three-dot scope is adjusted for accuracy at 20 yards, the two lower dots may well be accurate at 30 and 40 yards. Test and verify. The extra time on the range will serve you well in the field.

 

Staying on Target

 

A crossbow can only deliver like-new accuracy when it’s well cared for. Your maintenance routine should include checking for worn strings or cables on a regular basis. If either the string or cables of a compound crossbow show wear, it’s best to replace both. As your string stretches, your arrow speed will decline and the targeting calibration of your crossbow will suffer, so replacing the string on a regular basis is recommended.

 

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for care of your crossbow. They should include instructions for lubricating the rail in which the arrow rests and instructions for waxing the string and cables. Make sure all screws and fasteners are secure on a regular basis, but don’t muscle them down.

 

If your scope adjustment is maxed out and your shots continue to land to the left or right of your target, you’re either cocking your crossbow unevenly or the bow’s limbs are not providing equal tension. The limbs of a compound crossbow can usually be adjusted by means of a tiller adjustment screw on each limb. If the limbs of a recurve crossbow provide unequal tension, the only recourse may be replacement.

 

-Deer Abby

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