If you were to have asked me a year ago if I would ever use a crossbow, I would have laughed and said I am a diehard bowhunter, I’m not using one of those.
However, as the 2016 archery season has approached, I have changed my tune.
Even though I am still going to hunt as much as I can with my compound bow, I’ve given in to the hype of crossbow hunting. As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to crossbows and them being legal for everyone to use.
How many times have you been in a tree stand while bowhunting and have had a deer, maybe even the buck of your dreams, walk through just out of bow range? In my own personal experience, it has happened multiple times. Recently, I had a good friend who is going to be hunting with a crossbow this year say that very phrase to me. That was the turning point in which I started to look at the positive side of hunting with a crossbow.
My friend explained to me that he is an avid trophy buck hunter. He said on a trophy buck, he had been busted trying to raise his compound bow, and trying to draw it back as well.
With a crossbow you are more likely to get by with less movement when that trophy buck presents you with a shot of a lifetime. The ability to shoot a little farther, with less movement before the shot, was all he needed to convince him to make the switch.
What other pros are there to crossbow hunting, you may ask? As a hunter, I truly care about the future of our sport. In today’s world there are many people who think differently than I do.
Hunting in general is in jeopardy of becoming a thing of the past. When something new and exciting happens, such as crossbow hunting, it introduces new hunters to the sport, so that they, too, can carry on the tradition like older hunters have done in years gone by.
Another positive thing that I hear a lot of hunters say is, “I’m getting too old to pull my bow back” or “I hurt my shoulder, I just can’t pull my bow back anymore.”
Even though I’m all for using a crossbow, there are still a few negatives that worry me as a bowhunter. One of my positives was being able to shoot a target at a further distance; as hunters we have to be careful with that.
The thing I am most concerned with is hunters not knowing what their weapon will do. Crossbows do shoot harder and farther, which can make some hunters think they can harvest a deer at a farther distance than what is reality.
An injured deer is the last thing hunters want. I suggest going out before season to shoot your crossbow. Find out how far you can shoot to make a deadly shot on a deer.
Secondly, use your judgment in the woods. Make sure you have a clean shot. Just because you can shoot your crossbow in your front yard doesn’t mean that you can do that when you’re in your tree stand.
Very rarely do you get a 50-yard shot in the woods without a limb and/or tree in the way. No matter what weapon you are using, always make sure you have a clear shot.
The second con I have to crossbows being legal now in Missouri, as weird as it sounds, is one of my top pros as well. The pro being it gets more people interested in bowhunting. The con being there are more people bowhunting.
With more people in the woods this year, safety becomes top priority (it should be anyway). Since there will be more hunters in the woods, make sure your shot is safe beyond your target, wear a hunter orange cap or vest to and from your stand.
Another downside to more hunters in the woods, is that it creates more movement, pressure on the deer, and there is obviously more human scent in the woods. More hunters in the woods could mean that the woods will be a tougher place to hunt.
My last con is one that is still hard for me to fully take in. Is crossbow hunting really bowhunting? Some of your diehard bowhunters say that it takes away from the tradition of bowhunting.
One of the biggest thrills to bowhunting is the challenge of harvesting a deer with a “so called” stick and string. I once thought this same thing, and honestly, I kind of still do.
Yes, it is not as challenging, but in the same sense, are today’s compound bows really that traditional anyway?
Today’s compound bows shoot 325 to 350 feet per second. Fifteen years ago 280 feet per second was the fast, top-of-the-line bow. We can argue these facts until we are blue in the face. We need to remember, though, we are all hunters. We have to keep that bond strong.
My goal for this coming fall is try to harvest a deer with my crossbow. I will be shooting a Horton Storm RDX crossbow. It came with the bolts and scope all ready to hunt. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m still going to spend as much time in a tree stand with my compound bow because I love the thrill of an up-close and personal hunt.
My next goal is to keep a open mind. Like many things in life, I can’t really judge anything until I have tried it. I have spent the last two months of the summer preparing myself for Sept. 15.
I’ve shot my compound as well as my crossbow at multiple distances with my Nikon rangefinder. When the time comes to make the shot, I will be prepared.
Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook the next couple of months and see how this new adventure of mine pans out.
Will I like deer hunting with a crossbow, or will I revert back to my compound?
(Heath Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)