The ultimate goal of every bowhunter is a quick and clean kill. How to achieve this, within the limits of regulations, depends on the individual.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. For example, recent crossbow innovations have led to speeds of up to 500 fps and rifle-like accuracy, with sub-1 inch clusters at 100 yards.

This all sounds good to the crossbow hunter; however, such numbers provide grist for the mills of crossbow opponents, and perhaps those unfamiliar with crossbows when taken at face value. It is then up to crossbow proponents to dissect each grain and separate the wheat from the chaff in order to provide a more accurate explanation of the continuing advancements in the crossbow world.

We can blame some – but not many – for the misdirection of crossbow manufacturers. They sell bows and accessories, and “bigger, better, faster, stronger” claims are an effective marketing strategy. It’s human nature that people want the latest, the best and something better than what they have now.

It may not be in the interest of manufacturers as business owners to add caveats such as: “It’s faster, but everyone’s ultimate goal is not it not improved accuracy and a better chance of killing quickly and cleanly? Again, that may be the case. In the meantime, it is left to crossbow enthusiasts to enlighten haters and the general public.

Improved accuracy

Let’s look at accuracy first. The sub-MOA (minute of angle) at 100 yards looks impressive, intimidating and very much like a rifle. I don’t doubt the claims, but it’s important to note that this is accomplished under controlled circumstances: shooting from a bench, with sandbags and no wind.

Switch to a treestand on a cold morning when old Mossy Horns enter your shooting lane and 100 yards might as well be 100 miles. Even inside a shooting house with a shelf or tripod to rest your bow on, you’re still shooting at a real target with a propensity to move very quickly at the slightest sound. Despite continuous innovations, crossbows are still loud and bolts are still slow compared to the speed of sound. A deer standing 100 yards away when you fire could technically be out of sight by the time your lightning strikes.

Plus, you train to become proficient and more accurate. This is the goal of every archer, whether shooting with traditional equipment, compound or crossbow. If you have a gun that’s inherently more accurate, isn’t that a plus? I mean no disrespect to those willing to take on the added challenge of traditional archery, but it does present a higher probability of error. So who is the most ethical bowhunter?

Increased speeds

One way to improve accuracy is to increase speed. Faster equals a flatter shot, with less room for error and less guesswork in estimating the required range. Sound travels at 1,100 frames per second, but even the fastest crossbow bolts fly at less than half that. A static target will not move but a deer might, even if it does not react to the shot. Deer are constantly on the move because that’s how they avoid danger. Move to the plains where the Antelope plays, and the problems and the need for faster, more accurate bows grows greater.

Again, we are training to become more proficient. I know a good number of compound shooters who train at 60, 70 or even 100 yards, but they would never shoot a deer that far. It just makes them more accurate when shooting at closer distances.

Crossbows and crossbow hunters are similar. Shooters hold an accurate arc out to 100 yards, but exercise restraint depending on the circumstances and their own limitations.

Can a bolt – or any projectile, for that matter – be “too fast?” From a management perspective, a dead deer is a dead deer, whether shot with a longbow, crossbow, or modern sport rifle. Deer are a public resource and the choice of weapon used to pursue them is personal. It then becomes a matter of ethics and fair hunting, and it can be a slippery slope.

Bait hunting provides a good analogy. Some people can, some can’t, and some just choose not to. But where it’s legal, isn’t it ethical? In another example, some states allow bait or dogs for bear hunting while others do not.

The essential

An inherently human defect is myopia. It comes with age, but so does perspective. I’m old enough to remember a time when compound bows received the same cold reception that crossbows now endure in some circles. I remember resisting muzzleloaders online and now I own several. Telescopes, laser rangefinders and trail cameras all have their critics and fans. Instead of being a curmudgeon and yelling at crossbow kids to get off your lawn, how about “do you” and we’ll both be happier.

Tip of the month

A potential downside of today’s faster crossbows is that you start to lose the ability to track your bolt in flight and see the point of impact. Lighted nocks are a simple solution, but be sure to use those designed for faster bows, as older styles may not withstand the most energy when firing.

About The Author

Related Posts