With the legalization of crossbow hunting in various states in recent times, it has definitely become a very popular and sought after sport. There are different specifications to a crossbow itself, and the sport it a rather fun but skill-based one.
Crossbows have certainly made hunting a more convenient sport for many, and this is probably why there are so many new brands on the market have released different ranges and versions of crossbows.
For a beginner who's absolutely new to the sport but wants to try it out anyway, any local archer shop would be the best place to start off with. The shop owners themselves usually give valuable tips to beginners on which crossbow would be safe to use, the precautions they have to take and also the different steps for maintenance and safekeeping of the bow.
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Even an experienced hunter will know that each type of crossbow has a few instructions that are specific to the model type and the hardware it's made of, which is why it's important to read the manual provided and not make any errors.
Let's understand some basic steps for crossbow hunting:
In this case, quality trumps any other factor by a huge margin. You have to pick a best crossbow brand that is trusted and recognized in the market for dependability. Chances are the shopkeeper himself will suggest a few seasoned brands to you that will surely live up to their warranty period. Now, price can vary a lot when it comes to crossbows, but if it means compromising on quality, then don't hesitate to opt for the more expensive one.
In terms of draw weight, crossbows vary again. So, the best guide to choosing the right draw weight would be to ask your local authorities about the game laws both locally and state-wise. These usually specify a minimum and maximum draw weight range, which can act as a guide and help you pick the perfect one for yourself.
Crossbow arrows, also called crossbow bolts, come in different sizes and weights. A heavier bolt usually means a more steady shot, so a 300 to the 350-grain range would be the best choice. If you're confused, you can check the guide to see what weight and length are ideal for what range of hunting, and that will give you a better idea.
Broadheads are detachable, so they come in both fixed and expandable variants. Whether you choose a sharper or fuller broadhead, always take a few practice shots before purchasing, because it makes a significant difference to the game. For all purposes, remember to also buy a spare broadhead, just in case your original one doesn't work out for you.
Most new-age crossbows come with a pre-sighted scope attached to them, but of course, fine tuning is required once you actually get on the field. This, again, requires a good amount of practice before you actually go out hunting, because getting used to the optics functioning can take some time.
A solid, resting shooting aid is very essential for beginners. Initial shots don't need to exceed 20 yards distance, which is just right for practice shots as well. Elevation and windage are other factors that need to be looked into, before you get back to the zero to twenty yards range.
Depending on your optics device, make sure your angle and range are also in-line.
Taking precautions while loading and unloading
Crossbows can definitely be dangerous and even life-threatening if they aren't handled with absolute care and precision. Basically, handle it like you would handle a gun or rifle. At all times, assume that the crossbow is loaded, and this will keep your senses heightened. The best direction to keep your crossbow pointed is downwards, and definitely not straight or towards someone. If you're using a tree stand, remove the bolt both while entering and exiting too.
One good tip would be to keep your crossbow loaded only when you are in your hunting position and ready to fire. Until then, keep your bow unloaded to avoid any unforeseen accidents.
As a beginner, you also have to use accessories that are designed to make the usage of the crossbow safe and danger-free. These would include an ACUdraw 50 or a TenPoint ACUdraw which have been specifically designed to allow a safe cocking process. You can also use a bolt or portable target designed for safe discharging.
Always make sure that you double check all the safety features, and also remember to slide the vane that runs alongside the length of the barrel, into the proper slot. The arrow has to always be pushed upwards and under the spring provided for it, so that it's firmly seated against the latch.
A great tip is to practice with a trusted partner first, even better if the person is an experienced hunter using a crossbow. They can help you with correcting any mistakes in technique and skill in real-time, which will also serve as a valuable lesson. Different shots from different angles and positions keep you prepared for all types of real-life scenarios. Another good practice setting would be in low-light conditions, just to get you adjusted to different hunting environments.
Although all models of crossbows come with built-in safety features and mechanisms, it's always vital to take your own precautions too. Dry-firing is a complete no-no, and so it pointing a loaded crossbow in any direction but downwards or towards your target.
Unlike a gun or rifle, there are a number of factors that affect the shot accuracy with a crossbow. Distance, windage, directionality and angling and some of the basic factors that will determine how accurate and effective give your shots are. Hence, do your bit of reading and understand the mechanism of a crossbow, and make sure to use this knowledge thoroughly in your practice sessions!