Crossbows are powerful and sensitive pieces of hunting equipment, and it can take years to master the art of crossbow deer hunting. It’s a skill that requires patience, a steady hand and a firm grasp of the concept of aerodynamics. Hunting deer with a rifle is challenging enough but learning how to successfully hunt deer with a crossbow takes things to an entirely new level. Below we’ve broken down the eight best tips and tactics for hunters who want to improve their crossbow hunting skills.
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1. Know the Law
Hunting regulations can be difficult to understand and adding crossbows to the mix only complicates matters. After you learn that crossbows in general are permitted you should determine if there are any equipment restrictions.
Next, you need to find out exactly when they are permitted and specifically how they are to be used. Many states have head and minimum draw requirements. If you can’t find any specific information on crossbow deer hunting in your state then look for generic archery regulations and talk to other hunters who use crossbows for hunting deer.
2. Stay Ethical
Ethical crossbow hunting means displaying respect for yourself, nature, the deer and other individuals (whether or not they are hunters). Avoid hunting fawns as they will keep deer populations healthy for future generations. Don’t kill simply for sport – use as much of the animal as possible and always try to make a clean kill. Only hunt in season and avoid trespassing or using illegal baits to lure deer to you. Sticking to “fair chase” rules is what makes hunting an honorable pastime.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Your crossbow shouldn’t be collecting dust when deer are out of season. These deadly devices can be catastrophic in the wrong hands so you should practice consistently year-round. Attend archery classes and engage in target practice with fellow crossbow hunters on a regular basis. Staying in shape and in practice all year will make you a safer and more accurate hunter when a deer crosses your line of sight.
4. Make Safety Your Primary Concern
An arrow through the head is only entertaining when it’s nothing more than a novelty hat. Your crossbow’s safety should always be on until you have a clear shot. As is the case with guns, with crossbows you should never point the bow at anyone or anything that you aren’t preparing to shoot, and you should always be aware of what is on the other side of your target.
You should always have a well-stocked first aid kit on hand that includes bandages, gauze, scissors, eye wash, smelling salts, alcohol wipes, sterile pads, latex gloves, aspirin, medical tape, a tourniquet, blister pads and hydrocortisone or another type of cream to soothe cuts or insect bites. Keep a fully-charged cell or satellite phone handy too, in case you need to call for help.
5. Select the Proper Bow and Arrow Combination
Deer hunting will require you to use a crossbow with a draw of 75-125 pounds. Certain areas have draw requirements for specific types of game so be sure to look into that before choosing a bow. The draw weight determines the speed of the arrow when it is released.
Many crossbows are outfitted with dampeners and scopes, but you can also buy aftermarket parts and add them to your bow. Crossbows are available in different materials, and as a general rule crossbows that are more lightweight and silent cost more.
Arrow selection is of the utmost importance. Arrows are usually made of aluminum, carbon or a composite of both of these materials. Aluminum arrows are more precise, but they are not as durable as carbon or composite arrows. Inexperienced hunters will likely want to start off with carbon arrows and work their way up to the more accurate yet more fragile aluminum arrows. You might also want to look into full metal jacket arrows, which are more expensive but are known for being deadly accurate, fast and durable. Most arrows are between 15-23 inches long and you should check the crossbow manufacturer’s recommendations to make sure you use arrows of an appropriate length.
6. Take Advantage of Modern Technology
You can add equipment to your bow or carry certain tools with you that will aid your crossbow deer hunting efforts. Use a scope sight because even though many crossbows have open sights a scope sight will greatly increase your accuracy. Rangefinders are also extremely useful for crossbow hunters as they can tell you the exact distance from you to the target with just the click of a button.
You might also want to invest in a cocking device to make bringing the bow to full draw easier on yourself. Another tip that expert crossbow hunters recommend is to use a rest. You can also use shooting sticks or a pod to give the bow more stability and take some of the workload off your arms.
7. Care for Your Gear
Your arrows need to be sharpened before each hunt. You should also keep an eye on your strings and cables as they can wear easily and need to be replaced regularly. Caring for your gear also means keeping everything clean and organized when you aren’t hunting. This guideline doesn’t just apply to your bow and arrows but to every single piece of hunting equipment you use.
8. Remain Completely Undetectable
Deer are known for their finely-tuned senses of sight, smell, and hearing. Wear as much camouflage as you can, and use rubber boots to avoid leaving behind scents that could be picked up. Your clothing should be washed with scent-free detergent prior to the outing, and you should seal it in a plastic box until you’re ready to hunt. Keep scent eliminator on you at all times and use it on your clothing, gear, tree stands, blinds, and trail camera locations.
Be aware of wind direction and stay downwind of potential targets. Keep movement and noise to a minimum at all times, and have your crossbow cocked and ready so you are fully prepared to take the shot when an opportunity presents itself.
There is no feeling like successfully bagging a big buck with a perfectly-placed arrow from a crossbow. We hope you found these eight crossbow deer hunting tips, tricks and tactics helpful. What strategies do you employ to give yourself a better shot at success with a crossbow? We’d love to hear your suggestions, questions and other remarks regarding this topic in the Comments section below.