Don’t Hate the Crossbow

dont-hate-crossbow-615All Outdoor – by David Hunter Jones

Crossbows are currently enduring what compound bows battled years ago; claims that their use will decimate deer herds and ruin the “sport” of archery. The same goes for 60 percent let-offs. The old stick-and-string was simply becoming unrecognizable to the elitists and purists of archery, and they didn’t like it.

They dug in their heels and whined and moaned about the impending deer population apocalypse that compound bows would bring. Well, 60 percent let-offs are here, compound bows are the norm and guess what: deer hunting has never been better. Period.  

What’s even more interesting is that participation in hunting and the outdoors is up 9 percent from 2010-2011, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest national survey.

Merle Shepard, a past president of Safari Club International, is a board member of the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation who works with the crossbow industry in regards of market expansion. He’s also an avid vertical bow hunter.

Click image to see how to accessorize a crossbow

“I’ve never killed an animal with a crossbow, but they represent one of the best tools for recruiting young hunters today,” he said. “As far as getting more hunters into the field, I’m not saying that it’s all because of crossbows, but they’re definitely contributed to that.”

Why? Because they’re more user-friendly than vertical bows and present fewer challenges, namely drawing the arrow back with an animal in range.

“I challenge anyone to take and 8- or 10-year-old kid out into the woods, give him a compound bow and see if he can effectively harvest a deer. I bet the majority of them can’t,” Shepard said. “In Ohio, where nearly 60 percent of the archers are crossbow hunters and crossbows have been legal for about 30 years, these kids shoot a crossbow when they’re young, then when they turn 14 or 15, the vast majority of them go to vertical bows. Then, in their mid-40s they go back to crossbows. Plus, if they’re not in the woods in their mid-40s, neither are their kids.”

Shepard says the bottom line on crossbows is very simple: At no point in time have crossbows ever negatively affected deer populations. Ohio is one of the states that has had crossbows the longest, and they have some of the most and biggest deer in North America.

Furthermore, vertical bow hunters and crossbow hunters experience very similar levels of success.

“Success rates between the two are usually within 3 or 4 percent,” Shepard said. “Most recently in Michigan, crossbow hunters had 44 percent success and vertical hunters had 40 percent success. Management practices were to blame for poor deer numbers in years past, and they’re to be credited for the resurgence we’ve been seeing since the 1980s.

“A lot of the arguments you hear against crossbows are very passionate, but there is little to no science to back them up.”

Phil Bednar, Director of Marketing at TenPoint Crossbows, spoke of the stigma that horizontal bows are enduring, as well as what he and his company are doing to buck it.

“The negative talk toward crossbows has been here as long as crossbows have been around, but fortunately, we’re hearing less and less of it,” Bednar said. “Those guys will never go away, but we’re not trying to change their minds or argue with them. We just make a product that we hope will get more people in the woods.

“We support all legal means of hunting, be it with a recurve bow, rifle, compound or crossbow. We just want to see the sport grow.”

Bednar also wasn’t surprised to see that hunter success rates among vertical and horizontal bow users is very similar.

“We’ve done some testing and found that crossbows and vertical bows have very similar arrow flight characteristics and effective ranges,” he said. “But, it’s true you don’t have to draw on an animal and a crossbow takes less practice, but these are all things that can make a first-timer’s experience unsuccessful.

“Like I said, we’re not out to change people’s minds or long-held beliefs about crossbows. The best we can do is to get them to shoot one of our bows, see what it’s all about and learn that you still have to be proficient with it to be effective,” Bednar said.

Feel free to scoff and call me a hack if you like, but I’m pretty darn fond of horizontal bows. Plus, I bet I can shoot my crossbow every bit as well as an archer who has been shooting for years, and so can a novice.

No hunter — vertical archer or otherwise — can argue with a good, clean kill, and a crossbow makes a humane kill easier for a novice. After all, who wouldn’t want that youngster to make that first shot at an animal which would inspire him to hunt for decades?

David Hunter Jones is a hopelessly addicted hunter from central Alabama who allows the DNR (in collaboration with his wife) to set his vacation time. When he’s not in the woods, he’s chasing all manner of scaly critters. And, yes, “Hunter” is his real middle name.

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12 thoughts on “Don’t Hate the Crossbow

  1. Remember everyone these types of hunting devices both crossbows and bows are not regulated one bit and the bolts/arrows are reusable so stock up. You can learn to make your needed bolts/arrows but learn what you are doing using proper materials or you can be the one with a shattered bolt/arrow in your face or arm due to the power of your crossbow or bow. Even range is not as limited as one might think. Its all about the arch raining down fire from above literally! This works great as a distraction as well although can give up location during night opps but works in huge favor if proper planning has been made to trap someone, cut them off from retreat or directing them into the field of fire with fire.

  2. Well with all said i sure like my crossbow. It’s not an expensive one and has no bells and whistles but it shoots stright and is a joy to use.

    1. This is the tool that I used to get Mrs. Bulldog to like shooting. It is quiet and doesnt kick and she is deadly acurate with the scope. If I can find a crank it would help, but Horton is out of business now and you cant find parts.

      1. Modify one from another type of crossbow.
        Its what has to be done for other modifications when the support or aftermarket is not existent. I bet you can find one that is close and work it to fit safely.

          1. Just check out the attach points on the rear of your crossbow and see what can match up from another or just get a piece of steel cut to fit with some holes drilled into it to mount an actual notching or locking type or it may just snap back in the rest position which is not good for the limbs. It can be done safe and cheap I am betting 😉
            Good luck the tech is out there.

  3. I own two crossbows. I love them. One i cut the stock off of and use open sights- great for ambushing out to 30yrds. My other one is full and uses a 3 dot- great for all shots out to about 80yrds. Both are 175lb so no risk of kids using it without help.

    Remember too that it is a ‘payload delivery system’. I have bolts tipped with golf balls devastating Iv also made one for blue jay deterrence. It is fired and with some micro rc airplane parts able to be steered. This is great for launching above the bluejay and then chasing it from above. most birds when attacked from above rethink their territory and move on.

    You can launch roman candles too just dont do it after eating a bunch of mushrooms.

  4. I caught a great deal on mine. Went into a Big Five sporting goods store one day to check out their crossbows. $240. I didn’t have the cash with me, so I went back the next day. On sale – $160. With the money I saved, I bought the last six boxes of bolts they had. Those were on sale too, $20, down from $25.

    What a difference a day can make.


    1. stock up on strings too. They are only good for a few dozen shots(less than 100) or half a year. if they discontinue your model they can get hard to find.

        1. Hey #1, my father left me thousands of old lp vinyl records from the 40’s and 50’s. I throw Frisbee a lot and one day I took one of my old vinyl lps and stepped out on my deck and launched it. Not stretching the truth 1 inch, it flew 400 yards. If your any good at tossing a Frisbee, imagine using a triangle file to notch a few teeth into the disc and then it’s your turn to avoid getting hit. 30 feet away, I’ll take your head clean off. Silent, but deadly, just like a hot fart.

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