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7 Tips for Your First Time Crossbow Hunting

Last Updated: 29.02.24


If you are thinking about getting a crossbow and you live in one of the many states in which crossbow hunting is legal, you might want to take a quick look at our informative article, for some tips. After you’ve read and taken into account our advice, you should remember to test your crossbow as well as bolts for crossbow in a safe environment and in this regard, you can find more info here.



How to load and unload

Similarly to firearms, the same common sense gun safety rules must apply for this weapon as well. You should always treat the bow as if it is loaded and ready to fire. Remember that you should never, even as a joke, point the crossbow at anything if you do not intend to shoot.

You should be very careful when climbing into a stand or hoisting a loaded crossbow into a tree stand since you can risk accidentally firing the weapon as you climb. Similarly, do not walk to and from a hunting location with a loaded bow; the crossbow should be loaded only once you are in your hunting position and ready to shoot.

When unloading and discharging your crossbow do not attempt to dry fire it. Begin the process by making sure the weapon is pointed in a safe direction before discharging it. The best approach is to use only compatible accessories designed for unloading the weapon.

To be on the safe side, it is best for first-time hunters to either ask a local archery store representative to walk them through the loading and unloading process on their shooting range or ask a fellow hunter that is more experienced to show them how it is done.


The optics

Most crossbows come with a pre-sighted scope and as is the case with any scoped firearm, you must fine-tune it at a shooting range before you use it in the field. Thus, as we briefly mentioned earlier, it is mandatory to spend some time at the range before you go and use the weapon against live prey.

When sighting in your crossbow you should opt for either a solid rest or a shooting aid to make sure that your shots come out straight. You should take the initial shots at a distance of 20 yards and make any necessary elevation and windage changes before you extend the range.

To ensure accurate and proper sight-in with your optic, you should refer to the owner’s manual.


Practice makes perfect

It is very important to practice your shots before you take the crossbow to the field. You can either go at your local shooting range or practice at home if you have a good backstop, not just a board fence that the bolts could fly right through.

Remember that this is a deadly weapon so do not practice in places where you can’t be 100% sure that no one will get harmed. Once you’ve decided on what the training ground will be, you can begin by taking angle shots from an elevated position as that will simulate hunting from a tree stand.

To simulate hunting from a ground blind, shoot from a sitting position. Similarly important is to experience shooting during low-light conditions and learn how to judge ranges for more accurate long-range shooting. For the best results, you should get a quality rangefinder.


Take a rest

Unlike a standard or compound bow, a crossbow is a heavy and clunky weapon that can be hard to aim without using a rest. The rest can be anything from a monopod or shooting stick, taking a rifle shooting position like sitting or kneeling or using a shooting rail in a tree stand.

Without a rest, taking an accurate shot with a crossbow can be quite difficult. When using a rest, most hunters pad the crossbow’s forearm with something soft that can be their hand, a day pack, a rolled-up jacket, or anything else that can absorb the recoil and make sighting easier.


Stand placement

Knowing where to place your tree stand is always crucial, but even more so when you are hunting with a crossbow because its weight, length, and width will limit how far the hunter can swing left or right to make a shot.

To counter this, it is best to offset the stand either left or right, to a position that offers more freedom to swing the crossbow. Doing this will not only open a wider area and create more shot opportunities but it is also safer since you will be more aware of your surroundings.



Be patient

Reloading a crossbow is not easy, which is why you need to make each shot count, especially the first since once the arrow is out, any nearby game will undoubtedly get spooked by the sound. Don’t be afraid to wait a bit until you find the best shot opportunity.

If you do miss, you don’t need to be disappointed because this happens to even the best crossbow hunters. When you miss a shot, the best thing to do is to relax and calm down for a few minutes and then descend on the ground to re-cock the crossbow safely.


Mind your fingers

For safety reasons, you need to be mindful of what you do with your fingers when the crossbow fires. If you are used with shooting a rifle, you might have the tendency to stick the fingers of the hand that holds the rifle’s forearm up in the air when you cradle the rifle.

If you do this while using and shooting a crossbow, you risk placing one of your fingers straight in the path of the bowstring and that can damage your fingers in ways we find hard to describe.  



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