Hunting crossbows – Buying guide, Reviews & Comparison
If you want to find the best hunting gear, but you don’t have time to go through the buying tips and reviews prepared by our research team, this short paragraph should tell you everything you need to know about the best hunting crossbow. After analyzing a lot of feedback coming from both amateur and professional hunters and target shooters, we have concluded that the Barnett Recruit is the top recommended crossbow package out there. It’s a great choice for beginners, youth, small-framed hunters, as well as women. Plus, it’s easy to assemble and since its draw weight is 130 pounds, you’ll be able to use it for targeting anything from small to medium-sized game. Despite its somewhat compact design, the Barnett Recruit is a powerful weapon as it can shoot projectiles at a maximum speed of 300 fps. The Arrow Precision Inferno Fury is another notable choice for beginners whereas advanced shooters might enjoy trying the Arrow Precision Inferno Wildlife II.
Our Top Choice
If you are looking for a crossbow suitable for women and small-framed people, this is what you should set your sight on. It is very easy to assemble, and it has a draw weight of 130 pounds. The item also comes with a rope cocking device. In order to protect the user from injuries, there are finger reminders passing through the foregrip. This device shoots at an astonishing speed of 300 fps, and it uses 400-grain arrows to generate 85 ft. lbs of kinetic energy.
Some customers mentioned they would have liked this bow to be more sturdy.
Get a full package or award-winning components that you will surely love.
Being very comfortable and lightweight, this crossbow package can be used for target shooting and small-game hunting. Its safety mechanism is efficient in preventing dry firing, so you can rest assured that each arrow will be released under your full control. There is enough power generated so that anyone can enjoy it whether shooting at targets or live game. Furthermore, this is an ambidextrous crossbow which is a great plus.
If you are more experienced, you might find this crossbow a bit outdated.
This fantastic crossbow kit offers great potentials for novice shooters.
Also To Consider
Delivering projectiles at an impressive 370 feet per second, this crossbow is a lightweight and easy to handle tool that offers plenty of pop for the experienced user. It features a 185-pound pull weight while providing stability and balance -- literally, you can aim and shoot! This tool is equipped with the exclusive Soft Touch Hogue Beavertail Grip which makes its handling super easy. Also, the compact build is appropriate for easy targeting your prey.
Apart from some packaging issues, this product is highly appreciated by customers.
A high-performance crossbow that will be to the liking of any advanced user.
8 Best Hunting Crossbows (Reviews) in 2024
Best crossbow package
Myriads of crossbow packages are available at a wide variety of price ranges. The beginner is well advised to look at the best hunting crossbow under 500 that comes in a package.
Crossbow packages are suitable for all types of users, from the target shooter to the serious hunter. Offering value for money, a crossbow package is available from the top manufacturers of crossbows, so quality is not an issue to worry about. With a crossbow package, you don’t have to contend with the stress of putting together all the items you need to get started on the hobby because everything you basically need is included, and at a competitive price as well.
Compare that to piecing every component together by yourself and you could end up spending more than what you have the budget for. You might have everything you want but the costs would most likely be twice of what you’ll pay if you had gotten an entire package instead. Besides, beginners had best get a crossbow package first if they are to get properly introduced to the sport to ensure they don’t break the bank and spend too much time comparing each component separately. Beginners ought to buy smart just to get a start in the sport.
Moreover, the seasoned shooter can upgrade existing gear with a crossbow package from another manufacturer. It gives an idea what other crossbow makers have to offer so the user can decide which one’s better in the long run. Crossbow packages provide a great way to try out new crossbow technology from a variety of brands.
1. Barnett 78134 Recruit Tactical Compound Crossbow Package
The Barnett Recruit comes as an entire package of award winning components that everyone will love. The Barnett Recruit crossbow is just the right size for shooters with small frames and for women.
Easy to assemble, the crossbow has a draw weight of 130 pounds and comes with a rope cocking device, but you can easily integrate your choice of a crank cocking device as well.
There are finger reminders passing through the foregrip to protect the shooter from injury. The crossbow shoots projectiles at an amazing speed of 300 fps, and uses 400-grain arrows to deliver 85 ft. lbs of kinetic energy, impressive for such a small weapon.
Doubtlessly the best affordable crossbow package, this set makes a great choice even for younger children.Buy from Amazon.com
If you’ve never held a crossbow in your entire life, it is easy to think that shooting a crossbow is difficult. Although that is true, the task is definitely less so than when you shoot a standard bow and arrow. An exceptional implement for hunting game, a crossbow doesn’t require a lifetime of practice to learn how to shoot effectively enough for an individual to hunt with one.
A seemingly principal factor to take note of is weight, which is not that big of a deal at all. It is actually easier to aim a crossbow with greater weight. A crossbow may seem heavy to carry at first, especially if you have to walk a long way to the hunting site, but that’s an insignificant payoff for the stability and accuracy you get using a heavy crossbow.
A recurve crossbow offers the simplest and oldest design you can shoot with. Recurve crossbows come with a trigger, stock, limbs or prods facing away from you, and some string.
The simple design of recurve crossbows makes them popular among novice shooters. The limbs are typically constructed of wood, fiberglass or metal. In terms of noise, recurve crossbows are quieter than compound models. The newer design of a compound crossbow, on the other hand, enables it to deliver more energy.
Its compact design is a selling point, along with the greater accuracy, power and stability compared to recurve counterparts. Cocking is also easier, speed is greater, and most shooters consider compound models to be safer and sometimes simpler to use as well. Price can be a drawback, though, since all that technology, convenience and power have to be factored in.
Look for crossbows with metal-injection molding in the trigger mechanism, as this provides less weight and pull. Check out models with built-in cocking aids in the stock, safety mechanisms such as a depression unit in the barrel stock, and a magnesium or aluminum central riser.
2. Arrow Precision Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit
A fantastic crossbow kit that won’t even fetch two benjamins, the Arrow Precision Inferno Fury offers huge potentials for the novice shooter.
Superbly lightweight and comfortable, the crossbow in the package can be used for hunting small game and for target shooting.
The safety mechanism is effective at preventing dry firing so you can be confident that the arrow will get released under your full control. The crossbow packs enough power so everyone can enjoy it whether for shooting live game or at targets.
Beginners can be confident that despite its power level, the crossbow will not overwhelm the user on the tool’s proper handling. The ambidextrous crossbow offers the perfect balance of power and control while ensuring durability.Buy from Amazon.com
For advanced shooters
Just like any other mechanical device or machine, a crossbow needs to be maintained. It comprises parts and components that go through wear and tear and will eventually require replacement. You may need frequent adjustment done to the scope, and the screws will have to be tightened periodically as well.
Although today’s breed of crossbows boasts high technology and superior construction, the advanced shooter will have to be aware that the weapon requires considerable attention to ensure consistent accuracy and dependability.
Once the crossbow reaches the end of its effective tool life, one may need to upgrade their equipment as they outgrow the weapon due to greater expertise and skill. This will prevent bigger issues that could affect your shooting form or cause you to adopt some undesirable shooting habits when the gear you use no longer fits your shooting style.
With constant equipment upgrading, you can also achieve greater advancement in shooting skills and capability. Your current gear collection will wear out eventually, and it will take so much more than diligent maintenance to ensure consistent performance from your gear. You wouldn’t want to develop improper shooting practices just to accommodate your ageing gear, would you?
Some sentimental value is good, but holding on to your weapon just because you’ve wielded it in the field for over a decade can be fatalistically fanatic, wouldn’t you say? Besides, it would be a lot more exciting to learn to shoot a new weapon in order to also raise the bar on your current skills.
3. Killer Instinct Furious 370 High Performance Crossbow
Delivering projectiles at an awesome 370 feet per second, the Killer Instinct FURIOUS 370 is a light and easily maneuverable crossbow that delivers plenty of pop for the advanced shooter.
With its 185 pound pull weight, the crossbow offers stability and balance so you can literally aim and shoot.
Equipped with the exclusive Soft Touch Hogue Beavertail Grip, this crossbow offers easy handling thanks to its lightweight and compact build as well as the KI CCS 5-position stock plus KI LUMIX Multi-Reticle Scope with blue/red Rheostat Illumination for easy sighting of your prey.
The deadening string suppressors reduce the noise due to vibration, so your prey can’t detect your presence that easily.Buy from Amazon.com
For deer hunting
It can be a challenge to find the best crossbow for deer hunting, considering the variety of prices, speed and a host of other points you need to think about when comparing this type of weapon. A hunting crossbow is distinct from a target practice weapon based on the draw weight.
The draw weight range you want would be between 75 and 125 lbs. Any weapon falling within that range would be able to take down a whitetail at moderate ranges. Plethoras of premium quality hunting crossbows offer a 150 to 175 pound draw weight, except for some that go beyond 200 pounds. If speed is also critical for you, get a weapon with a bigger draw weight.
A crossbow is best for deer hunting thanks to its capacity to take down even the strongest games. You are assured of high precision so nothing is rarely left to chance. The weapon can deliver one shot after another through almost the same hole at a distance of 40 yards. Crossbows are best for hunters who are limited in draw strength due to injury, age, gender, level of arm strength and body build, giving those individuals a chance to enjoy archery hunting. Choices are available between recurve and compound crossbows designed for deer hunting.
4. Barnett Whitetail Hunter Crossbow
Boasting a high-definition camo pattern, the Barnett Whitetail also comes with a CNC-machined ⅞ -inch Picatinny rail that ensures easy mounting of the included premium 4×32 Scope, thus easily enabling you to sight your prey from afar.
The included rope cocking device reduces the needed energy you will have to expend to cock the crossbow when preparing to shoot. The three-arrow quiver provides the perfect place to keep your projectiles easily available. The three included 20-inch headhunter arrows enable you to go hunting with your buddies after you’ve taken everything out of the package and assembled and set up the weapon properly.
The finger reminders and pass-through foregrip ensure your safety during weapon use. The lightweight composite stock ensures easy transport and dependable functionality.Buy from Amazon.com
Best crossbow for elk hunting
Crossbows are, in many states, considered legal equipment used to hunt big game such as elk. Some states permit crossbow hunting during any-weapon hunting seasons without the need for the hunter to show any permit other than their proper tag and hunting license. Some states consider crossbows as legal archery equipment alone, while other states set crossbows as legal in all seasons and during the entire archery season.
Many hunters pack a crossbow for elk hunting because it can deliver a decent amount of power or energy to take down any animal in North America. Power may not be as vital as the placement of the shot, but more velocity and power are never really a terrible thing. Thus, if you choose a crossbow that offers greater performance, you are on the right track.
You can test distances by zeroing in at 30 then turning the ring of your scope till it corresponds to the point of impact of your 40-yard shot. However, you can also use a chronograph.
Find a crossbow that is quieter instead of just being able to release the arrow quickly. That said, most crossbows do make more noise compared to vertical bows. Some hunters prefer 600 grain arrows for elk, along with a fixed blade broadhead. The important aspect of your arrow is how well it penetrates. To ensure that the dots on the scope remain true to impact, make sure to set the speed to correspond with the flight of your arrow. Some hunters zero the center crosshair at 30 yards then align the hold dots at 40, 50 and 60 yards.
5. Barnett Outdoors Ghost 360 CRT Crossbow Package
Delivering an awesome balance between weight, size and speed, the Barnett Outdoors Ghost 360 CRT carries a compact design that makes it perfect to have when hunting from a stand high up in the trees or from a blind.
Delivering the punch at 360 fps, this weapon is sure to take down big game when properly used. Lightweight at 7.0 pounds, this model comes with a patented Carbon Lite Riser. The trigger system and 5- 1 safety system work together to ensure hunting safety, just like all top quality Barnett bows.
The anti-dry fire trigger system ensures protection against accidental firing, protecting your investment as well as preventing injury to the shooter. The crosswire string and cable system facilitate every task you have to do, from the reloading to the firing of arrows.Buy from Amazon.com
For bear hunting
When you’re serious about exploring crossbow bear hunting, you have to make sure you are equipped with the right kind of weapon to do just that. The top brands for crossbows offer their own products for this purpose, and it is up to the consumer to determine which one is best for their needs.
Although any of the crossbows from top brands can work fine, there are some models that stand out because of how they make it easy to replace the string in the field when necessary. Draw weight and even arrow speed are considered by many hunters to be secondary to shot placement. Just about any crossbow between 150 to 175 draw weight will work. The broadhead and bolt should carry greater weight the larger your target is.
The shooting range should ideally be maintained at 40 yards maximum, according to some shooters. The arrow speed should at least be 42 to 65 ft. lbs. For black bear, wild boar and elk, and for grizzlies and cape buffalo, you want arrow speeds of 65 ft. lbs. The advantage here of greater speed is in the trajectory as well as the shorter time it gives the target to react.
A sensible advice is having good backup or a rifle-armed guide to ensure a less scary outcome. It always pays to be sure you really take the bear down and not have it rampaging mad towards you because of a botched or missed shot. The arrow will naturally travel slower if you take a longer or more distant shot, and this also decreases the kinetic energy.
6. Excalibur Matrix 355 Crossbow Package Realtree Xtra
Available as part of an entire crossbow package, the Excalibur Matrix 355 comes with a realtree camo design to support the stealth element of crossbow hunting.
Keep your prey guessing your exact location thanks to this camo design that helps keep the weapon nicely ‘covered’ like it was part of the foliage.
Providing 355 fps velocity, the crossbow drives the arrow fast and true to your target, so all you have to focus on is getting the proper shot placement every time.
The 24 pound draw weight is more than enough to hold and release kinetic energy that can take down the bear. Using the advantage of Compact Recurve technology, this crossbow comes with a compact form that is easy to store and transport.Buy from Amazon.com
For moose hunting
You want your crossbow to pack more than enough power to take down a huge animal like the moose. The arrow speed is not as critical here, but you may want to stick to a general speed of approximately 300 fps for success. Some compound crossbows offer speedier shooting using thin diameter projectiles.
A 55 pound draw weight is sufficient to take down any large game. When training, a 65 pound recurve model should do fine, and then simply switch the bow limbs for 50 during the hunt.
A lot also rides on the arrow head and the arrow diameter. Penetration is deeper with a thinner diameter arrow. A premium quality arrowhead can slice up the heart of the target, making the animal bleed out in just seconds.
The choice of your weapon really depends on what type you are comfortable shooting with. In addition, you want the crossbow to support a through-and-through shot so the arrow flies quickly out of the body of the target and will not impede blood flow. More importantly, you’ll have to be good at judging distance, which can be a most difficult skill to develop efficiently. With a faster arrow, you get less arch and greater accuracy.
Recurve crossbows are affordable so they are easy to start with. Vibration is comparatively less than that of a longbow. Be aware that the moose will easily get pissed off so be sure to shoot with the intent to take down, not just to injure your dangerous prey.
7. Barnett Jackal Crossbow Package
Putting together the Barnett Jackal crossbow takes minutes, and this is exceptional considering that it is a compound model. Easily the best crossbow for a novice hunter who wants an affordable weapon, this model is a powerful one and comes with all you need to start hunting as soon as everything has been assembled properly.
The crossbow features an automated safety system that effectively prevents dry or accidental firing. The military-style stock looks nifty and offers comfortable use.
With a roughly 3.5-pound trigger pull, this crossbow ensures enough protection from dry firing, so you are assured of safety while still being confident that you can still pull the trigger without a lot of force.
The included red dot sight is equipped with five different brightness settings so you can choose which one you prefer. Out of the box, the sight is relatively accurate and very little effort is required to zero it.Buy from Amazon.com
For turkey hunting
Good turkey habitat plays a lot on diversity. More importantly, it should provide the bird’s three basic needs: food, water and shelter. Turkeys also roost in large enough trees. Remember that turkeys are gifted with mechanical wariness as well as incredible eyesight, so crossbow hunting for turkey can be quite difficult, as the bird exhibits distinct characteristics when being hunted compared to deer.
Deer can snort, stomp and even investigate, and this gives you time to draw your arrow. On the other hand, turkeys bolt the moment they sense danger. Therefore the shot itself, specifically going into full draw, can make crossbow hunting for turkeys quite a challenge. Some modern ground blinds and good decoys can help. Go for decoys that suit the area and the target, and make sure to set them close.
Shooting at 20 yards is fine, and at 15 yards, is even better for rifles. However, the same isn’t true with crossbows. While you can use just about any crossbow for big game hunting when going after turkeys, the best crossbow for turkey hunting comes with a shorter axle-to-axle length to enable easy maneuverability when hunting inside a ground blind or tight spaces.
Aside from a higher let-off, the weapon should also come with a lighter draw weight. Accuracy is a huge must, since virtually all modern compound crossbows with draw weight of 40 pounds and higher can drive an arrow right through the bird. The high let-off and light draw weight also enables you to hold at full draw comfortably for sustained periods of time.
8. Barnett Wildcat C6 Crossbow Package Black
Inexpensive and quiet, the Barnett Wildcat C6 crossbow in this package is designed for turkey hunting. Superbly intuitive, the weapon is easy to assemble and ships with all you need to start chasing the bird of your dreams.
It comes with the following items to facilitate turkey hunting: a 4×32 Multi-Reticle Scope; three 20-inch Headhunter arrows; and a three-arrow quiver. The supplied instructions are supplemented with large illustrations to ensure effortless setup. The crossbow packs more than enough power to take down any small to medium-size game.
Offering awesome 320 fps speeds, the weapon is designed to propel 400-grain arrows while packing a hefty 91 ft lbs of kinetic energy to hit the target with enough force. The no-frills, straightforward design of the crossbow is amply offset by its total functionality.Buy from Amazon.com
Other items you might need in your backpack when you’re going crossbow hunting
Okay, so you are ready to go crossbow hunting. While most hunters prefer firearms, you want the greater challenge presented by a crossbow. That’s great, as long as the weapon is designed specifically for the type of target you are after. Crossbow manufacturers engineer their products to be suitable for just about any type of target, but they do offer models or lines that are specific to the species to be taken down.
This is where the pull or draw weight, and to a lesser degree, the arrow velocity and power, can play a significant role. Do your homework and find out which levels go with which type of animal. Do make sure the weapon also incorporates safety features along with a balance of performance, weight and dependability.
You need to have completed a hunter safety course in order for you to obtain a Hunter Education Certificate, which is required in most states in the US. The certificate enables you to secure a hunting license. You will also need to take along a first-aid kit containing alcohol swabs for cleaning abrasions and cuts, different sizes of bandages, and some antibiotic cream. A hunting knife will be useful if you plan to skin your catch after taking it down. Longer blades are best for large prey, and smaller blades are for small animals.
Aside from your weapon, you will also have to ensure you have a number of tools and accessories to make optimal use of the crossbow. You want the best sight for crossbow to improve your aim and accuracy, since it can be quite challenging to align your shots using your naked eye alone and even more so when making long distance shots. It also allows you to maintain focus on the target while aiming. Choose from fixed or moveable pin sights, 3D competition sights and pendulum sights.
A crossbow scope should cover more range, which is why three-dot scopes or multi-reticle ones are so popular. Single scopes are for small game. Variable scopes have a larger size and are heavier too, so go for the smaller and lighter ones if you can. Accuracy should be a guarantee. Determining your shooting distance can be done using a rangefinder. Remember how essential ground blinds, trigger control and calling devices can also be.
A cocking device makes it easy to center and straighten your shots, reduces cocking efforts, makes crossbow adjustments easy and offers stability and accuracy while being conveniently integrated into the system. The crossbow broadhead should match the manufacturer’s recommended arrowhead weight and not lower, as it could result in injuries to you or damage to the weapon.
Nikon Bolt XR BDC 60
Outfitted with fully multi-coated lenses, the Nikon Bolt XR BDC 60 is undoubtedly the best scope for crossbow use thanks to how it helps improve your aim and accuracy in the hunting field. With its lightweight and compact design, this nifty device won’t weigh down your crossbow.
The large ocular with quick-focus eyepiece is engineered to be shockproof, waterproof and fogproof, enabling use in the most demanding hunting situations.
Delivering 3 to 32X magnification via the 32mm objective lens, this shooting aid helps you keep your target within your sight so you can aim with precision and shooting accuracy.
The optical element channels up to 92 percent of captured light to provide contrast and brightness for clear sighting of the target, reducing the guesswork.Buy from Amazon.com
Inarguably the best cocking device for crossbow use, the Excalibur 2195A is constructed of advanced materials to ensure toughness and durability for lasting use.
This cocking aid enables you to load and unload any Excalibur crossbow thanks to how it lowers the pull weight by half, so you need less energy to prepare the crossbow for shooting.
It helps hunters with smaller builds, women and even young children to enjoy crossbow use with less stress on cocking their weapons.
This device also helps to ensure proper centering and alignment of the string to ensure that the projectile flies fast and true toward the target, reducing near-hit misses. The comfortable T-handles enable easy use.Buy from Amazon.com
Easily providing the best broadheads for a crossbow, the Huntingdoor 12 Pack offers value for money. The set contains 12 broadhead units in all, so you always have one at the ready when needed.
Each 125-grain broadhead is equipped with three extremely sharp fixed blades that ensure fast and true flight as well as deep penetration, for humane kills.
The heavy-duty three-blade design is geared to ensure accuracy and strength, so the broadheads do not easily get damaged under normal use.
Engineered with exceptional penetrating capability as well as precision, each of the broadheads in the package comes with a swept wing blade design that guarantees efficient flight right to your target.Buy from Amazon.com
Types of crossbows available for sale nowadays
Crossbows are popular among those looking to sharpen their shooting skills or who are just exploring the joys of hunting. A crossbow is fundamentally a stock-mounted bow that utilizes projectiles. The best crossbow for hunting can be one of different types.
Compound crossbows can be of several versions. However, all compound crossbows operate the same way. Attached to several pulleys is the string. One or a number of those pulleys are attached to the opposite limb via cables. When you make ready to shoot, the string gets drawn back naturally, making the pulleys rotate and the cables to move along with them. Potential energy to power the shot gets stored when the limbs bend.
A compound crossbow has more rigid limbs than is expected, which necessitates the use of more pressure from the shooter owing to how the weapon is designed. However, it is precisely the structure of this type of crossbow that makes it more efficient at energy use compared to other crossbow types.
Popular among hunters, shooters and advanced archers, recurve crossbows have more draw length than ordinary crossbows. This longer design provides better acceleration while minimizing impact due to the force transmitted to your hand. The recurved configuration of the crossbow also makes it achieve more strain. Moreover, recurve models necessitate the use of noise dampeners or bowstring silencing tools because the vibration can produce some noise.
You get better aim when using a rifle crossbow, much like what a rifle can deliver in comparison to other types of guns. You can get rifle crossbows with a host of advanced features such as a premium quality fiber construction, foot pull and adjustable sights. You can hit targets as far as 250 feet away with a rifle crossbow. Bear in mind that to yield a rifle crossbow optimally, you need enough strength to cock this type of weapon.
Equipped with a comparatively compact frame, a pistol crossbow is available in 80-pound and 150-pound versions, among many others. Bullet crossbows derive their name from the projectiles they shoot, which look like bullets and are made of clay, lead or stone. You can find bullet crossbows with a string slot and barrel, as well as models having a double string design.
A repeating crossbow simplifies the entire shooting process, as you only need to execute one action that activates everything else, from the bow stringing to the projectile launching and shooting. This type lets you shoot much quicker than what you may be used to.
The bottom line to choosing a crossbow is to know the perfect size, required energy, accessories and automation, and acceleration system you can work with to ensure you have the perfect tool for your needs.
How to choose the best hunting crossbows
With the introduction of fresh stock designs, sights, strings, limb materials and arrows, it is easy to assume that the crossbow has undergone plenty of development during the last two decades than it has done during the past two millennia. Modern crossbows now offer greater accuracy and effectiveness for game use compared to what the earliest crossbows were designed to do. What aspects do the best crossbow brands excel at?
The best hunting crossbows are of the right type for every user’s needs
The two most popular types of crossbows are the compound bow and the recurve bow. Characterized by shorter limbs that make it useful for shooting in confined spaces, a compound crossbow also shoots projectiles at a speedier rate compared to some recurve models. A recurve crossbow carries a simpler design due to the absence of complex stringing that asymmetric-wheel or round-wheel compound crossbows have.
There was a time when virtually all crossbows came with steel limbs. Today, it is common to find composite or fiberglass limbs on crossbows, varying from a single long-thin bow to thick barrel staff structures. Balanced stress and reduced weight are delivered by split-limb composite crossbow designs.
Choose from metallic-reinforced composite plastic materials and laminated wood designs. Thanks to the molding process used in crossbow making, there is now a variety of designs, with some models having built-in wind-up or string cockers on their stocks. The component with the greatest weight in any crossbow is the stock, which also serves to support the firing elements namely, the arrow rail and bow.
Some manufacturers create skeletal stocks to lessen weight. You can expect more shooting accuracy from a heavier crossbow because the extra weight does provide more stability during those critical milliseconds that you have the arrow in the guide rail of the crossbow.
Even the best hunting crossbow for beginners offers the proper draw weight and shoots arrows fast enough
Hunting crossbows are distinguished from target models through the draw weight. To eliminate the guesswork on this element, most states have set a regulatory minimum on draw weight. This element comes with significant variations from one state to another but the general range goes between 75 pounds and 125 pounds draw weight.
Thus, any crossbow that falls within that established range, except for very few models, should offer enough capacity to take down a whitetail at moderate range. Premium quality hunting crossbows offer draw weights between 150 and 175 pounds, with some going over 200 pounds. As a rule of thumb, bigger draw weights are better, or to be more precise, faster. You can go as heavy as you can manage, but Ohio has set the maximum allowable draw weight at 200 pounds.
Crossbow and compound bow manufacturers consistently raise the bar on arrow speeds. As mentioned above, more weight equals greater speed, but how fast should a crossbow be to be considered fast enough?
It’s pretty much a matter of preference but seasoned crossbow hunters want to have an initial velocity of at least 300 fps, which generates ample kinetic energy to shoot down big-game prey with a clean shot.
When looking at the best economy crossbow, you may want to consider getting a crossbow package instead
It can be a challenge to look for a lightweight, cheap and easy-to-use crossbow when you’re a beginner. Fortunately, there are plenty of models that are extremely affordable, as they come with all you need to start on target shooting practice right out of the box. They even come with an awesome red dot scope.
Take note, though, that the crossbow in the package is typically not made to deliver outstanding arrow speeds, or to take down large game. However, some quality models can shoot a deer from 20 to 30 yards. Although most such crossbows are not fully engineered for hunting, they do offer more than enough accuracy and power for target practice and training.
The crossbow should be easy to use and maintain
Every crossbow comes with its own unique trigger. Quality crossbows are equipped with anti-dry fire mechanism, which ensures you know exactly when the trigger will release the arrow and not keep guessing if it will fire or not. You can try shooting barehanded or with gloves to get a genuine feel of the trigger. The trigger system should be all metal and should show virtually no signs of travel.
Shooters with average build can use the foot stirrup to hand-cock a 150-pound crossbow. A rope cocking aid can decrease the draw weight by half. A crossbow with heavy pull weight can be cocked utilizing just 10 to 15 pounds pressure by using a crank cocking device, which can be clunky to use and slower as well.
Like any machine, a crossbow needs regular maintenance to ensure dependably consistent performance. Don’t forget to faithfully check the cables and string for wear. This is extremely essential as friction and abrasion can accumulate due to the direct contact between the rail and string.
Replace the string and cables at the initial signs of abnormal wear or fraying. To avoid frequent replacements, clean the center serving, cables and string after every use and most especially after every hunting trip.
Keep the center serving lubricated, along with the rails. Use a specially formulated lube for this purpose. Make sure to do this every 10 to 15 shots. Use bowstring wax to lubricate or maintain the rest of the string.
The crossbow should ensure total quality craftsmanship
Safety is the fundamental thing to have when dealing with a weapon of any kind, including a crossbow. Aside from an anti-dry fire mechanism that prevents accidental launching of the projectile, you also want an auto safety engage mechanism on your weapon. Those two components are important because dry firing could result in cracked limbs and broken strings, and what’s more, you could get your face or arms injured. The limbs should be of high quality and carry lifetime warranty. A machined aluminum riser is best.
The weapon should be reasonably compact, so the smaller it is, the better. A compact crossbow also enables effortless carrying to and from the hunting stand or blind and the site. The weapon should feel comfortable in the hand and have a nicely balanced design. Although a crossbow is not as quiet as a traditional bow, the noise level should not be too startling to the prey to support the stealth factor for hunting.
What you need to know about hunting with a crossbow
The crossbow through history
The crossbow, otherwise known as a horizontal bow, is a type of weapon having the basic design of a bow. Comprising a horizontal bow-like system mounted on a stock, a crossbow propels a projectile called a bolt or quarrel. In medieval times, a crossbow was known by several names, most of which originated from the word ‘ballista’, a crossbow-like torsion siege engine. China is credited for the invention of the crossbow. This caused a significant shift in the use of projectile weaponry.
Before one could become proficient at wielding a conventional bow-and-arrow system, they needed to undergo considerable lifetime training and had to develop the physical strength and expertise required to actually operate such a weapon with ample level of skills and confidence.
During those early times, bowmen were classified in many cultures under an elite class, taking them above the common class from which they had come, to a distinct and superior caste, all thanks to how their skill set was basically developed from birth.
On the other hand, the crossbow had its earliest evidence of use in ancient China and neighboring areas, dating back to the 6th Century BC. Large numbers of soldiers who got conscripted during warfare could easily operate a crossbow as it was cheap, simple and didn’t require specific physical training or a certain level of proficiency. It was not unusual for nearly any country to present a strong unit of ranged crossbowmen without the need to spend too much other than on the weapons themselves.
The modern times have seen the best hunting crossbows being largely replaced by firearms for most purposes. However, crossbows are still used widely for hunting and in shooting sports. Crossbows prove to be indispensable when there’s a need to shoot in situations of comparative silence.
General regulations on crossbow use
Only licensed crossbow users 14 years old and above are allowed to wield a crossbow. The weapon may not be discharged within 250 feet of any residence, school building or play area, farm or public structure in use, or a church or factory with people inside. A crossbow on or in a vehicle should be uncocked. Some specific counties prohibit crossbow hunting. Generally, when on or in a vehicle equipped with artificial lights or on land where bear or deer have their habitat, people carrying a crossbow should leave the weapon unstrung, locked in the trunk of the vehicle, securely fastened in a carrying case or disassembled.
Forty yards is considered the maximum effective range for a crossbow designed to shoot more than 300 fps, with plenty of red-dot sights having a 40-yard dot. That being said, any improper form is magnified, aside from the bolt taking quite some time to travel that distance, so a deer can botch the shot with only a slight movement. This necessitates taking only broadside shots and keeping them to 30 yards and below, out of respect for the prey.
Basic equipment used with a crossbow
A crossbow is basically aimed and fired much like a gun, which means you get less accurate shots with a less steady bow. Offhand shooting presents the least steady position. Using some type of rest can improve the situation a lot. A stand with a shooting rail should be enough. A pod or sticks should also provide support on the ground or in a stand. Some bows ship with a detachable monopod, of which good quality ones come with swivel heads and telescoping legs.
Although any type of sighting system can be mounted on a crossbow, a crossbow-specific unit would be a better investment. Go for multi-reticle scopes that have three horizontal crosshairs or three dots. Three-dot scopes work fine on most crossbows, although crosshair scopes work better with higher-speed bows since the trajectory drop is not as dramatic as on a three-dot scope, and this also provides greater precision particularly at long range shooting. Some new scopes designed for super-high speed bows feature four crosshairs.
Although a cocking device is often used by most crossbow hunters, it is primarily just a matter of convenience due to the ease of drawback the tool provides. However, a cocking device can increase or maintain accuracy as it enables the string to go back to the exact same position after use.
7 Tips for Your First Time Crossbow Hunting
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.
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.
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.
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.
» Check the information from past years
These days more and more hunters use high velocity crossbows and crossbow bolts to hunt deer and other animals. In the past, this way of hunting was mostly reserved for people with disabilities.
However, in recent months states like Wisconsin, Texas, and even New York changed many of their regulations and now allow the general hunting community to hunt big game by using crossbows. Here is some more information about deer hunting with a crossbow.
Recurve vs. compound
There are two main types of hunting crossbows on the market: recurve and compound. Both these types are completely capable of taking down large game if used correctly. However, they are different in many aspects and depending on your hunting style these differences may work toward or against your advantage.
Each one of these types of hunting crossbows comes with its own characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Therefore, when people ask themselves which one is better to use for killing deer, for example, they must realize that there are many aspects to consider first. Read the following paragraphs and find out more about them before purchasing a crossbow.
One of the most important characteristics of a crossbow is the speed of its fired bolt. Regarding this aspect, compound crossbows give the projectiles much more speed than recurve crossbows. The compound crossbow limbs can be placed under much more tension which translates into more power delivered to the bolt which in turn means a greater velocity.
There are people who claim that speed is not an extremely important characteristic of crossbows because the majority of animals are not able to dodge a bolt that flies at speeds above 200 ft/s. However, the speed alone is not the point. The speed is only an indicator of the crossbow’s takedown power.
In addition, a powerful crossbow can launch heavier bolts more easily and send them flying straighter and at a greater distance. Therefore, speed translates into greater stopping power and more range.
If you are planning on hunting deer, crossbows that shoot at a speed of over 300 ft/s are more than suitable for the job. You can, of course, choose even more powerful ones, but always keep within the limits set by the law.
Another crossbow characteristic that directly determines its power is the draw weight. Most hunting crossbows have draw weights that range between 75 pounds and 125 pounds. However, if you plan on getting a crossbow fit for deer hunting, you have to search for one that has a draw weight of at least 150 pounds.
This gives you more chances of achieving that one shot kill by sending the bolt deep into the deer’s flesh with precision. It’s worth mentioning that you have to keep in mind the legal limits, as this criterion is under strict regulation. Most states do not allow hunting with crossbows that have draw weights above 175 pounds.
The noise level of a crossbow model doesn’t directly have an impact on its takedown power. However, the more powerful a crossbow is, the more noise it makes. You can safely assume that if the weapon provides great speed to its bolts and has a high draw weight, it will certainly make considerable noise when firing.
Although this criterion is not important before you take the first shot at the deer, it certainly may become an obstacle if you must take a second or third shot. This is why sometimes, even though your crossbow is able to kill, it could at the same time scare the deer into running away from you.
The solution to this problem is to make a compromise. Try using less powerful crossbows as they are quieter and always look for the decibel rating if you can find it in the specifications. Many crossbows come with sound-dampening devices. These are attached or can be bought separately and fitted by the hunter.
Size and weight
When acquiring hunting crossbows, a good idea would be to look for narrower models. They are more versatile and make deer hunting easier in most cases, regardless of your hunting style. A narrow crossbow is more maneuverable and is easy to handle especially if you are hunting from tree stands or if you are ground blind hunting. Moreover, narrow crossbows are lighter as well.
On the other hand, if you are the type of hunter who patiently waits only in a single spot and you tend to lure the pray rather than go after it, a wider design for the crossbow might suit you better. It is true that they can be heavier, but then again, you do not have to move much.
That being said, every hunter has to come out of hiding and go chase or track the prey. Being light on your feet is almost a necessity and as the crossbow is one of the largest pieces from your hunting gear it’s a good idea not to carry a heavy one with you. Try to buy a crossbow that weighs less than 6 lbs, if you can.
If you want to kill your prey, you must buy high-quality products. Products that are “made in China” flooded the markets because they are inexpensive. However, the reason why they are so inexpensive is that they come from an environment that has a cheap workforce, uses cheap materials and skips many quality-control checks to save even more money.
This is why, even though the product may be advertised as having a set of attributes and characteristics, many times it does not and it falls apart right in your hands. To be sure that you are going to use a high-quality product and you will enjoy your deer hunting experience, look for authentic American or even Canadian products.
To be able to hunt for deer, you first have to determine your hunting style. Learn the difference between compound and recurve bows and see which one fits you best. From there, as long as you buy a crossbow that has a draw weight above 150 lbs, and you buy a decent quality product, nothing stands in your way.
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