The Painful Truth About Crossbows

It’s time we have a serious discussion about crossbows. This is a sensitive subject for both sides of this argument, if we’ll even give it that much credit. Some bowhunters feel they have to share archery season with people wielding a device they don’t consider to be archery – as if they have to forcibly interact with crossbow hunters. Because of people’s views towards them, crossbow hunters may feel shunned or looked down upon. But we’re going to defend our crossbow buddies and end this debate and debunk a few myths from both sides.

First, let’s start by saying that we, as bowhunters, are pretty much considered elitists. And we kind of are, aren’t we? We make a conscious decision to hunt in a way that is proven to be less effective than other methods but justify it because we consider it to be more rewarding. So, we can’t really shake that title. But we make things worse for ourselves when we act like snobs towards the way other people hunt. That’s the kicker. That’s where we create divisiveness.

Secondly, crossbow hunters need to start standing up for themselves. You don’t have to apologize or feel ashamed of what you choose to legally hunt with. You don’t need to explain that you have a bad shoulder, or even that you just want to hunt in October… But, on the flip side, with the massive rise in crossbow sales across the country, not everyone has a torn rotator cuff or can’t draw 50lbs. As of 2017 physically restricted hunters have become the minority, with an overwhelming number of converts coming from rifle hunters simply looking for more hunting opportunities. Just because you, your dad, or your uncle has a physical restriction does not mean that they represent the majority of people hunting with a crossbow. It’s time to stop using this as the reason why you want to buy a crossbow and begin defending your decision that you just want one –  and that’s ok. Crossbows have been legal in Louisiana for 10 years – since June of 2008 – so it’s time we start accepting them as a legal and effective form of hunting and remove the stigma that they’re just for physically challenged hunters.

This sentiment is not new, either. There are a lot of old timers out there that remember when compounds were introduced in the late 70s and became extremely popular in the 80s. But the same negativity bowhunters currently have towards crossbows is exactly the same as when traditional hunters had to start “dealing with” compound hunters and their bows with let-off, over-draws, sights and release aids. Want proof of this? Go to any traditional bowhunter forum or Facebook group right now and just say the word “compound” and see how that goes for you. Their disdain towards anything other than traditional archery is alive and well and still very ugly. We need to use this as an example of how not to be.

So how do we solve this on-going cats vs dogs disagreement? First, let’s stop acting like the sky is falling. The most common reason people buy a crossbow today is because people want to be able to take advantage of the longer season. That in no way means they will be in your tree on public land every time you go or are going to hunt every single day of bow season. People look at a crossbow and they see options. The option to hunt ethically even with their time constraints. The option for a way to get their wife involved or for a guest to hunt one of their stands that doesn’t bow hunt. In addition, it allows children to hunt ethically and be given the chance to take an animal before gun season and long before they have the physical ability to hunt with a bow. And lastly, many people choosing a crossbow may have tried and failed at bowhunting and are looking for something that can boost their confidence and make them a more ethical and effective hunter. How can we get mad at that?

To put it simply, a crossbow hunter in no way, shape or form threatens the way you like to hunt. There are still major fundamental differences between the two groups to where you can both be proud and supportive of each other’s choices. We need to look at crossbow hunters as potential recruits into the sport we love so much and it is illogical to believe we can admonish someone into wanting to bow hunt. You cannot push a string – you can only pull it.

For those that do not have a physical restriction, it is very possible that their crossbow could be a gateway to compounds or even traditional archery one day and we should encourage people to follow that path. The thing that all of these weapons have in common is close proximity to our prey. No matter what weapon you’re wielding, your heart is going to start pounding when that buck comes in to 15yds. That is the middle of the Venn diagram for all hunters. And as people new to the sport will learn, easy isn’t fun forever. Bowhunters are driven by the challenge – by the chance that we’ll get busted by our target buck – by trying to replicate the feeling of our first kill – by wanting to constantly set the bar higher for ourselves. It’s a natural progression for people to want to continue forward momentum. So those choosing to get into archery through crossbows as their first weapon may very well buy a compound next.

Lastly, we have to consider the future and accept the fact that hunting is in major decline across the US. The baby boomers that historically made up the majority of hunters are fading and we need the next generation of hunters to take the reins and do their part for conservation. It seems like every week hunters are being attacked or treated like irresponsible murderers by anti-hunter groups. Let’s support each other rather than cut each other down and learn to accept our crossbow brothers and sisters and their desire to get out and hunt. As hunter numbers continue spiraling downward, we have to become more open about the way people join us in the outdoors. Pushing people away because they don’t do things exactly the way we do is like is only going to hurt us in the long run. So, the next time you see someone in an archery shop eyeing that crossbow, go introduce yourself and offer some advice. The future of hunting just may depend on that kind of camaraderie.

25 replies
  1. michael DeBottis
    michael DeBottis says:

    i have been a bowhunter since i was 14 years old. i am now 65 with arthritis and bad rotator cups in my shoulders. i can’t pull a bow anymore.i have killed many more deer with a bow than with a gun.i killed my first at 14 . now that crossbow is legal in ny i can again hunt with an arrow. love the sport and have killed 3 with the crossbow.without it i would be setting out the bow season. thanks mike

  2. Brian
    Brian says:

    Being a bow hunter my first instinct is to protect the sport but my second instinct is to protect all hunters. Being that said let’s look at what has happened here in Louisiana Meeks used to have archery only season starting October 1st and in most areas that lasted until the first week of black powder only to be interrupted one weekend for youth hunting which was applauded to allow young kids get at a no pressure deer.
    Today we have in my area bucks only the first two weeks and then either sex with bows or crossbows then the last week of October is youth with retired military then comes primitive which includes black powder and straight wall crack barrel no smaller than 35 cal ( 35 Wheelen is legal!) after this is gun season with six tags to kill a deer anytime ( no more doe days)
    Now I partake in all of them but what I see is the skill and fun we had leaning how to shoot a bow. How to load a black powder and pray it went off. This is what our kids will never enjoy because of the pressure to own the best and most lethal killing weapons they can buy. Yes we kill deer but the Sportsman’s way of doing it with skills learned is disappearing!
    Just commenting for a friend who thinks like I do!

  3. Joe
    Joe says:

    Crossbows are a legal form of hunting yes. But they are what most of us bowhunters consider cheating, unless you are youth, elderly, or incapable of drawing a bow. The reason most bowhunters, traditional or compound have an issue with the crossbow is mostly due to the fact that it is a skill less devise. You dont need to put hours upon hours into practice to be at the very least decent at it you site it in and your good to go. Trad and compound hunters both put 100 times the effort into the sport of archery then crossbow shooters even think about. Crossbows also have scopes now that take any and all the guess work out of shooting them i.e. the Ravin yardage marked out to 100 yards with an accuracy percentage the vast majority of vertical bow shooter could dream of accomplishing. It would be like having a car race but letting motorcycles compete. The motorcycle would have the clear edge. Or even a dog sled race but you could use a snowmobile. I deal with crossbows on a daily basis and can say 100% that the advantage goes to the crossbow. And from what I see daily, crossbows are for people who are either too lazy or just dont want to put in the effort to be remotely good at archery. Maybe 20% of the crossbows we sell are for youth or someone with an injury. And saying that maybe it will lead them to the path of a vertical bow is just fooling yourself. That would be like saying ” now that I have used a dishwasher I want to try doing them manually” will 98% of the time never happen

      • Jeff
        Jeff says:

        Yep, I bet he uses a compound bow,site,with a mechanical release device. A recurve bow user could say the same about him. People just need to worry about themselves. There all a stick, string, and a arrow, 1 opportunity at your target of choice, all need practice to set up , and once set up – good to go over an over. Everyone in the good ole USA has legal choices that they can choose not others choosing for them.

    • Jim Rhoden
      Jim Rhoden says:

      From where I stand, hunters like you , are the problem. You don’t like crossbows, yet, you probably use a mechanical release with a trigger, and probably have multiple pins to measure yardage on your shot, and probably use a rangefinder. Oh, and you probably have cams on your bow. (All you don’t have, is the stock or forearm, or safety!). Your other argument of the 100 yard shot is valid, but who really shoots at an animal more than 40 yards? Nobody I know!

    • Michael
      Michael says:

      I am one of the hunters that tried crossbow 1st 2 seasons ago. I am now using a vertical compound this season. Like the article stated the crossbow was a gateway tool for me into archery. I have spent the last 8 months preparing for this season with my compound, shooting nearly every evening.
      So to sum up what you have stated not all crossbow hunters are lazy.

    • Jombo
      Jombo says:

      Your reasoning for saying this is because now shop owners like you make more money selling bow supplies than crossbow and their supplies.
      I know we need good now shops, but you dont need to put people down who does not believe the same as you.
      The writer is telling you that the sport is fading away each year..That is not good.
      I enjoy all of the deer seasons. I also enjoy the time spent in the woods watching nature and how awesome your God is to have created all what we see.
      We must learn to respect all our brothers and sisters hunters.
      Yes, you do have an advantage using a crossbow, but your are still limited using the crossbow than using most any guns.
      Besafe hunting and do enjoy every day you have here on earth. Because time goes past each day and is never added.
      God bless.

    • Matt MacDonald
      Matt MacDonald says:

      I shoot traditional bow and hunt with a crossbow. I’ve shot compound bows plenty of times. The sight on a compound are not much different than a scope but the higher draw weight a certainty of shot placement account for a more ethical kill. I can understand a traditional bow hunter having issues with either compound or crossbow. But any bow that uses sights, be it a scope of peeps and pins is an advantage. The most important thing is a quick ethical kill.

    • Rocco
      Rocco says:

      Absolutely right! My area is overun with guys too lazy to walk more than fifty yards in the woods, then take a shot 60 yds cause they think they can hit the deer, only to wound it and not know how to track it because they never learned the skills. Elderly, disabled, etc., Im all for it. West Virginia has damn near ruined bowhunting when they legalized crossbows. Also enabled more night time slob poachers.

  4. Nicholas
    Nicholas says:

    I still will not shoot over 40-45 yards with or without a crossbow. Same as what I did with my compound bow. My disability will not allow me to shoot a regular bow. I could either quit hunting or continue with a crossbow. I did pass my compound bow onto a young man and passed on the tradition, I hope. PS due to knee surgery, I’m learning what it will be like to hunt from a ground blind this year!

  5. Joe simpson
    Joe simpson says:

    I have used a compound bow and I have killed deer with them… but I choose to use a crossbow due to the type of hunting I do and I enjoy shooting them.. it is easier to use and more lethal from an accuracy standpoint.. but at the same time.. I work fulltime and have kids and shooting a compound bow on a daily is difficult to do to get ready for season most of the time due to running kids to games , dance, and whatever.. so I choose to use a crossbow because of that and I enjoy using a crossbow.. I have killed plenty of deer with the ole tenpoint.. I will continue to and I don’t care what a compound bow hunter says cause at the end of the day.. I m out there when I can be and not sitting at home on my day off.. hunting is falling off due to lazy kids coming up so why tell another hunter he or she should do it a certain way.. if it’s legal and they enjoy it support them..I support any hunter.. but when a buck walks under your stand on cool frosty morning.. does it really matter… just enjoy the outdoors..

  6. Ralph Harris
    Ralph Harris says:

    Here is the thing that most people are missing about crossbows in archery season….they are destroying the archery industry, that came to life in the late sixties, when compound bows made archery enjoyable for the masses.

    The increased interest in archery, spawned an entire industry, from releases, to arrow rests, from broadheads to carbon arrows. Pro shops sprang up everywhere, as there was a need to set up these new bows, help needed to learn proper form, 3D tournaments came to life and more.

    Today Pro Shops are an endangered species as they close by the droves…..major bow manufacturers sales are down 50 percent and more over the last five years, arrows sales are dying, And the very industry that gave us long and early deer seasons is about to take it’s last breath…..because of crossbows.

    Weapons that are truly deadly, that anyone can shoot, requires little or no practice, any business with a store front can sell them, since they come ready to shoot, requiring no set up. Crossbows expand the range over 4x that of a bow in the hands of the average archer, stores 3x the amount of energy of the average setup, it is no wonder that 80 percent of new hunters in archery seasons, that allow them, buy a crossbow.

    Why were crossbows introduced into various states archery seasons? Was there a need? Handicapped and elderly hunters were already allowed to use them, so it was not for them…..No, it was for the crossbow manufacturers, who with envious eyes, watched the 400 million plus dollar archery industry, mouths watering at the prospect of making money, and using various political lobbying, they convinced state DNRs that crossbows would help them sell more licenses…..knowing full well it was a lie.

    As it has turned out, license sales have continued to fall, and all you see are hunters switching to the crossbow, just as muzzleloader hunters would switch to rifles, if suddenly they were allowed in muzzleloader season. Because they want to use the easiest weapon to kill a deer, that is legal.

    In a few short years, archery will return to the niche sport it was in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s with no pull for getting better seasons, Pitts Robertson tax money falling as sales fall, and finally no one really caring about the archery season at all. As it becomes a crossbow season.

    All to make a few crossbow company stock holders and owner very very rich, at the expense of an entire sport.

  7. Paul Rushing
    Paul Rushing says:

    Flathead here. I hunt with a crossbow because I choose to. I choose to hump my xbow to kill deer on LDWF land. Climb trees that are sketchy at best. Get eaten by every insect that finds me tasty. Test wind direction constantly. Day after day. Trying to find a way to get the Xbox around a tree hanging 25 feet in the air. Getting there at 4am & leaving way after dark. Most of the time empty handed. Just smarter than yesterday. All of this comes after shooting Xbox everyday. Constantly testing arrows and broadhead flight at different ranges (estimated paces, as I have no range finder)
    All this trouble just to fill the freezer.
    I have not mentioned dragging the deer out without a tv. The looks from wife who has not seen me in 18 hours.
    If you can relate to this ranting then I will always smile while shaking your hand.

  8. Alex Cross
    Alex Cross says:

    I’ve been a bow hunter for 7 years now and recently due to an accident, I am not able to hunt with a bow anymore. Took me quite a bit of time to get over the fact that my bow hunting days were over, until a close friend and an avid hunter recommended I go for the crossbow option.
    Not gonna lie, it felt like I was cheating! Like I had a shortcut and won’t be able to enjoy hunting. But after a while, I got used to it and I love hunting with my Ravin R20 now. Hey, something ‘s better than nothing, atleast I am able to hunt now and bring down any buck that I set my crossbow on.
    Loved how you explained it in this well-written piece, would like your take on the current crossbow I have, the R20 by Ravin, if you have the time, thanks!

  9. Steven Rob
    Steven Rob says:

    In my opinion, cross bows shouldn’t be allowed in hunting. This is because it is an immoral way of hunting. Although many of you call it legal but “calling” it unethical means should be enough to stop you.

  10. John Treutlein
    John Treutlein says:

    Just got a crossbow,I enjoy shooting it and because of it,I picked up my compound again,and my recurve and even my longbow .I had an accident at work years ago that made me lay them aside and because of the shoulder injury I decided to try the crossbow which recently was legalized in NY,NOW because of the crossbow I went back to all archery and even plan to go ultra read and use flint upper arrows,the crossbow,another weapons system for me to master and enjoy along with my firearms,I am no spring chicken and ache in many places but I enjoy the woods ,lots of practice is required for all of them,unlike some say you just can’t go and kill a deer at 100 yds ,my bow and crossbow range is basically the same 30-40 yards,and here in NY where I live,a rifle shot is seldom more than70 yards so it don’t matter what you tote it’s mostly close shootin’,I shortly would like to try down there,my brother lives in ft could be a good visit.

  11. Matt MacDonald
    Matt MacDonald says:

    I shoot traditional bow and hunt with a crossbow. I’ve shot compound bows plenty of times. The sight on a compound is not fundamentally different than a scope but the higher draw weight and certainty of shot placement account for a more ethical kill. I can understand a traditional bow hunter having issues with either compound or crossbow. But any bow that uses sights, be it a scope or peeps and pins is an advantage. The most important thing is a quick ethical kill.

  12. Jayden
    Jayden says:

    Thanks for providing complete guidance. In my opinion, crossbow hunting is providing something extra joy and happiness. The Best thing I love is that you don’t need to be strong like a bodybuilder for targeting with a crossbow.

  13. John Häagen
    John Häagen says:

    Hurt small people always need ways to feel superior and boast it loud and proud to anyone.

    Personally I don’t see how subjecting the prey to less accurate and weaker projectile would do any moral advantage. Also if they consider themselves so though and traditional, then hunt with bare sticks and stones like Neanderthals did. Or hunt with roundhouse kicks like Chuck Norris.


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