Skip to main content

Getting Started With Crossbows

Hunting with a crossbow is one of the fastest-growing segments in the deer-hunting world. Surveys indicate that there is a decline in the use of vertical bows after the age of 40. Archers find they do not have the necessary time to practice and maintain their expertise with the weapon. In addition, physical limitations associated with aging and injuries also prevent some enthusiasts from using compound bows.

In contrast, the popularity of crossbows has increased with the 40-and-older age group.

Many states have crossbow legislation that opens the door of opportunity for those who could not otherwise enjoy hunting during the regular archery season. Ohio, Wyoming, Arkansas and several other states treat crossbows the same as vertical bows, and the number of states adopting this policy has grown every year. What's more, because of a steady rise in deer populations in recent years, many state wildlife agencies have been in favor of implementing crossbow hunting to reduce total deer numbers.

These agencies have also found that the increase in license and permit sales has helped supplement declining revenues. There are a few states like Oregon that do not allow crossbow hunting. However, most whitetail states do permit the use of this weapon, with some having certain limitations or restrictions.

Many people are reluctant to try a crossbow because they have no knowledge of what they need or how to use the equipment. Actually, the process is very simple. The first step is to determine what is legal in your state. You can contact your Department of Natural Resources for a comprehensive list of laws in each state or go online at TenPoint Crossbows.

After researching the regulations in my home state of Illinois, I discovered a rule requiring an axel-to-axel measurement of at least 24 inches. Such a criterion eliminates over half of the crossbows on the market. Other states have specific restrictions on what they deem legal, so be sure to find out what your state requires.

Crossbows range in price from $250 to $2,000, with a choice of arrow speed and efficiency. Most of the horizontal bows shoot a heavy, stiff arrow at 250 to 400 fps.

There are a few bows on the market that produce a little over 400 fps. One of the fastest is the TAC 15 by PSE, shooting at 413 fps. This horizontal bow is mounted on an AR15 rifle stock. According to David Kronengold, an engineer for PSE, this crossbow was designed to target the large number of shooters who already own and shoot the AR15 rifle. In fact, this bow design can be mounted directly to the lower receiver of the customer's personal AR15.

There are a variety of cocking devices, ranging from hand-pulled to cranking mechanisms. Whatever method of cocking is chosen, it is essential that the same spot on the string lines up on the nocking pin with every shot. The slightest variation in this alignment will cause accuracy problems. (You may want to mark your string so that the mark lines up with the nocking pin every time you cock the bow.)

Most crossbow companies offer package deals on the bow, arrows and sights. Sights vary from scopes to fixed pins, which are similar to the setup on a vertical bow. The more popular scopes are ones with multiple lines or multiple dots, so the hunter will have aiming capabilities at different distances. Arrows are usually included with the bow.

Personal safety precautions are different with a horizontal bow than with a vertical one.


To cock the bow, the archer needs to place a foot in the stirrup before applying cocking pressure to the string. The foot must be firmly secured. If it slips, all of the stored energy will be headed toward you in the form of a flying bow.

The most common injury associated with a crossbow is when the operator gets his or her fingers in the path of the string. I highly recommend practicing simulated aiming and shooting without cocking the bow. Remember, any fingers in the string's path of travel may not be firmly attached after the shot! Fortunately, most of today's crossbows have safety features and/or safety buttons that keep your fingers well below the track of the bow.

To demonstrate just how accurate and easy a crossbow is to shoot, I invited my wife, Jeanne, to join me at the indoor range in our home. She has taken several deer with a firearm, but she has never hunted with a bow. After I explained to her the safety rules and how to discharge the weapon, she made a couple of shots at a 1-inch target from 18 yards. Both arrows pounded the dot. Thanks to the legalization of crossbows. Jeanne and I can now share more time in the woods together.

A crossbow looks similar to a gun and can be shot accurately with little practice.

However, do not be misled. The heavy arrow does not have a flat trajectory like a bullet.

At 350 fps, an arrow sighted in at 20 yards will be about four inches low at 30 yards, 11 inches low at 40 yards, and 21 inches low at 50 yards. To shoot accurately, using the correct yardage is crucial.

Some of the faster bows, like the Bowteck Striker, with its 405 fps, are capable of producing saucer-sized groups at 100 yards. Keep in mind that these weapons are not designed for shooting deer at long ranges, because the heavy arrow loses too much speed and kinetic energy. I consider the crossbow a viable hunting tool for deer positioned within 40 yards.

By allowing the use of crossbows, many states are benefiting hunters, controlling deer herds, and helping conservation budgets, as mentioned. Because of the bow's easy-to-use accuracy, clean kills can be made on deer by hunters who otherwise would not be able to archery hunt. Crossbows provide a welcomed opportunity for sports enthusiasts to better enjoy our great outdoors!

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

North American Whitetail Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the North American Whitetail App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top North American Whitetail stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now