September 22, 2010
After investing several years' time and logging hundreds of hours in a tree stand in pursuit of a trophy deer, a magnificent buck finally presents a fine shot opportunity. You take careful aim and shoot. It's a clean miss. Unfortunately, this scenario is a real-world experience for many hunters. Taking a good shot with either a gun or a bow and then missing is one of the most disappointing aspects of hunting whitetails.
Usually this can be avoided by spending more time preparing yourself and your equipment for that exciting moment. Working knowledge of your equipment can be acquired from the Internet, through books and magazines, or through people who provide first-hand knowledge of their personal experiences.
The crossbow, like any hunting weapon, requires practice in order to yield consistent results. And that practice should be more than just shooting arrows. It should also provide an opportunity to test your equipment and get working knowledge of the variables that can cause accuracy problems.
CHECK YOUR BOLTS
Before releasing a shot, determine if all of your bolts are straight. If you cannot check them with a machine, place each one on a flat surface, such as a table, with the fletch hanging over the side. Then roll the arrows one at a time while watching the movement of the nocks. If you note a wobble, the bolt will not shoot straight. Next, roll them again and observe the area where the shaft makes contact with the flat surface. If the bolt is bent, you will be able to see the bend because the bolt shaft will not lie flush against the flat surface.
Cocking a crossbow is a procedure that can often cause accuracy problems. If the bow has a mechanical crank, there is rarely a difficulty. However, many crossbows are cocked by hand, which can cause a variation in the position of the nocking point. To eliminate the problem, observe where the string is placed when the bow is cocked correctly. Then take a felt pen and mark the string on each side where it makes contact with the rail.
Thereafter, make sure the marks are aligned properly when cocking. Any change in alignment will definitely affect accuracy.
A very important point you need to remember is that a crossbow is a bow that shoots a heavy bolt. Even though the initial bolt velocity is faster than most vertical bows, it will lose speed and kinetic energy more rapidly because of the weight that is being carried.
Yes, good bolt groups can be produced at the long yardages, but you may lack the kinetic energy needed to successfully kill a deer. At over 40 yards, the bolt drop can become very significant. A rangefinder should be a standard piece of equipment when you go hunting. For accuracy, knowing the exact distance you are shooting is crucial.
GET THE RIGHT BROADHEAD
One of the most common flaws in crossbow performance can be found in the choice of broadheads. The majority of these bows shoot an arrow at 300 to 400 fps. This is faster than the average vertical hunting bow, so many broadheads fail to perform accurately. Since there are over 100 broadhead choices on the market, selecting the best point can be challenging.
There are two basic types of broadheads: fixed bladed and mechanical. Which one should you shoot? To answer this, I evaluated several of the leading brands of hunting points that were recommended by crossbow manufacturers, as well as some that I thought should shoot accurately. The testing was done with two different bows. One, the TenPoint Lazer HP, shot an bolt at approximately 300 fps. The other, a BowTech Stryker, launched the arrow at 400 fps.
The bolts were aimed at a target 40 yards away. The samples with the fixed-blade heads demonstrated that the wider the cutting diameter and the faster the arrow speed, the less accurate the results were. In contrast, the 1-inch heads outperformed the wider ones. As long as the wind was less than 5 miles per hour, the narrower ones produced a tight group. I had the best results with the four-blade 100-grain 1-inch Muzzy and the 1-inch Wasp bullet. With an increase in wind speed, the grouping opened up. Next, I did the same test with several brands of mechanical broadheads, most of which performed well.
A few of the brands opened prematurely from the sudden burst of energy upon discharge.
This was more noticeable at 400-fps launching than with the 300-fps velocity. When a mechanical head opened before impact, the arrow landed well out of the bolt group.
The mechanical heads outperformed the fix-blade heads under windy conditions. Some mechanical heads are designed so they shouldn't open prematurely. I had good, consistent results with Wasp Jack-Hammer, Tru-Fire Switch Blade, Grim Reaper, Rage and Spitfire.
The crossbow is becoming a very popular hunting weapon due to the liberalization of bowhunting laws in many states. If you choose to hunt with a crossbow, take adequate steps to guarantee that you and your equipment are ready for the challenge.