Anyone paying attention to current hunting fads has noticed crossbows popping up all over the hunting industry’s radar. Crossbows have been used for centuries; however, modern materials and manufacturing methods have improved both the crossbow’s performance and its popularity. More and more hunters are adding crossbows to their hunting arsenals, and if you are one of the curious, you will need to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages.
One of the most appealing aspects of the crossbow is its performance. Although it shoots nothing like a gun, a crossbow can perform better than a bow. Crossbows shoot shorter versions of arrows, called ‘bolts,’ and they are capable of launching them up to slightly over 400 feet-per-second (fps). Since most vertical bows strive to shoot 300 fps, this gives a crossbow a speed advantage; however, since bolts are shorter, they often do not carry the same weight as arrows and penetration qualities can be significantly diminished in comparison to regular arrows.
There is no doubt that crossbows are easier to use than a vertical bow. Depending on their cocking mechanism, they are generally effortless to prepare and use. And, unlike vertical bows, they can be fired while using a rest and you don’t have to use any strength holding the string as it is locked into a firing mechanism.
One of the best benefits of a crossbow is its precision. When used with a scope, there is a generous leeway allowed when it comes to shooter error and they are very aimer-friendly. Barring heavy brush, you can hit anything you shoot at within 50 yards. That knowledge alone can instill a lot of confidence in any shooter.
Unfortunately, there are some serious disadvantages with the crossbow as well. The most glaring hang-up for me is tree-stand compatibility. Crossbows tend to be bulky and you need to have a large treestand platform to be comfortable handling and reloading them.
Another treestand restriction is the room needed to be able to stand and shoot in various directions. This is simply not possible if you are trying to use your standard bowhunting treestand. This not only means you need extra room, it means you will have to spend more money to get the extra room you need to be as versatile as you need to be while hunting.
Another glaring hindrance is the crossbow’s bulkiness while transporting or walking in brush. The crossbow has a unique ability to catch and get hung-up on just about any branch available. This is something you will need to keep in mind if hunting heavy cover.