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Everything You Should Know about the Bow vs. Crossbow Hunting Debate

Thursday, July 13, 2017 5:57
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Aaron Spuler is a firearms enthusiast and recreational shooter. Follow more or his work at The Weapon Blog

Anyone who spends time hunting has been faced with the two varying sides of opposition of the bow vs. crossbow hunting debate. It is true that crossbows can shoot really fast and they provide a level of accuracy not found in the vertical bow, so what is the fight about? In this article, we are going to fully discuss the two sides of thinking so you can come to a conclusion for yourself. Which is better; the crossbow or the bow?

Why is There Such a Debate?

Did you know that there was a large debate going on?

Many people believe that shooting with a crossbow is an entirely different thing than shooting with a compound bow, and they are right. The equipment that comes with a crossbow will make accuracy more achievable. Many hunters who use a compound bow, therefore, get upset when crossbow hunters are entitled to participate in the same archery season. They claim that the crossbow is more like a rifle and not as intricate and skill intensive as a vertical bow.

For areas that have an overwhelming population of wildlife and a dwindling number of hunters, the crossbow was just what was needed to help people get excited about hunting. It also encouraged those who didn’t have the time to practice their bow hunting skills, the opportunity to still go out and hunt game.

Who is right? The answer is personal to each hunter. There is no clear-cut answer to this question.

Another debate has often been the safety of crossbows. Many hunters will argue that crossbows are more dangerous in the field than compound bows, but that simply isn’t what statistics are showing. Despite the fact that there are now more crossbows being used, the number of injuries between the two is relatively the same in number.

Is the Crossbow Easier to Use?

This depends on what your definition of easy is. When you are learning the basic operation of the bow, then yes, this is easier to use. You will learn how to use a crossbow in far less time than a compound bow. That makes it a great option for someone who wants to try out bow hunting.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that in the field, it isn’t necessarily easier to maneuver. The crossbow can be quite heavy and awkward at times while handling. It is not always easy to steady while shooting and can be less accurate than a vertical bow when shot freehand.

What Can You Hunt with a Bow?

Before heading out to purchase new hunting equipment, be sure you have checked your state regulations. Each state will have different requirements and prohibited equipment regarding bows and crossbows.

Large Game Hunting

Many people enjoy large game hunting with their bows. This includes white-tailed deer, moose, boars, bears, caribou, elk and more. Having the proper bow and a skilled technique for large game hunting is critical. You’ll find three variations of skin on the large game; thick hides with heavy bones, thin hides with light bones and others will just have tough skin.

The bow must be powerful when faced with any of these creatures in order to be effective. You’ll want something with 50-70lbs draw weight so they are capable of sending the arrows at higher speeds. The proper arrows are also going to be critical. Your arrow weight has a large impact on the kinetic energy and power of the arrow’s penetration. Each animal you are hunting will require a different arrow based on pounds of energy it can produce.

Deer is one of the most popular large game animals to hunt. Whether or not you use a crossbow, compound or recurve bow is totally a personal preference. The trick with hunting deer is to have a bow that is super quiet. The drawing strength should be 40 or more pounds and have the capability to pierce deeply through the skin and body of the animal.

Small Game Hunting

You would think that hunting small game would be easier, but that isn’t necessarily true. You will need sharp shooting skills in order to accurately hit a small animal. Most people enjoy hunting rabbits, porcupines, armadillos, squirrels and raccoons.

When you are hunting larger game, you often spend a lot of time waiting until you can get a good shot at an animal. With small game hunting, there are many more opportunities to practice as small game can be found anywhere. Many hunters enjoy the challenge of trying to hunt smaller creatures.

A small and sharp tipped arrow is going to be required to kill small prey. Crossbows can be used, but it tends to be easier to use a traditional recurve bow. They are shorter and easier to maneuver when wandering through the terrain.

Tips & Tricks for Your Bow Hunting Experience

Whichever bow you choose to use on your next hunting excursion, there are some simple tips and tricks that will make it a better experience for you:

  • Accuracy is King – It won’t matter how much smoothness, quietness and strength your bow has, if you can’t shoot accurately, you won’t kill your prey. Be sure to practice often and sharpen those shooting skills.
  • Watch your Arrow – When you eye the shaft all the way to the target through your sight pin bracket, you will have a better follow through. This will help you not to drop your bow arm.
  • Practice in Low Light – You do most of your hunting in the first or final hours of daylight. Make sure that is the same light you are practicing in.
  • Try Shooting from the Knees – Kneeling has a natural ability to hide the human shape. You can slowly rise and then draw your bow when the angle becomes ready for a shot. You are also able to quickly get on your knees when you are on the move.
  • Learn all that You Can – You need to live and breathe bow hunting so you can get good at it. Watch videos, read books and practice, practice, practice until you can do it in your sleep.

Whatever bow you decide to hunt with, enjoy your time in the wilderness. There is nothing that quite compares to the rush of aiming your arrow and taking down the prey you’ve been stalking.


Philip Routh is an editor of the Outdoor section at Playing with bows and arrows is one of his passion since forever. So he decided to share online what he learned through all this time. Whether you are an experienced bow hunter or an absolute beginner, you’ll find his posts incredibly useful!


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