Crossbow Lessons Learned
By John Simeone
“It’s not just the crossbow, any weapon takes time to learn.”
It was one of those perfect mornings that you just want to get out in the woods all by yourself and see what’s out there. I knew where the buck was from last year but I had never seen him. I knew he liked this one little corner area and that other hunters kept by passing the place where he liked to hand out.
I set up a perfect stand sight about 15 feet up in a pine tree overlooking a hardwood transition. I wanted to call him out of the hard woods as close to my tree as I could get. As daylight crept in I started grunt calling.
Now a lot of people don’t know this, but in quiet remote areas a buck will answer a grunt call, and this happened after about an hour. Now I knew I had him about 150 yards away so I stuck with the calling. Still he didn’t come out.
Ok if the buck won’t come out; let’s see if a doe will, I wasn’t being choosy on a crossbow hunt. I then started with a fawn in distress call, (a varmit call) this will usually bring in a doe if there is one around. Still, after a completed series, no deer.
After a few minutes I continued with the grunt calls, then about 9:15 A.M. he came out of the hardwoods. I had already pre-measured known distances with my Bushnell Laser Range finder; this is a devise all bow hunters should have as it tells exactly what you need to know.
Of course he came out and stopped at the 45 yard mark and by his body language it didn’t appear he was coming any closer. Ok they told me 40 yards was a max shot for the crossbow. But my Horton would shoot 1 ½ inch groups at 50 yards. So I felt qualified to take the shot. Yea right seems like the buck a nice 8 point was far more qualified.
I’m amazed at how he did this and it is a true lesson learned. My delusions of grandeur materialized as I decided to pin him to the 45 yard tree. He lowered his head and started munching on something giving me a perfect shot. As the arrow left the crossbow, the loud report from the bow twang which cannot be silenced by any conventional means, reached the buck first by the speed of sound. In microseconds he reacted and not only jumped the string, but leaped completely out of the field of view of the scope, then the arrow centered the tree, but no deer was there, at all.
Well so much for the old wives tale that crossbow hunters will shoot deer at 100 yards all day. Until they make a silenced crossbow, a 30 yard shot is going to be tough even at 300 feet per second.
There are so many misconceptions about the crossbow that get spread around by anti-hunters and cannibals that many people don’t know what to think. I was told that 3-D targets would be ruined by crossbow arrows. This was an attempt to keep me from hosting the Louisiana State Championship, which was the first of its kind ever held in the United States. They said the crossbow arrows would go right through the target.
Sorry didn’t happen that way. Our first test was the Horton HD-175 against a PSE compound bow at 70 pounds. At 30 yards the compound bow penetrated the 3-D target about 2 inches more than the crossbow, all was about normal. We did find that one brand of aluminum crossbow arrow was a bit hard to pull out of the target, so we put on some silicone spray and that solved that problem. Crossbow arrows do not damage 3-D targets, lesson learned.
Now here is one myth I keep hearing over and over again, we need to get straight. “It takes no practice time, to get proficient with a crossbow.” That’s about as asinine as saying it takes no practice time to learn how to drive a car, because it’s easy to turn a key.
If you get a new crossbow there are two things you need to do before you ever shoot it. You must read the operators directions and the book “Today’s Crossbow” put out by the ACF. Then you need to realize that no hunting weapon is easy. A person who buys an untried weapon and attempts to hunt with it with little or no practical instruction or practice will do one thing for sure, fail.
Just for the record it takes about 6 weeks to get a soldier proficient enough to pass basic training with hundreds of rounds of ammunition fired. Put a deer rifle in the hands of one of these experts and they must be completely retrained, just because it is a different weapon. Now make that weapon a muzzle loader or crossbow and without the benefit of an instructor and that soldier even though an expert with an M-16, will be completely confused. How do I know this? I teach soldiers to shoot crossbows, muzzle loaders and deer rifles at the Fort Polk Shooting Complex. Now to become proficient at all hunting weapons, it takes years. Still before I chose to go hunting with any weapon I go to the range and re acquaint myself and get in a few shots, even with a modern rifle.
Now experience is worth something and so is natural ability. Therefore the attitude of the old shooter with a new weapon should be the realization that you don’t know anything about the new weapon and its time to learn. Now with the case of the crossbow; if you run into one of the anti-crossbow crowd most of which will tell you they are the voice of all bow hunting. If this should happen and they hint to you to get rid of your crossbow, you may as well be getting instruction from P.E.T.A. Pass it on