Selecting a crossbow
For many years crossbows were not permitted when archery hunting. Wildlife managers and archers alike believed using them was not “true archery hunting” and that inexperienced hunters would leave wounded animals to suffer. However, over the past few years many states have including them as a legal means of taking big game and manufacturers have starting offering a never ending choice of models. Of course by adding more options made it hard to new users to select the one which is best for them.
– the primary difference between a target bow and hunting bow is the draw weight and a crossbow is no different. The crossbow you pick must have a draw weight high enough to kill you target species AND do so at moderate distances. Many states have helped by establishing minimum draw weights, general ranging from 75-125 pounds, although with advances in design this is highly irrelevant as even entry level models will exceed these draw weights. A general rule of thumb for draw weight is bigger is faster and modern crossbows will usually fall within the 150-175 pound range. Just be careful not to go too fast, resent research has indicated that draw weights above 200 pounds start to show a loss of control.
– Early crossbows used a simple sighting system which was little more than looking down the bolt shaft and lining up on the target. This was only fairly accurate and only at lesser distances, after than it was as much guess work as it was aiming. The majority of modern hunting crossbows will utilize a scope type sight and this should definitely be on your “must have” list. Unlike rifle scopes these sighting systems generally do not include magnification, something some states still prohibit, but do include distance markings and greatly increase accuracy & range. Like you compound bow the scope sights should include multiple recticles which will allow you to set up for various pre-determined distances.
– unlike your traditional or compound bow your crossbow needs to be cocked ahead of time, with the bolt in place and ready to go when a shot presents itself. The crossbow is cocked by drawing back the string until it reaches the necessary anchor point, but due to the heavier draw weights this can be difficult without mechanical assistance. Most crossbows will use a cocking rope, which assists you in pulling the string to the rear evenly and without fear of slipping. Some models include a built in cocking wheel, something which makes re-cocking while on stand much easier.
As stated before, crossbows are growing in popularity with more and more hunters taking up this as a means of hunting every season. With this growth the availability of hunting crossbows and the available features is also growing at a frenzied pace. Cost is no longer an indicator of a quality design; more often than not it is more indicative of break through designs or materials which may be nice but not necessary for a successful hunt.
Good luck, good hunting!