Crossbows and what to know

Eric Davis

Mayhood’s Sporting Goods

CHENANGO COUNTY – One of the more popular topics of discussion in the hunting world in the past five years has to be the use of crossbows for hunting.

With the ever-advancing technology of today, crossbows have become something very different from the crossbows of the past. With the increased use of crossbows, there often comes a divide in the hunting community. In a time where hunter numbers are dwindling, it is unfortunate to see the hunters that are left arguing amongst themselves.

While I can’t say that I don’t have some reservations about some hunters using a crossbow to hunt big game, my concern is over some ethical aspects that can be easily overlooked – and it is important to note that this is my personal opinion, not the opinion of Mayhood’s Sporting Goods.

Currently, all you need to do to hunt with a crossbow in New York is to purchase the Muzzleloader Privilege in addition to your big game hunting license and you need to fill out a certificate that is in the regulation booklet. So someone who has never archery hunted before can go out with an archery implement without sitting through a Bowhunter Education course where you learn the proper shot angles needed for archery shots compared to using a firearm.



Nothing is more depressing to hear, than someone saying they shot a deer but didn’t find it. Although it happens for various reasons, hunters should strive to eliminate as many of these instances as they can. If it were mandatory to take a Bowhunter Education course before being allowed to use a crossbow for big game in New York, I would be 100 percent on board.

As far as the crossbow season, I’m not too worried about that aspect. If you look across the United States, hunting seasons vary far and wide so that people are gun hunting before the rut or bow hunting after New Year’s Day.

Beyond that aspect, I am all for people using crossbows because it would get more people out hunting, especially youth or female hunters, and it would keep people hunting at older ages – people who may have a hard time drawing a vertical bow. While it may not take the amount of movement to shoulder a crossbow as it does to draw a bow, it still takes movement and waiting for the right shot to present itself.

I will also throw out there that some bows with the 85 percent and now 90 percent let-off so that a bowhunter can hold a vertical bow at full draw with only 10-15 percent of the draw weight as resistance. With the regulations that are in place in New York, crossbows must be a minimum width of 17” from limb tip to limb tip, crossbows are not the easiest thing to maneuver while hunting from a treestand, and while trying to get the proper shot.

In the proper hands, a crossbow is a very lethal implement. Crossbows shoot short arrows, called bolts, at speeds over 300 feet per second. Some models even surpass the 400 fps mark.

This allows them to fly fast and penetrate their target easily, often resulting in pass-thru shots on deer. Most crossbows will accurately shoot small groups out to 50-60 yards when shot from a good rest. When shooting over 60 yards, the speed of the arrow decreases resulting in a loss of kinetic energy. This results in poor bolt penetration, meaning the broadhead won’t hit the vitals. With the increasing popularity of crossbows combined with their fast speed, broadhead manufacturers had to develop products to be used specifically with crossbows. This has resulted in animals expiring faster after being shot, which is what every hunter wants to happen.

If you are thinking about purchasing a crossbow to hunt with, there are a few things to ponder and be prepared to ask when shopping. First is obviously the cost. Crossbows range in prices from $299 up to $1,999.

It all depends on what goodies you want the bow to have, how fast you want it to shoot and a few other small details.

Most crossbows are cocked with a rope aid that reduces the draw weight of the bow by about 50% percent. If you want, you can have a cranking device added to the bow – or already come on it from the factory – for a little bit more money. This will make cocking the bow much easier but takes longer than using the rope so follow-up or second shots are less likely.

The other upgrade that most people make is to have the scope have an illuminated reticle so that the crosshairs are either red or green instead of black. This makes aiming easier for shooting in dark areas – ground blinds, hemlock groves, and so on – or for people that have a hard time focusing on the crosshairs.

An illuminated reticle scope can cost anywhere from $80 to $300.

You might need to invest in a new target as crossbow bolts penetrate far and can even shoot through some targets that stop vertical bow arrows. Beyond that, there are just small accessories to consider such as rail lubricant, string wax, broadheads, and so on.

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