Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Crossbows. Why Do You Hate Them So?

This article ran in the January 2015 issue of CA Sportsman Magazine.

In this day and age, hunters have plenty of challenges to overcome. As far as I am concerned, we need to stick together. I want you to say something with me; crossbows. Did it make you cringe? Did you smile? Does it rile you up? Ask yourself why. Why the animosity toward crossbow hunters? I'll be the first to admit, I used to feel the same way. From the outside looking in, I was totally against having someone use a crossbow during archery season. In fact, when I lived in NY, I didn't even want to have it as part of the allowed weapons. I was ignorant and incredibly short-sighted. Since then, I have changed my tune after learning a bit more, talking with crossbow manufacturers, and listening to other hunters. 

Most of the arguments I hear are that they make it too easy to hunt. How so? My thoughts are to not judge and that hunters should support hunters, period. I would argue that some rifle hunters will shoot out to a thousand yards on an animal. Personally, I feel like I need to get closer to the animal to make it a hunt. That doesn't mean I am against it. It is my personal desire to do so and I do not push that on anyone. In fact, there are many who need to fill their freezers for the winter and this helps provide that sustenance. I don't need to hunt for my food like I used to, but I enjoy hunting and even more so, I enjoy eating wild game. With a crossbow, you still have to get close to an animal to shoot it. You might be able to shoot a longer distance with a crossbow vs. a compound, but how it that ‘easier’? You still have to make an ethical, kill shot.

What about using a compound bow vs. a traditional recurve bow? They are both considered archery equipment, but doesn't the let-off in a compound give the hunter an advantage over a traditional bow? Sure it does! I personally prefer a compound over a recurve. It is my personal preference. I don’t push that ideology on anyone else. If someone wants to hunt with me and they use a recurve, I welcome them. I think they are at more of a disadvantage than I am. I have sights, a stabilizer, a dropaway rest, 75% let-off, and I use a release. Does that make me better? Worse? No. In fact it makes me a hunter. If they want to use a crossbow, and it’s legal, bring it and hunt with it! I want you to hunt and have a good time in the hopes you are able to fill your tag.

In general, crossbows are faster shooting, but are also heavier and more cumbersome. Many weigh double what a compound weighs. They are less maneuverable when stalking and also take longer to reload.  On the plus side, they allow disabled hunters to hunt more and isn’t that a good thing? In California, you can hunt deer with a crossbow during the regular (firearm) season if you have a regular season tag. Did you know that? I didn’t until this year. You can also hunt wild pigs with a crossbow. With the pig population so large, I think that offers more opportunities to hunters. 

Personally, where I draw the line is classifying a crossbow as strictly archery equipment. It's not. There are slingshots that shoot arrows, too. They are not archery equipment. They are also not a firearm. Crossbows use different technology to store energy to send a bolt downrange. So where does that leave them? I feel that crossbows are in a category all by themselves. Shooting one takes skill, no matter what anyone says. They utilize similar technology from both archers and firearms.  I have heard hunters say that the technology in a crossbow makes the hunter lazy. What about the wheelie-bows vs. a recurve then? Many of the arguments against crossbows come from people who have never even shot one before. They just see the person shooting and assume it’s easy. 

Crossbows are another tool that allows hunters to go after wild game. Think about the fact that many areas firearms are prohibited, especially in many areas of Southern California. Yet, the crossbow is allowed, depending on the regulations and ordinances for that area. One of the animals anyone can hunt with a crossbow is the feral pig. Did you know that? Recently, I put my crossbow to the test and ventured out in search of some wild pork on public land.

Hunting pigs is incredibly fun, but is quite a challenge with any weapon. I have been unsuccessfully chasing pigs for a couple years with my compound bow. Last fall, my friend Chris Turgeon and I sat along a travel route that we were sure the pigs would cross through. Chris knows pigs. In fact, he has made it his mission to help me learn pig behavior and set trail cams to find them. In fact, he had been disappointed that he hasn't been able to help me shoot a pig. A couple weeks ago, both of us went about our daily routines and then we saw the weather report - RAIN! There was significant rain being forecast and we immediately came up with a game plan. If I could make the drive up to meet him, we could be on pigs on that afternoon.

When Saturday came, I decided I would bring the crossbow this time. It was another challenge and I had never taken an animal with one. I loaded up the car and hit the road as early as I could. Chris and I both knew the pigs would be on the move. It was much cooler, the ground wet, and we hoped the pigs would be foraging all day. It was just a matter of choosing the right spot to ambush them. We discussed ideas and paid close attention to the wind, as that was what had busted us numerous times before. We wanted our scent to be blowing in the right direction and not swirling. The wind was perfect for only one location and we knew where we had to go. We began our long hike around the woods to a natural blind to avoid detection.

I knew I wanted a pig really bad, so I was strict on my scent reduction. My clothes had been in an ozone tote prior to me leaving. I sprayed everything down with a scent killing spray at the vehicle and brought extra in with me. Once we hit our ambush point we both sprayed everything down again. We probably overdid it, but we didn't care. I'd rather go over the top and increase my chances. It was now 2:00 PM, so we sat down and waited.

Through the binoculars, we could see two sets of fresh tracks through one clearing. We made an educated guess that they were pig tracks. We hoped the rest of the group would come the same way. The wind was perfect and we continually sprayed down. We wouldn’t have to wait very long.

I looked down at my watch. 3:06 PM. As I looked up, two black shapes silently appeared in the clearing. Both of us saw them at the same time and Chris said, 'You're on!' My body felt different than on other hunts. The adrenaline was controlled and I was focused! One pig stopped broadside at 12 yards. I ever so slowly raised my crossbow and settled in on the pigs vitals. As the pig dug up the muddy ground, I took the shot. It was less thirty seconds from when the pigs came in and I took the shot. My Scorpyd Ventilator crossbow sent the bolt so fast that we didn't even see where it went. We heard the pig hitting some saplings and then a crash. Surprisingly, I was super calm and focused. I turned to Chris and smiled from ear to ear. We had done it!

If I had waited a few more seconds, the other pig may have turned for Chris to get a shot, but after hunting wild hogs for so long I was not about to give up the opportunity. We talked about the shot and knew it was a kill shot. I pulled up the binoculars to look through the brush and could see blood on saplings and undergrowth. It was going to be a fun tracking job.

We opted to wait an hour to see if any other pigs trotted through the area. It was a shot in the dark as they probably busted out of there when I shot my pig. As predicted, nothing happened, so we set off to trail my pig. The blood trail was easy to follow as the broadhead had cut through both lungs and left a wide spray of blood. Even with the excellent shot, the pig ran nearly 100 yards! Those animals are tough! We found her in a small clearing and estimated her to be around 80 lbs. A perfect eating pig and no matter what, a perfect pig for my first ever.

Some people have asked me if I regret not using my compound to take my first pig. Not at all! In fact, I am glad to have had the opportunity to use the crossbow. Plus, I now have wild pig in my freezer and that is a great thing. Hunters need to support hunters, period. We all have different methods, tactics, and use different weapons. We shouldn’t be elitist about one weapon over another when trying to encourage more people to start hunting. If a crossbow will introduce a new person to hunting, whether they are young or old, male or female, it shouldn’t matter what weapon they use. If it is legal and they want to hunt, welcome them into the fold.


  1. In Idaho they won't allow mechanical broad heads, lighted knocks, and other "technology" on archery equipment as an attempt to keep archery as traditional as they can in our state. Crossbows are allowed in the state of Idaho in the short range weapon hunts, any weapon hunts, or if you a disabled you can use them for archery. In my opinion I agree with your post that crossbows are not archery equipment and they aren't a firearm... They are in a category of their own. I don't feel Idaho needs to change anything in their restrictions on crossbows and feel that they are permitted in appropriate hunts.

    1. Thanks for sharing Kevin. It's always good to hear what other states are doing.