For one, archery season extends the hunting season by months in some cases. Often times gun hunting is refined to just a few weeks later in the fall, but because archery season is more of a challenge harvest rates are lower than with gun hunting, so the seasons are open longer.
For example, in many states you can hunt deer with archery equipment from September through December but you can only gun hunt for 2 or 3 weeks in November.
Using a compound bow or traditional archery set up can have a steep learning curve, and it requires a good amount of practice to reach a point where you’re comfortable hunting with a bow and arrow. However, crossbows just might be the perfect weapon for first time hunters.
Most crossbows come ready to shoot right out of the box, and using them is almost as simple as just pointing and shooting. Plus with less recoil and noise than a gun, they can be less intimidating for first time hunters. They also allow people who may not be strong enough to pull back a traditional bow to still enjoy archery season. Crossbows have also become an extremely popular option for aging hunters looking to extend their archery hunting opportunities into old age.
The technology behind crossbows has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years, and modern crossbows are incredibly accurate and effective tools for deer hunting.
According to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, 28 states now permit the use of crossbows during all big game hunting seasons including both archery and firearms. Other states permit the use of crossbows only during archery season while others have specially designated seasons specifically for crossbows.
Oregon is the only state that does not permit hunting with a crossbow of any kind, but other than that be sure to check the rules and regulations for your state to make sure you’re in compliance when hunting with a crossbow.
This chart from Barnett, one of the best crossbow makers in the world, also provides a glimpse at those regulations in an easy to understand format.
There are two primary types of crossbows, recurves and compounds. Recurve models are more simple as they lack the wheels and cams that define compound models. Because of their simplicity they tend to be a cheaper alternative.
Compound crossbows are prime examples of just how far archery engineering has come in recent decades. The wheels and cams allow these models to launch arrows at most faster speeds and with way more stopping power than recurve models.
Reverse limbed crossbows are also becoming more popular on newer models. They look like a typical crossbow, but with the limbs inverted. While it looks backwards, these models are much more compact and easier to operate in tighter quarters like a tree stand of shooting house.
If you plan on deer hunting with a crossbow, a minimum draw weight of 125-pounds is recommended. That will ensure the bolts are being fired at at least 245 feet per second, which is fast enough to pass cleanly through a deer.
Different model crossbows come with different cocking mechanisms, including foot stirrups, rope cocking aids, or cranks. No matter the mechanism, most hunters should have no trouble readying their crossbow into shooting position.
If you’re interested in purchasing a crossbow for deer season this fall, then Bass Pro Shops has a variety of models that come ready to shoot.
Unlike firearms, you can have archery equipment shipped directly to your house, although picking them up in a store near year is a great option if you have additional questions about getting your crossbow set up.
All of the crossbows on this list provide great bang for your buck, and while you do get what you pay for in terms of the quality of more expensive crossbows, all of these options are solid entry level choices for new deer hunters.
Barnett is well respected as one of the premier names on the crossbow market. This crank-cocking model offers all the power and performance that deer hunters need in a crossbow. It delivers arrows up to 410 feet-per-second with 142 pounds of energy, which is plenty to take down a deer.
This package also includes a 4x32mm scope, a quiver that mounts to the bow, two arrows, and a cocking device. Everything you need to get started with your new crossbow.
PSE, short for Precision Shooting Equipment, has been making quality archery products since 1971. They were one of the first 5 companies to manufacture compound bows, and they make high quality crossbows as well. This model shoots fast and offers a compact and ergonomic frame.
It fires arrows up to 380 feet-per-second with 118-pounds of energy, which will do just fine for deer hunting. Weighing just 6.9 pounds its a lightweight model to haul in and out of the woods.
This package includes a 4x32mm scope, an attachable quiver, 3 bolts, and a cocking rope.
This recurve model is rugged and reliable. Its a compact and lightweight option that delivers all the speed and accuracy you need for a successful deer hunt. It delivers arrows at 305-feet-per-second and it weighs just 5.5-pounds, making it super easy to carry on any hunt.
The Excalibur brand specializes in efficient and reliable crossbows without breaking the bank. They’ve been making crossbows since 1983 and they stick to the basics, because the basics get the job done.
The package includes a scope, a quiver, 3 arrows, and a cocking mechanism.
The latest version in the long line of Wicked Ridge’s Invader series is the most accurate yet. Delivering arrows at 360-feet-per-second with 107 pounds of kinetic energy, this crossbow is a deer hunting machine. It’s got a smooth trigger pull and a quiet firing mechanism. Plus this is one of the easiest to cock crossbows on the market. Plus these unites are entirely made in America.
This package includes a scope and quiver but arrows are sold separately.
TenPoint makes some of the most trusted crossbows on the market, and this is an updated version of their all-time best selling model. This version is even faster, more accurate, and more compact than the original though. It rockets arrows at 370-feet-per-second with 113-pounds of kinetic energy. It’s smooth to use for both left and right handed shooters.
This package includes a scope, a quiver, and 3 arrows. The cocking mechanism is conveniently built into the stock of the bow.
This crossbow can do everything you need it to do, and at a very reasonable price. It launches arrows at an astounding 390-feet-per-second and hammers them home with 135-pounds of kinetic energy.
Its a quiet and easy to shoot unit that has a narrow limb base that makes it great for hunting in tight spots. Its got an automatic safety and automatic dry fire prevention mechanism built in, so its great for beginners.
This package comes with a 4x32mm scope, a quiver, 2 arrows, and a cocking rope. Everything you need to get started.
Named after and founded by Fred Bear, one of the most well-respected archery hunters of all time, this company started making hand-made bows in 1938 and still produces a full suite of archery equipment. Bear Archery’s crossbows fit in nicely to that lineup, and this model offers big performance for a reasonable price tag.
Its made to be shot by both right or left handed shooters, and although a little heavy compared to other models it shoots fast and accurate. Arrows flung from this model travel at 410-feet-per-second and hit hard.
This package includes a scope, 3 arrows, a quiver, a cocking rope, and a carrying sling.
The lease expensive option on this list is still more than capable of being a serviceable deer hunting piece. At just 6.7 pounds, its easy to lug around the woods and compact enough to make it a great option for hunting in confined spaces. Its adjustable fore grip and stock make it easy to measure up to any hunters needs. It shoots quiet and accurately, delivering bolts at 405-feet-per-second with 134-pounds of kinetic energy. Plus it’s easy to cock.
This package comes plate with a scope, string suppressors, a quiver, and 3 arrows.
Once you’ve got a crossbow picked out, you’re going to need a few accessories and some practice before you’re ready to go hunting.
First and foremost, you’re going to want to protect your crossbow soon after you spend your hard earned money on it. Each crossbow brand makes cases specifically for their products but many of them will fit other brands as well.
Other great brands like Plano Synergy make more universal options. Just be sure that the dimensions of your crossbow align with the dimensions of the case you pick out.
If you plan on traveling a lot with your crossbow, then a hard plastic case will serve you better than a soft bodied one. Below are some great options.
While all of the crossbow packages in this article come with arrows (more commonly called “bolts” for crossbows), they’re all affixed with what are called field tips. Field tips are great for practicing and they’re easy to remove from targets, however they are not suitable for hunting.
If you plan on deer hunting with your crossbow, you’re going to need what are called broad heads. Broad heads come in two different forms, either fixed blades or mechanical blades. Mechanical blades are more aerodynamic but then the blades expand once they hit the target. Fixed blades come, as their name suggests, in a fixed position. Both are very effective for hunting, so it’s a matter of preference.
Just make sure you match the grain of the broad head to the grain of your bolts. Below are great examples of each.
Before you set out to shoot your new crossbow at a deer, you’re going to want to get some practice shots in. You need a target that’s strong enough to stop the fast moving bolts but soft enough that you can pull the arrows back out. The bag target below is a fantastic option.
Unloading a crossbow can be difficult too, and with many models you actually have to shoot the crossbow to unload it. The mini bag is portable enough that you can lug it into the field with you and it provides an easy option for unloading the bow at the end of the hunt.
Once you’ve got a crossbow picked out and some practice reps in, you’re ready to screw on your broad heads and start hunting. However, hunting and operating a crossbow are two endeavors that you should continue learning about throughout the process.
To help ease into hunting with your crossbow, enjoy a brief preview with the informative video below.
Please keep in mind that you are legally required to purchase a hunting license to hunt deer on both private and public land. Always look up the rules and regulations in the state you’re hunting.
The sale of hunting licenses and permits directly funds the conservation of wildlife habitat and public land as well as the development of gun ranges in all 50 states.
Buying a hunting license protects you from potentially being fined, having your gear confiscated, and/or losing your hunting privileges. It’s important to remember that just because you have a hunting license in one state, that does not mean it is valid in another state.
Whiskey mixes well with a lot of things but firearms ain’t one of them. Please hunt responsibly and save the whiskey for the campfire at night.
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