How to Shoot A Crossbow for Beginners: Tips & Tactics

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The crossbow, based on the traditional bow, is a mechanical device that shoots projectiles called bolts. It’s capable of cleanly taking down the biggest North American game, and it can be deadly accurate.

The crossbow is used in many states for many different types of hunting.  While it is banned for use in some states, depending on what you hunt, the hunting crossbow is one of the most uniquely used hunting tools on today’s market.

While you won’t get many bowhunting tips in this article,  you will definitely learn the basics of how to shoot a crossbow once you’ve found the right crossbow for your hunting expeditions.

Step 1: Cock the Bow

Cocking the crossbow takes a little patience to learn. There two methods for cocking the bow: Manual and crank-operated.

To cock the bow manually, put your foot in the stirrup at the front of the bow and pull the crossbow string back evenly across both sides of the barrel until it is cocked.

This is something of a chore with modern hunting crossbows, which unlike common recurve bows or compound bows, have draw weights over 150 lbs.  If you don’t pull straight you can misalign the bow and your aim will be off.

A rope cocking tool can make the manual cocking process easier, helps center the string better, and is recommended by a lot of hunters. A rope cocker is essentially a simple pulley system.

To use a rope cocker, first get the cocker into position, insert your foot into the stirrup, grab the rope cocker’s pull handles, and pull the handles up until the crossbow string is cocked. Once it’s cocked, store the rope cocker until you need it again.

A crossbow crank will definitely be easier to use than manual cocking, but it will take longer. A lot longer, so if you’re in a hurry the crank isn’t the way to go.

A crossbow crank is nothing more than a winch. Some cranks are separate devices, and some are integrated into the bow. To crank cock a crossbow, engage the crank, and turn it until the string is cocked. Then put the crank back into place, or into its holder.

Step 2: Load the Bow

Once the crossbow is fully cocked, place an arrow in the barrel of the crossbow, aligning the cock vane of the arrow in the barrel channel. Nock the arrow securely into place.

Step 3: Aim

Hunting crossbows are equipped with a sight pin arrangement or mount scope through which to aim, such as an optical scope with a reticle. You need to sight in, and prepare to shoot.

But first… A word of warning: Make sure there are no obstructions that could get in the way of the limbs when they snap forward or injury is likely. Similarly, do not wrap your thumb around the crossbow forearm.

Step 4: Shoot

Once you have the target sighted, squeeze the trigger just as you would a rifle’s, keeping the target aligned in your sights. As you squeeze tighter you’ll hear the pop of the trigger release as the bow fires and the bolt hurtles toward the target.

Getting your scope set up properly with your crossbow will take some adjustments, much like the adjustments you make to your rifle. But once its sighted in and you’re hitting the bullseye, you’re ready for action!

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