Always Use the Best Targets for Your Crossbow

Whenever you’re practicing with your crossbow, always use the best gear possible and shoot from different positions to help become accustomed to your bow.

Using the best target for your crossbow practice will ensure better accuracy and longer life, helping you become a better hunter.

In recent years, especially with the advent of 3D targets, there are a wide variety of targets to choose from for your archery practice. There are bag targets, block targets, 3D targets, and targets all sorts of other “in-between” targets at your disposal, but not all of them will withstand the rigor that comes with crossbow shooting. So how do you know what’s best?

So how do you know what’s best?

To begin, you must understand why crossbows tend to do more damage over the life a given target. It is not so much a difference in speed or kinetic energy at this point, between vertical bows and crossbows. Many vertical bows are shooting upwards of 350 feet per second, which is right on par with average crossbow velocity, making it a relative non-factor.

Crossbow arrows made of aluminum have more surface area impacting the target than smaller carbon arrows used by many compound bow shooters.

The biggest difference is the diameter of the arrows between the two pieces of archery equipment. Crossbow arrows tend to be greater in diameter than most of the carbon fiber arrow shafts hunters use with their compound bows. That translates to an increase in overall target surface area damage per shot.

Essentially, even the “self-healing” foam targets are only as good as the number of times they are shot. That’s because the more surface area damage you inflict on a target, the more likely the foam fibers will disconnect or rip apart and cause irreparable damage. So if a crossbow arrow inflicts greater surface area damage per shot on impact, a target will withstand fewer total shots from that crossbow before it starts to exhibit visible signs of wear and distress.

This principle is true for target blocks and foam 3D targets of all makes, models, and brands. However, for bag targets, it is minimized quite a bit. With a bag target, you don’t really tear exterior fibers of the mesh sack that holds the internal components. Instead, the arrow simply creates a small gap in that exterior. This means regardless of what happens to the internal foam or other friction-causing stopping agents, the bag remains intact and, therefore, will provide longer life. Of course, it is possible for bag targets to wear out over time, so don’t think of it as a fail-safe.

It then becomes a good rule of thumb for crossbow hunters to own a good bag target and a good block target. They both serve their purposes and offer different benefits. The first of them being that bag targets can withstand an astronomical number of shots with a field point, making the essential for sighting in your crossbow, as well as any other hobby shooting you might do. They typically have several different, smaller dot aiming points so you are less likely to wear out one spot before the others. However, you cannot shoot broadheads into bag targets.

If you aren’t doing this yet, you 100 percent need to before hunting this fall: field test your crossbow arrows with broadheads! You must practice with broadheads to ensure that your equipment will not fail you in the field. We would all like to assume that a given broadhead will fly the same as our field points, but that just simply isn’t the case. There are far too many variables and that is why it is imperative that you test your broadheads.

Foam targets, like this one with the TenPoint Phantom RCX, offer great stopping power and long life.

This is where foam targets are king. A good block target will allow you to test that broadhead hundreds of times without really damaging the broadhead, saving you money in the long run. Most of these self-healing foam targets are so soft and pliable that they will not dull the blades, meaning that you aren’t wasting one of your broadheads by testing it out before you head afield.

With those two options, any hunter can effectively ready themselves to be accurate in the field, but there is still one missing piece to the puzzle: a good 3D target. Depending on the type of game you’ll be hunting, there are different species of animal targets you can purchase. In addition, most of these targets are made of some sort of durable foam, if not the same self-healing foam as your block target would be. The key is to purchase the targets that have the replaceable inserts.

The best way to really prepare yourself for a hunting situation is to “practice like you play.” If you’re going to hunt deer from a treestand, practice shooting deer from a treestand so you can be certain that both you and your equipment are ready to make a clean, ethical shot. If you do this, you are far more likely to shoot out the vitals, severely damaging that portion of the target over time.

Shooting your crossbow from a kneeling position is a great way to practice in case you’re slipping into a stand, see a deer and need to make a shot.

That is why purchasing a target with a replaceable vitals insert is so critical. The target can withstand decades of use since you’re not shooting at the haunches, neck or legs. Having the ability purchase and swap out only the vitals portion of the target means cost savings and extreme longevity of the target, translating to decades of fun while shooting.

With the prevalence of these types of target for consumers, their widespread use in 3D archery tournaments and for personal use, and with vast improvement in material cost, efficiency, and effectiveness, this lethal trio of essential targets are actually very affordable. You can be sure that, for many years, you’ll be able to rely on your targets to do their job of stopping your arrows, helping you be the most ethical, accurate, and well-practiced hunter so you can put that hunting crossbow to good use this fall!

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