Nicole McClain: Crossbow Myth Busting

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By Nicole McClain

Nicole McClain on Deer & Deer Hunting

Crossbows are efficient weapons for deer hunting – for hunters of all ages, sizes and experience levels. (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

Crossbows are for girls.

Crossbows will decimate the herds.

Crossbows are faster than compound bows.

Crossbow cocking straps are for pansies.

Too many times I hear negative and misleading chatter about crossbows, including all of the above, compounded (no pun intended) by their range is too great, they make it too easy to shoot a deer, and/or they are the best weapon for beginners who want to “get into hunting.”

Which brings me to my first myth.

Myth: Crossbows are for girls – only

Crossbows are for girls. And they’re for dudes too. There, I said it. Calm down fellas and seasoned hunters, we’ll take these next few points slowly.

Yes, crossbows are more accurate in the hands of more people, I’ll give you that. They are perfect for getting a child or teen involved in bowhunting, and allow older hunters in their 60s and 70s to hunt during the archery season when they are physically unable to shoot a traditional or compound bow.

I use crossbows (not exclusively). I own two. I’m a girl. This doesn’t mean crossbows are the “best” or the only gear I should try as a female hunter, beginner, disabled hunter or teen.

Here’s my take – shoot what you want to shoot regardless of what any sales guy or seasoned hunter tells you. Don’t let intimidation, stereotypes or people who embrace your “so-called” weaknesses (revisit blog post 1 for a crash course in weakness junkies) discourage you. I’ve shot with some of the best this country has to offer and I didn’t let them tell me I was better off taking it slow. Challenge yourself to be the best and remember: Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect – whatever you shoot.

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Myth: Crossbows have a faster FPS speed than vertical compound bows

One misconception about crossbows is that they are consistently long-range tools that let you take a deer at 60, 70 or 80 yards. It’s not true. In reality, the crossbow adds only about 10 yards onto what you can accomplish with a compound.

Crossbows by design are not that complicated. It’s really a vertical compound bow turned horizontal on its axis, connected to a stock. But on a technical level? They are shorter-range fun guns, have a much shorter power stroke, and use shorter and lighter arrows that drop and lose kinetic energy more quickly after the shot – even though they travel at comparable speeds to any vertical compound.

From my experience, guidelines would say keep to a range of 45 yards. I’m more a conservative shooter so I hangout around 25-30 yards, but I’ve taken a buck within as little as 12 yards.

It’s a misconception that crossbows offer an unfair advantage to deer hunters. In reality, their performance is very similar to today’s common high-performance compound bows. (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

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Myth: Leaving a crossbow cocked for a few days is fine

Shine the light in my eyes and ask me to tell the truth: I’ve been known to leave my crossbow cocked, and unloaded, for way too many days knowing I was going hunting later that afternoon – and then never went back out. Hell, I’ve gone as long as a full week or two. Bad idea, Jack.

While I’ve never run into any problems for my stupidity in this department (knocks on her head), it puts unnecessary stress on the cables, bowstring, limbs and trigger, ultimately shortening the life of your anodized-finish hunting pal. Not to mention, if you hunt in an area with go-go-get ’em rangers in your area, most states have regulations around time and place for your crossbow being uncocked.

So with all of these mistakes known, isn’t it just easier to fire a practice arrow into the ground? Sure. I’m leaving myself a hand-written note penned by yours truly, the hypocrite.

Read Nicole’s Expanded “I’m A Deer Hunter” Feature Now For More Insights!

Myth: Cocking straps are for people who aren’t full of muscle, AKA “pansies”

I’ve seen a few guys muscle a 175-pound pull acting like it’s a piece of cake, and all the while their face looks like they just crapped a piece of cake. It’s not about being a pansy or a muscle head; it’s about accuracy and consistency.

As in other forms of archery, consistency is very important for crossbow accuracy. (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

The string needs to be locked into the correct position or the arrow will be released inconsistently. This means two things: 1. You’ll spend two days at the range cursing the name of your crossbow manufacturer because you can’t shoot a consistent grouping; or 2. You’ll sight it in thinking it’s close enough and when Mr. 12-Point comes strolling in at 25 yards, you’re going to miss the vitals. And here’s a bonus – using a cocking strap takes 50-60 percent of the resistance off your shoulders, arms and back.

So roll down your sleeves and put those hearty muscles away. Using a cocking strap will allow for precise and accurate shooting, and you won’t have to be the embarrassed guy downrange who just crapped his cake.

Myth: Crossbows will ruin the sport of hunting – if they haven’t already

Traditionalists back in the ‘70s cried the same tears when the vertical compound was introduced into the long-lived world of recurves and longbows. The “potential” (I say this in jest) ruination of game because of the perceived advanced technology that was threatening to not only deer herds, but offered no challenge to the hunter in the pursuit of deer and game that could now be taken at a farther range. Four decades later, vertical compounds have taken over the market, have improved cams and split risers and use arrows that sail at remarkable speeds. And guess what? The deer herds haven’t been decimated. Who woulda thunk…

Myth: Crossbows should be legal during archery season

OK, this really isn’t a myth, more so giving me a chance to express my opinion – you can do that as a rogue blog author. Guess what, crossbows aren’t going anywhere. They might be illegal in Oregon and now New York, pending legislation in Wisconsin, and banned from use during archery season in 24 states, but they are still alive and well in 24 other states. In the right hands they produce quick, clean shots and are more accurate than a compound bow.

Nicole McClain. Warrior. Survivor. Deer Hunter.

Crossbows are a great way to involve more people into the hunting lifestyle. Take them shooting and they’ll be hooked for life. (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

Stop the chatter and downward spiral of wasted time. Crossbow hunters are your friends, especially when the anti-hunting troops rally around and try to overpower us hunters in numbers. These are needless arguments within the hunting community about said topics, when instead we should be collaborating on how to introduce hunting opportunities for everyone, especially younger generations, regardless of the weapon choice.

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Nicole is connected with brands and foundations like Pink Arrow Project, Lumenok, CAMX Crossbows, Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, 20th Century Fox, Fight Like a Girl!, J.C. Penney, TGI Fridays, Kellogg’s, Coldwater Creek, Susan G. Komen, U.S. Elite, Pickle Press Comics, Grange Insurance, and CamoTrading.com.

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