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Crossbow Hunting Safety

by Daniel James Hendricks 28. December 2011 14:13
Daniel James Hendricks

The crossbow is so powerful it is like a 30.06 that shoots arrows.” 

That’s a claim that has been made by the anti-crossbow camp for decades and the truth of the matter is that with a 100-225 lb. or more draw weight, crossbows usually are more powerful than most vertical bows.  The additional draw weight, however, is necessary to compensate for the shorter power stroke and the lesser amount of KE stored in a crossbow arrow.

One can only assume, therefore, that if a crossbow has a heavier draw weight, it’s more dangerous.  The truth is that, as with any other hunting tool, safety during use is critical with the crossbow.  The very first thing that every new crossbow hunter should do is sit down and read their owner’s manual – cover to cover – at least once; twice is even better.  That manual will explain proper handling and safety procedures for your specific bow.  There are some general practices that apply to all crossbow users regardless of which bow they shoot.   

Mark your serving on each side of the rail so that you can visually check to insure that you have cocked your crossbow evenly.

Step number one is always generously use rail lube and string wax when operating your crossbow.  If the string breaks, bad things will happen to your crossbow and perhaps to the shooter or the people in close proximity.  Both lube and wax preserve the string.  If your string begins to fray and strands break – change it, immediately.  Most crossbows are on safe at the end of the cocking process.  Always check to make sure
that your bow is on safe before doing anything else.  This is very important!  Also make sure that the string is centered after cocking by marking your serving so that you can visually verify that it has been drawn back evenly.  If the string is not centered, it will change the impact point of your arrow similar to using a different anchor point on a vertical bow.
Now listen up!  Please make sure that you thumb is below the rail of the crossbow before releasing your arrow; if not, when you pull the trigger the string will hit your thumb and something is going to give.  It will not be the string!  I’ve seen a variety of severe wounds inflicted by a crossbow string and none of them are fun, even the ones that do not draw blood instead of amputate.  The fact that most folks only do it once is of little comfort when you are hopping around, screaming in pain. 

When choosing a crossbow, select one that has a forestock that will help keep fingers well below the rail preventing injured fingers.

Never dry fire a crossbow.  Shooting a crossbow without an arrow to absorb the energy will blow up your bow and when that happens one is never sure of where all the pieces will fly; you may be seriously hurt.   Remember that a loaded crossbow should be handled exactly and with the same care as a loaded firearm.
On the range, make sure that you have a solid and reliable back stop.  Having a range that is at least 300 yards deep and open is recommended and will allow plenty of room for obstruction-free arrow flight.  Targets should be of a high quality capable of readily stopping an arrow from a crossbow.  If the target is badly worn or of an inferior quality, damage may be inflicted to the shorter crossbow arrows causing costly repairs or even destroying the arrow completely.

Cock the crossbow on the ground before raising it into the stand with a safety rope.

Now let’s move into the field and take a look as some common sense practices there.  When hunting from an elevated stand always cock your crossbow on the ground and then use a tow rope to raise it to the platform.  Do not attempt to climb into a stand carrying your crossbow. Once you are secured in your stand with a safety harness (always use a fall arrest system in an elevated stand), then raise your crossbow and load it.  Never have an arrow in place when raising or lowering your crossbow.  That’s how people get killed, and yes it has happened.  Unless your sitting in an enclosed stand, after taking a shot, your crossbow should be lowered to the ground to be recocked.  If you use a cocking device, which can be implemented from a sitting position, remaining in your stand is acceptable.  Never lean over in a treestand to cock your crossbow.
The preferred method for crossbow hunting is from a ground blind or an elevated stand.  The crossbow may be used for still hunting or stalking, but extra caution should be applied.  The crossbow may be cocked and on safe, but one should never move through the bush with an arrow loaded on the rail.  When game is spotted, only then should an arrow be loaded onto the crossbow.  Until that moment, the arrow with the broadhead completely protected should be carried in a bow or hip quiver, not in your hand.

Never shoot at a target on rise without knowing what is on the other side.

It is important that one never shoots a crossbow at a sky-lined animal.  It is critical that you are able to see exactly where your arrow is going to go so that no living thing is accidently harmed by your shot.  As with vertical archery, one should always wait until the game you are shooting at is relaxed and standing still.  No shots should be taken at moving targets.  Making drives while crossbow hunting is not an acceptable practice and should be avoided.
It is important that you are fully aware of all local ordinances regarding shooting your crossbow.  Check with local officials or authorities to make sure that you are not violating any laws while you practice.
There are no more injuries with a crossbow than there are with vertical archery equipment, but it still happens every year.  Knowing your equipment and being aware of common-sense safety procedures will insure that the time you spend in the field will be accident-free and gratifying for all around you.  Good luck and good hunting.

Make sure that your fingers and thumb are well below the rail to prevent injury or loss of digits.

The National Bowhunting Education Foundation publishes a booklet entitled Today’s Crossbow.  This publication’s the official Crossbow Hunters Safety program used by the NBEF.  To obtain a copy, email and request it by name.

Safety features to consider when buying a crossbow. 
Anti-dry fire safety - Some models of crossbows have an anti-dry fire mechanism that prevents the trigger from being pulled when there is no arrow loaded.  This is a common mistake that has been responsible for the destructions of many a crossbow.  Choosing a crossbow with this safety feature can save its owner a lot of misfortune and expense.  Consider it when you are looking for the right crossbow for you.

When tracking or still hunting never have an arrow loaded in the bow.

Preventive Fore-grip – Perhaps the most common injury inflicted by a crossbow is thumbs bruised, torn or even partially removed by the crossbow string when firing.  Many crossbows have specially designed fore-stocks that make it very difficult for this accident to happen.  I would like to say “never”, but there’s always one guy in the crowd that will manage to hurt himself no matter what precautions are taken.  One characteristic that should be considered when purchasing a new crossbow is the conformation of the fore-stock.  Look for one that aids the shooter in keeping the thumb and fingers well below the shooting rail.

Cocking Rope – Another device that can increase safety as well as imrove performance is a cocking rope.  This handy device cuts the draw weight of a crossbow in half, thereby saving wear and tear on the user, especially during practice sessions when many shots are taken.  It also increases accuracy of the crossbow by consistently drawing the string back to the exact same position.  Most companies also offer crank cocking devices that draw back the string by a mechanical winch that requires no effort other than turning the crank.  One company even markets crossbows with the cocking device built right into the stock of the crossbow.  All of these options will increase your safety, while enhancing your shooting experience.









Essential Tools For Hanging Treestands

by Justin Zarr 24. July 2011 16:23
Justin Zarr

Every year about this time I curse myself for not hanging more treestands during the spring. It seems like I always start out with good intentions, but once the weather breaks my mind wanders to other things and before you know it August is staring you in the face. So despite the heat and the bugs it's time to hang a few treestands before fall comes. So I grab my stand-hanging pack, some bug spray, a couple Lone Wolf stands and off I go.

Inside my stand-hanging pack there's a variety of tools and supplies that are essential to hanging stands quickly, effectively and most important safely. In no order of imporance here are the items I carry with me while hanging and trimming treestand locations.

  • Lineman's Belt
  • Hand Saw
  • Extentible Pole Saw
  • Hand Pruners
  • Screw-in tree steps
  • Gear hooks
  • Realtree E-Z Hangers
  • Bright Eyes reflective tacks
  • Bow ropes/Hoists
  • Treestand lock
  • Bug Spray


All of this gear has it's specific purpose that allows me to hang and trim my treestand locations more quickly and safely than ever before.

Let's start with the lineman's belt. This is probably the most important piece of gear to have as it not only makes hanging stands a LOT easier, it makes it a lot safer as well. I personally use the Treehopper belt, which I have retrofitted with a Lone Wolf linesman's belt. I prefer not to wear my full body harness that I wear while hunting primarily because I don't want to get it smelly with bug spray and sweat. The Treehopper is extremely easy to use and allows me to hang stands and sticks while having both hands free. If you're hanging stands without some kind of lineman's belt do yourself, and your family, a favor and get one before you hang another stand. Even if you don't ever slip, you'll thank me after seeing how much easier it is to hang a stand when you have both hands free.

After you get your stands up in the tree it's time to trim some shooting lanes. There's three tools I use for this - the hand saw, pole saw and hand pruners. With these three items you should be able to trim just about any shooting lane you could need. Since these tools are used quite a bit, and used hard, I make sure to use the best ones I can find. I've found the best combination to be the Wicked Tree Gear hand saw, Treehopper "Lane Maker" ratcheting pruners, and Hooyman 10 foot extentible pole saw.

The Wicked Tree Gear hand saw is a brand new product for this year, and so far it's performed extremely well. What sets this particular saw apart is the all-metal construction and extremely durable blade. There isn't a single plastic part on this saw which means it's extremely durable and won't break on you. The blade is sharp and tough, which means I can not only saw through large limbs but use it for the old "grip and rip", slashing down small twigs, vines, weeds, etc. This is a great product and if you're sick and tired of buying a new hand saw (or two) every year, I suggest you get a Wicked.

The Wicked Tree saw features a cast-aluminum handle and hardened steel hardware, which makes it extremely durable and a great option for hunters who are hard on their gear.

Hand pruners are another item I use a ton. After breaking several pairs of cheap plastic-handle pruners, and not being able to cut through large limbs with standard pruners, I discovered the Lane Maker from Treehopper. Like the Wicked hand saw, the Lane Maker is 100% metal which makes it extremely durable. Mine has made it through two hunting seasons along with constant use around my yard during the off-season, and it's still going strong. The ratching action allows you to cut through limbs up to 1" in diamater, which is very nice.

The ratcheting action of the Lane Maker pruners makes them great for cutting through larger limbs.

Anyone who has read my Blogs over the past several seasons knows how much I like my Hooyman Extendible Saw. The 10 foot version is perfect for reaching some of those out-of-range limbs, and it's packability is great for both pre-season and in-season lane trimming. It's not the greatest pole saw in the world as far as the durability of the blade goes, but the packability and versatility makes this saw certainly worth the purchase.

Here Pro Staff Blogger Scott Abbott uses his 10 foot Hooyman saw to trim shooting lanes during the summer.

With the stand hung and lanes trimmed before I leave I always make sure that it's properly "accessorized". That includes hanging a bow rope, screwing in several small gear hooks to hang my pack, rattling antlers, quiver, etc and a bow hanger. I personally like the Realtree E-Z Hanger, which seems to be a pretty popular choice with quite a few hunters. Unfortuatnely with some of the less-than-honest folks roaming the woods these days, I also lock my stands to the tree before leaving as well. Although it won't completely prevent stand theft, it will hopefully deter it.

On my way out of the woods I like to mark my stands with a few Bright Eyes reflective tacks. This allows me to better find the stand again when it's dark. This is very helpful those first few hunts of the year when you've haven't been to that stand in a couple of months. After all, nobody likes wandering around the woods in the dark, looking for their stand on opening day!

A couple other items I carry with me at all times are spare tree straps and a couple of screw-in tree steps. You never know when you'll need an extra strap or two to help get your sticks or stand around larger trees, or when you'll need that one extra step to get your stand in just the right spot.

So as you head out this summer to prepare your stand for fall, make sure you bring everything you'll need to get the job done right the first time. Making sure your stands are 100% ready to go before the season starts can not only increase your chances of success but make your hunt a lot more enjoyable as well.

Treestand Safety

by Bow Staff 4. January 2009 10:24
Bow Staff

Treestand safety is something bowhunters don’t think about much unless they have a treestand accident. Almost all serious bowhunters know someone who has had a treestand accident. I know several individuals who have fallen from treestands. One gentleman I know had an accident in 2007. He is in his twenties and is now confined to a wheelchair.

To continue reading the story on treestand safety click here.


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