Crossbows: Myths and Facts – Part B

By Daniel James HendricksFebruary 15, 20151 Comment

UPDATED ON: May 1st, 2015

In my January blog, I began detailing a recent conversation that I’d had with a young man that had nothing good to say about crossbows or their inclusion into the archery season; but I ran out of space before completing the story and promised to pick the subject up again in the February blog… and so we continue.

Currently, 25 U.S. states allow the crossbow to be used during the entire archery season, the remaining half allows the crossbow for disabled hunters and in a wide variation of limited circumstances for able-bodied hunters.

For the record, this discussion was taking place in Minnesota where the crossbow is legal for hunters with disabilities, all hunters over the age of 60, all hunters during the firearm season, and all hunters during the turkey and bear seasons.  Not bad, but not nearly good enough as those restrictions leave our state lagging seriously behind half the country and a lot of hunters sitting out the archery season because they cannot get a disabled permit and they are unable to use vertical archery equipment that is adequate to take big game.

In the last blog, we covered two of his objections; the fact that the crossbow is more dangerous than other hunting implements and the claim that the crossbow is a poacher’s weapon.  When those two arguments had been laid to rest, the next classic myth that was brought up just happens to be one of my favorites; and one of the easiest to knock out of the park when it is tossed in your direction, “Well, the crossbow will decimate the deer herd if it is allowed.”

I love this classic crossbow myth and I’ll tell you why…  at one time, the crossbow was a wicked weapon of war, so much so that the Pope outlawed its use on the battlefield because it was considered by the him to be too deadly… just because it could shoot through armor.  It seems the Pope did not know that… if you outlaw crossbows, only outlaws will have crossbows.  Well believe it or not, this action by the Pope was the very beginning the modern mentality that still surrounds the anti-crossbow camps arguments.  And furthermore, shortly after the Papal ban, gunpowder replaced all forms of archery in warfare, which was apparently fine with the Pope because lead seemed to be a much friendlier way to kill somebody; and besides that, you could do it from so dang far away, which also helped to remove the ugliness of carnage… I guess.


Because of the physics of a crossbow, most of the weight is forward making the crossbow more difficult to hold steady.  Extend that weight out even further to increase the power stroke for more kinetic energy and it becomes even more difficult to steady.

The argument that the crossbow will decimate the deer herd is a real knee-slapper for those of us that reason to survive since we have been unable to complete the decimation with the high-powered rifle (the tool that made the bow and arrows obsolete in the first place).  But for some magical and mystical reason, the crossbow is going to kill them all (and perhaps even make the high powered rifle obsolete in modern hunting).  Is anybody following me here?  Does this kind of malnourished logic make even a little bit of sense to anyone (other than the anti-crossbow crowd).  A young child after watching the comparison of a crossbow and a rifle on the range will without a shadow of a doubt explain to you why the rifle will decimate the deer herd (if anything can) long before the crossbow ever would.

Still, in spite of the turning tides, which clearly favor the crossbow, the antis blatantly and passionately avow that the bloody end of the deer herd has arrived with the legalization of the crossbow; while their grade school children cock their pretty little heads and say, “Daddy, that’s not true.”

To claim that a crossbow is nothing more than a 30-06 that shoots arrows does nothing to establish credibility for the claimer. Even a small child can see that the crossbow and the high powered rifle are not even close to being equal.

And in every state where the crossbow has become a legal option, annual harvest results document the fact that the deer herd remains unaffected by the deadly and heinous presence of the crossbow in the archery season, in spite of what the naysayers have predicted.

Have you ever noticed that when you are discussing the pros and cons of the crossbow with an anti, it’s like going to a shooting gallery.  A target pops up, you use facts and logic to knock it down and another one pops up to take its place.

With the target of deer herd decimation shot down and properly buried the next one to pop up was, “Well the crossbow is too accurate, it’s just like a 30-06 that shoots arrows.”

If the crossbow is too accurate, as proclaimed by the antis, why do the vertical archery shooters out score the crossbow shooters at State & National archery shoot all across the country?


Another canned pitch that has been launched against the crossbow for decades, but again, another claim that is just as mythical as the mystical unicorn.   You calmly look at the person and question the claim by asking, “Too accurate?”

What the heck does that mean?  Are vertical bowhunters going into the field with inaccurate bows?  Why?  To scare the deer?  To educate them?  To wound them so that you can practice your blood trailing?  What kind of a common sense statement is that?  From the time my daddy first took me into the woods with a loaded gun, he ingrained in me that a hunter has a duty, an obligation, to kill their quarry as quickly and humanely as possible; and one of the best ways to do that is to sight in your weapon, whatever it is, so that it shoots straight and accurately.

Duh! Let me repeat that… DUH!

Never did my father or any other hunting mentor that I had cover any material about my weapon being “too” accurate!  What kind of a dipstick would make an off the wall statement like that in the first place, about a crossbow or any other weapon?  Are you starting to see why these folks just may be losing credibility and making themselves look bad to the majority of American hunters?

And as far as the crossbow being like a 30-06 that shoots arrows, could this be a fantasy or a delusion also?  Once again, even a small child sees the senselessness of this statement.  Comparing and equating an arrow shot from a crossbow with a bullet shot from a 30-06 is definitely Mythology 101.

It is a documented fact, by the way, that crossbow hunters miss just as many animals; and wound just as many animals that they don’t recover, just as often as any other hunter regardless of the weapon they are using.  Fifty-four years of chasing big game animals with all legal hunting options has taught me that the most successful hunters are not successful because of the weapon they use, but instead because of the hunting skills they possess.  Their familiarity and knowledge of their killing hardware and its limitations; the knowledge of the terrain in which their quarry resides; and the understanding of the behavior of the animals they hunt; that is what makes a hunter successful.  As long as the hunter is equipped with the proper knowledge and experience, he can take game with a spear.

The speeds of an arrow from a crossbow are much more comparable to that of an arrow shot from a vertical bow, not a 30-06; and the arrows from a crossbow are just as susceptible to brush, twigs and other obstructions as those shot from a vertical bow.  Actually, the vertical bow is a more efficient long-range archery option than the crossbow as it produces more kinetic energy than a crossbow.  Now, agreeably, the crossbow most often has a heavier draw weight, but the draw weight is not what determines the amount of kinetic energy transferred to the projectile it launches, it is the length of the power stroke or the distance that the string is actually pushing the arrow that determines the energy load.  The longer the power stroke, the more kinetic energy that is stored in the arrow; and that is one of the physical limitations in the design of a crossbow.

Just as many animals are missed, wounded and not recovered with the crossbow as with any other hunting tool.  The main reason for bad shots regardless of the weapon is inferior hunting skills and habits.


A large portion of the weight of the crossbow is the all the way forward, it is already harder to hold it as steady as a vertical bow.  Because of the way the weight is distributed, the shooter must struggle to control the bob and weave of his aiming point.  Therefore, if you make the crossbow longer to extend the length of the power stroke, you are increasing the inability to hold the bow steady.

There are natural physical limitations that control the dynamics of a crossbow.  To gain kinetic energy, you can increase the draw weight, but you can only do that so much before you have created a crossbow that cannot be easily used by most.  The TAC Crossbow by PSE is a classic example of this; it is a very powerful bow, but in order to be so powerful its construction and design makes it so front end heavy and heavy overall that it does not make a good hunting bow for most hunters, but Arnold Schwartzenegger could use it when he gets “pumped up”!  That’s why it comes with a bi-pod, to help the user hold it steady.  I personally would need a wheelbarrow to transport it to my stand; and once there I couldn’t hold it steady even if I could lift it to my shoulder.  There are just certain physics that limit what you can do with the design of a crossbow and still make it comfortable to use for the average hunter.

Once again, I am running out of space and I still have a couple more points to discuss, but we will wrap this up during the March blog.  If you have any input on this subject, please feel free to leave your thoughts below.  I look forward to reading your comments, pro or con.

Until next time, please take care, be well and God bless.

Daniel James Hendricks
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