The crossbow is opening up new adventures for folks all across the North American Continent as it rapidly gains the acceptance of the modern bowhunter. But as with any hunting tool, there are safety issues that must be addressed to maximize the overall experience, as well as the results of your hunt.
The very first duty of every new crossbow hunter is to read and understand your owner’s manual thoroughly before ever shooting your crossbow. These instructions are provided to educate the user about the dos and don’ts that are specific to the particular crossbow you have chosen. The owner’s manual will inform you how to maintain your crossbow as well as how not to hurt yourself with it. Any bow that has one hundred and fifty to two hundred and twenty-five pounds of draw weight, can be dangerous and inflict sever injury if it is mishandled or used incorrectly. The manufacturer of your crossbow knows the history of that particular tool and has written a booklet to warn you of what mistakes others have made before you.
Never carry a cocked crossbow with an arrow in it while you are walking. This means that when you are on the range, don’t put an arrow in your bow until you are standing at the line ready to make your shot. Going into and out of the woods, remove the arrow from your bow and place it safely in the quiver. Rarely, there are hunting situations when it may be necessary to place an arrow in your bow and be ready to shoot, when you’re tracking a wounded animal for example. But when you do so, exercise extreme caution and common sense. Keep your safety on until it is necessary to shoot. Keep your crossbow pointed towards the ground and never point your bow in the direction of your hunting companions.
If hunting from a treestand, always cock the crossbow on the ground before climbing into stand. Once you are seated and secured in the treestand, pull up your crossbow with a tow rope and then place an arrow in the bow. When descending use the reverse procedure. Remove the arrow from the bow, lower it to the ground with a tow rope and then undo your safety harness and climb down to the ground. Never raise or lower a cocked crossbow from a treestand with an arrow in it.
Always keep ALL of your fingers and thumb below the rail when shooting an arrow. The physical damage that can be inflicted to a digit by the destructive string of a crossbow is incredibly painful and could skin it right to the very bone or worse. From your very first practice shot, be aware of your shooting form making sure that you fingers are well away from the path of the bow string. It seems that just about every crossbow hunter has made this mistake and learned a painful lesson. On the bright side of the painful error is that 99% of the hunters that make this mistake only do it once.
Never dry-fire a crossbow. Crossbows have a draw weight of 150 – 225 pounds. Dry firing (shooting one without an arrow in it) can cause your bow to break into pieces, endangering yourself and those around you. Get into the habit of frequently checking your safety to insure that it is engaged and always shoot the manufacturer suggested arrows for your particular bow. Shooting an arrow that is much too light can create the same effects as a dry-fire.
Always identify your target and the area beyond it before shooting. This is especially important if you are hunting from the ground. From a treestand, most often you are shooting towards the ground. Know where your arrow is going to go if it passes through your target or misses and flies beyond. Never shoot at a target that is on the top of a hill. There is no way that you can know what is on the other side, therefore the shot should not be made. Don’t let the excitement of the moment cause you to use poor judgement allowing someone or something to be wounded by your carelessness.
Never use a cocking device to uncock a crossbow. The safest way to uncock a crossbow is to fire an arrow into the ground or target. Using a cocking device is not recommended as it can lead to accidents and the dry-firing of your bow. It is faster and safer just to place an arrow in the bow and shoot it into the earth or a safe stop.
Make sure that the limb tips are free of obstructions before shooting. If you hit a branch, post or any other solid subject you run the risk of ruining your bow. It will also change the path of your arrow to who knows where. When you get into a stand, the first thing you should do is bring your bow to your shoulder and move it around to check for clearance. If there is any direction where your limb’s clearance is in question, that direction should be classified as a no-shoot zone. Even if you think that it can be done, once the excitement of the shot is flooding your system with adrenaline, mistakes can be made and a hunt and the crossbow could be ruined.
These are just a few of the many things one should be aware of when shooting and hunting with a crossbow. The National Bowhunters Education Foundation has published a booklet with an in depth study of crossbow safety. For a more information about how to get a copy of this safety guide visit: http://www.horizontalbowhunter.com/