Crossbows From Small Game to Elephants

By Daniel James HendricksDecember 29th, 201538 Comments

As more and more people discover the challenge and excitement of crossbow hunting, hunters are heading off for destinations around the world in pursuit of wild things with crossbows in hand.  Although perhaps the most common quarry for crossbow hunters is the whitetail deer, some who are able to afford it and long to pursue bigger and more exotic game with their crossbows are traveling to the far reaches of the earth to hunt with their crossbows.

The crossbow can be used to hunt any game that is harvested with vertical archery equipment or a firearm.  It is being used successfully for varmits, for bowfishing and for a cornucopia of small game, as well.  Those that fancy the crossbow are quickly establishing the fact that this often misunderstood and maligned hunting tool is just one more challenging option for the modern hunter and should be considered nothing less.

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Bill Troubridge used a 225 pound draw weight recurve crossbow to take this African Elephant.

For most hunting situations involving small to medium sized animals like whitetail deer, a crossbow with a 150-pound draw weight will prove more than efficient enough to get the job done.  For larger game, the conscientious crossbow hunter will desire additional poundage.  And if Elephants, Hippopotami or Cape Buffalo are the targets the prudent hunter goes with the maximum poundage available.  With a range of 150 to 225 pounds of draw weight, any species or special set of circumstances should be able to be easily met with today’s crossbows.
Even with the higher poundage crossbows, however, one must remember that it is still a short range weapon and just because you may be shooting 225 pounds, that does not automatically guarantee you one hundred yard shots as some individuals claim.  Because the crossbow arrow loses its energy more quickly than that of one shot from a vertical bow, you must still get close to your target to insure adequate penetration, as well as a good clean and humane shot.

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Kathy Janczak used a 200 pound compound crossbow to bring down the 1-ton American Bison in Montana.

It is also important to match your arrows and broadheads with your crossbow based on the game you pursue.  For crossbows with heavier draw weights, you will want to use heavier arrows.  For the super-sized quarry like large African animals you will also want to increase the weight of both your arrow and your broadheads.  You will loose a bit of speed, but the shocking power of your projectile will improve penetration insuring maximum damage to your target.  Elephants have thick skin and you don’t really want to irritate them especially after you have already irritated them by sneaking within thirty or forty yards of their position for that “crossbow-close” shot.

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Hunting for the largest of big game animals requires that you use a heavier arrow and broadhead with fixed blades for maximum penetration and shocking power.

Expandable broadheads are great for small to medium sized game animals, but fixed-bladed, cut-on-contact points should be used for larger game.  With expandable heads too much energy is absorbed as the blades open.  On the largest of big game species you will need every ounce of energy you can muster.  Some of the industry leaders are recommending broadheads as heavy as 150-grains, which both improve consistency of arrow flight and the shocking power upon impact.  Most importantly, no matter what species you pursue, make sure that you blades are as sharp as they can possibly be to guarantee maximum penetration and clean cutting.

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Crossbows give everyone a chance to hunt regardless of age or sex. Five year old Courtney McCowan used a 150 compound crossbow to bag her buck.

For small game hunting, Judo points or other small game specific heads work just as well from horizontal equipment and they do from vertical gear.  Many hunters use regular field tips for small game, but the Judo points will prevent your arrows from flying off into oblivion and make recovery of them much easier.  Regular bowfishing points work well out of a crossbow, but no particular company that we know of is manufacturing a reel that is especially made for a crossbow – yet.  Consequently, it will be necessary to jury-rig something with your crossbow using one of the spools or reels manufactured for a vertical bow.

It is critical that you study the anatomy of the animal you intend to pursue so that shot placement is the best and most effective that it can be.  Many of the animals from Africa, for an example, have vital areas, which are located further towards the front of the body than most North American animals.  A killing shot on a Whitetail deer could be a wounding shot on an Impala.  It is important that you know and understand the exact organ location of the animal you’re hunting in order to insure maximum effectiveness of your shot.  If you are hunting with a guide, discuss this subject with him and go to school on his knowledge of the beast.  Good, knowledgeable information will insure the best results and enhance the quality of your hunt.

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Know the anatomy of the animals you are hunting.  Kathy Troubridge with a Zebra taken in Africa.

Because the crossbow is such a new phenomena, there are some species of wild animals that haven’t ever been taken with a crossbow yet, at least not according to public record.  A new record book (the ACF Big Game Register) has been established for trophy animals taken with crossbow by the American Crossbow Federation.  It accepts entries of all species, worldwide, as well as accepting entries taken by an arrow from any kind of archery equipment.
Crossbow hunting is the fastest growing segment of modern hunting and new adventures are being spawned for hunters on a daily basis, both young and old alike. If you are looking for new hunting experiences that can be shared with the entire family, consider the crossbow challenge.

Daniel James Hendricks
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