How Far Should You Shoot With A Crossbow?

By Justin ZarrOctober 10, 2022
Knowing the limits of your shooting ability and your equipment is critical for any hunter.

As hunting with a crossbow gains popularity and crossbow technology continues to improve, many hunters are asking themselves how far they should be shooting while hunting.  And that’s a great question to ask!  Knowing your limits and the limits of your equipment is of the utmost importance, regardless of the weapon you carry into the field.

With crossbow manufacturers hyping 100-yard accuracy and record-breaking speeds, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and overextend your range.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that as fast and as accurate as modern crossbows may be, they are still bows.  And a lot can happen between the time your arrow leaves the bow and when it impacts your intended target.


Generally speaking, there are three separate distances we consider when shooting a crossbow.

#1 – Maximum Range Distance

As the name implies, this is the max distance you feel comfortable shooting while at the range.  Keep in mind you’re in a controlled environment, likely shooting from a stable rest, at a target that isn’t moving.  These are ideal conditions best suited for sighting in your bow and having fun shooting arrows at much longer distances than you would typically be hunting at.

Taking The Crossbow Plunge
Shooting on a range under ideal conditions is a great place to sight in your bow and have fun shooting long distances.

#2 – Maximum Confidence Distance

This is your “how good am I, really?” range.  Some people may be able to put 2 arrows in a 1-inch group at 100 yards.  Others may be 60 yards, and for some, that may be 40.  Try not to overstate your abilities here and be honest with yourself. 

How Far Should You Shoot With A Crossbow?
Being accurate on the range is one thing. How accurate can you be from a tree when the pressure is on?

#3 – Maximum Ethical Distance

If bowhunters bend the truth regarding their confidence distance, they usually break it when it comes to ethical distance.  And while there is no definitive answer to the age-old question of “how far is too far?” we like to recommend 40-50 yards as the maximum ethical shot distance on whitetail-sized game animals.

Can most of us shoot small enough groups at further distances?  We sure can.  And are our crossbows capable of shooting accurately at those long ranges? They sure are!

When it’s crunch time, and your heart is pounding, it’s cold, and you’ve got your #1 target buck in front of you, how far can you ethically shoot?  Keep in mind the longer the shot distance, the more time your arrow is in flight and the more your target can duck, dodge and dip to try and get out of the way.

Justin Zarr
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General Manager at Bowhunting.com
Justin has been bowhunting for more than 30 years and co-hosting the popular bowhunting show Bowhunt or Die since 2010.  He lives in the NW suburbs of Chicago with his wife, 3 children, and semi-smelly dog.
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