Crossbows open new hunting opportunities and enhance success, but you can improve your odds even more by following these five proven strategies.
by Brad Fenson for HuntDaily
Hunting out of a treestand or a ground blind can provide many benefits to the crossbow hunter. First and foremost, it increases your opportunity to get within shooting distance of game, which, in most cases, would be 40 to 50 yards or less. The structures also keep us out of sight and provide a good field of view to watch for game. Fast, lightweight, easy to operate crossbows like the Wicked Ridge Invader G3 are great options for this style of “ambush hunting.”
Once your stand or blind is properly and securely set up, you will need to cut adequate shooting lanes to the active game trails or feeding areas you will be watching. Taking the time to create these direct lines of sight will avoid potential arrow deflections.
Check Limb Clearance
Whenever you set up, the first thing you need to do is ensure proper limb clearance for your crossbow. There is nothing worse than pulling the trigger and having one of your crossbow limbs smack a tree limb, blind wall, or other obstruction. It will inevitably throw your arrow off course and all of your preparation and patterning efforts will be lost in a split second. Tree stands and blinds are famous for spoiling a hunt because hunters don’t “rehearse” their shots before game time. If you plan on shooting out of a blind, practice out of that blind and make sure to try various angles to confirm you know how much clearance is required when you squeeze the trigger. The same goes for treestands. Shooting rails can be helpful, but have also been known to foil the perfect shot.
Should you find yourself in a situation where you haven’t shot your bow and don’t know what the clearance is, use your arrow as a measuring tool. Most arrows are about the same width as your uncocked bow. If you find there is a variance, you can mark one arrow with the proper width and use it to measure. For example, the Invader G3 is 22 inches wide uncocked. This lightweight speedster shoots a 20-inch arrow and, when set up with a broadhead, has the perfect comparable length to represent the bow’s limb width. Hold up the arrow and change angles to see where it can be shot without making contact with anything.
Another important clearance issue involves your sighting line versus the arrow’s flight line. In other words, your scope is up here while your arrow is down there. You may have a perfect line of sight out of your blind’s window, but your arrow may shoot right into your blind wall. Be aware of this distance between your sight line and arrow flight path.
Sit to Shoot
There are a couple of big considerations when preparing and practicing for shooting from blinds and stands. To start with, if you do not regularly practice from the sitting position or off of a support, you need to do so. Shoot from the same chair that you will use in the blind, and ensure you can sit high enough to see out the windows. Many camp chairs sag and leave a shooter sitting too low to line up for a shot, forcing you to squirm to the edge of the chair or end up crouching in the blind. The extra movement can alert game and force you to shoot from an uncomfortable position. The same is true for treestands. Practice is the best line of defense against bad form or unforeseen problems. Set up your treestand at the same height you intend to hunt from and practice shooting at different angles that you normally wouldn’t be familiar with.
Save time and decrease movement in your stand or blind by knowing your effective range before a deer shows up. Use a range finder to confirm the distance to known objects in your shooting lanes and use them as reference points. Confirm the farthest distance you can shoot and anything inside the zone means fair game. Having reference points at 10-yard intervals will ensure you are dead-on accurate when a deer shows up, and you won’t have to move to check the distance—just level the crosshair and pull the trigger. Use trees, rocks, or any natural features as reference points. If none exist, don’t be afraid to place markers. Even a stick, broken branch, or flagging tape can be used as confirmed reference points. If you are putting out markers, make sure to do so before you hunt so you don’t spread your scent around your hunting area.
Practice on 3D
Three-dimensional targets are invaluable for showing you shooting angles and where your crossbow arrow would enter or exit an animal. Understanding angles is extremely important, especially when hunting from an elevated position, where you need to visualize where an arrow will exit an animal to ensure it travels through the vitals. Picturing the exit pinpoints the target area where you will focus your crosshair. Shooting the target at different angles, from complete broadside to quartering away, is also a great learning tool that could help you recognize good shot opportunities in the field.
Crossbows have significantly expanded our hunting opportunities and, for many folks, boosted their success ratio. Yet as with any hunting weapon, attention to setup details and real-world practice is often what spells the difference between “buck down” and going home cold, tired, and empty handed. By practicing these strategies, you can better put yourself in the former column instead of the latter!
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