Hunters are a crew that like to argue.
Whether it’s over deer hunting strategies, hunting spots, or gear, there’s a good reason why so many hunting message boards stay active, even after hunting season has ended.
One of those popular debates exists within the bowhunting population and pits the crossbow against the compound bow. Much like any hunting argument, each type of bow has its own ardent supporters and vehement detractors, and there is no real “right” answer in the competition between the two. With all that said, however, there is much to cover in regard to why crossbows are both better and worse than traditional compound bows.
First of all, a lot comes down to feel and comfort with the weapon you are going to be lugging around in the woods for hours at a time. If you’ve been shooting a compound bow for years and know you can hit a bullseye with it from an appreciable distance without thinking twice, stick with the bow. As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
While the crossbow is technically contained within the bowhunting family, it offers a wholly different shooting experience and learning curve from the traditional bow.
If you are switching over to bowhunting from rifles, however, crossbows might be right up your alley. In many ways, crossbows bridge the gap between rifles and compound bows, offering the best of both worlds.
For instance, the aiming is similar to your rifle or shotgun, so if you are a wizard with a firearm, you may well find yourself an accomplished crossbow shooter without too much practice. On the other hand, crossbows can be used during bow season – and usually on bow-only property – helping a seasoned rifleman to open up his hunting opportunities a bit.
Much has been made in the crossbow vs. compound bow debate about the extra speed, kinetic energy, range, and overall accuracy of crossbows.
And indeed, at substantial ranges, crossbows usually give a slight advantage. Since crossbows generally fire with higher levels of kinetic energy and more speed – some break the 400 fps marker, while most compound bows top out at 350 or lower – they can typically expand a shooter’s radius nicely, which may in turn translate to a few more deer kills.
Of course, all shooting accuracy is beholden to the shooter himself, so if you are a mediocre long-ranged shooter with a bow, chances are that a crossbow isn’t going to help you much. Similarly, if accuracy is your middle name, a crossbow might just make you deadlier.
However, what they gain in range and speed, crossbows also gain in bulk. One of the nicest things about compound bows is their lightweight and adjustable design. Crossbows are typically not as customizable to the specific shooter, but are often substantially heavier and more cumbersome than bows, which, while fine at the shooting range, can take its toll on your patience out in the field.