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The introduction of bow hunting to the next generation has gotten easier over the years as many states and provinces now offer special youth hunting seasons where youngsters can get first crack at a deer or elk before the regular hunting season begins. It's a great way for beginners to test into this physically demanding sport with ease, and an opportunity to see a mix of wildlife before the pressures of the season impact population. While many states allow their youngsters to use just about any legal weapon during these seasons, there's something to be said for starting your young hunter out on a crossbow.
While there are youth bows on the market, it's important to recognize that not every young person will be ready for the discipline and practice required to handle a recurve or compound bow. That's why we like crossbows for young hunters. They offer better range and accuracy while encouraging development of the basics including shot placement and safety. Finding the right equipment for your youngster can be confusing at first thought, however, the perfect option is out there. To help simplify the process, we've mapped out everything you need to know from the features to consider to expert recommendations on crossbow packages by use case.
How to Select a Youth Crossbow
Unlike with firearms and compound bows not many hunting crossbow manufacturers specifically market their products to youth hunters, which isn't too much of problem. Your primary concern with a youth crossbow is weight and it being too heavy for a young hunter to raise or aim. It also isn't a bad idea to invest in a tree stand with a shooting rail or shooting sticks for them to rest the forend, a great trick for improved shot accuracy and reduced movements that could spook a deer or other big game animal.
A crossbow with an adjustable stock is something else to consider as it allows you to adjust the butt stock to body size for more comfortable shooting. This type of versatility will save you money in the long run as the crossbow can be used by yourself or adjusted it to grow with your young hunter. We do recommend getting a shorter, more compact bow--and not just because it's going to be easier to handle. A shorter bow is ideal because the sight picture will be reduced making it easier for a younger hunter to aim accurately.
The nice thing about crossbows is that the bow is going to hold the bolt at full draw by itself. That means you don't need to compromise on draw weight and power based on the reduced physical abilities of the child. That gives crossbows a huge edge over starting a youth bowhunter on other forms of archery. Odds are, you are going to be cocking the crossbow for the child anyway for safety reasons, so it also doesn't really matter if your bow of choice uses a mechanical or rope cocking device.
No matter what crossbow you choose, it's important to make sure the child gets plenty of range time before heading out for his or her first hunt. Practice is a good time to go over the basics of game animal anatomy, shot placement, and safety procedures. Properly done, the lessons will last a lifetime. We do recommend keeping shots for youth hunters with a crossbow inside of 40 yards despite the capabilities of the weapon. Some parents may choose to limit them to even shorter ranges than that. Simply because it's a good chance to teach vital lessons on the discipline and patience required in hunting. These are lessons they can carry with them throughout their hunting career. With that in mind, here are the top bows we'd consider if introducing a youth hunter to the tradition this fall. We chose these options based mostly on safety, simplicity of use, and weight of the weapon. Although we also tried to pick options that should last a while and won't break the bank for a young hunter's first weapon.
1. A Simple Option Designed For New Hunters
The Avenger Recruit is an excellent choice for youth hunters since it was designed with beginners in mind. This is a no-frills option with a 130-pound draw weight that produces speeds of 330 feet per second (fps). This bow features an adjustable buttstock that's perfect for growing youth hunters. At the same time, it's a very compact package. The bow is 16 inches axle-to-axle. The overall length is just over 34 inches. The 6.4-pound weight of this crossbow also makes it ideal for younger hunters to easily handle. Barnett packed an additional safety feature into this one in the form of an anti-dry fire device in the trigger. They have also included a 4x32 power scope and an arrow quiver. The only thing they don't supply are crossbow bolts and broadheads. For $300, this is a great package to get any young hunter started.
2. A Compact Limb Design Perfect for Small Blinds
We like this option for hunting from a compact tower stand or ground blind where space is at a minimum. This bow's limbs are just 10.5 inches un-cocked and six inches when the cocking system is engaged and ready to fire. That's just going to make it easier for the child to turn and fire at an angle if a deer comes within range in an unexpected spot. When fired, the 13-inch power stroke produces arrow speeds of nearly 400 fps. Center Point says to expect 142-foot pounds of energy, more than enough to down whitetails and other similar-sized game. There's also an anti-dry fire system and auto safety which are great features when working with younger hunters. The bow also isn't overly heavy at seven pounds. Center Point includes a 3x32 illuminated scope. They also include a rope cocker that will make quick work of the 200-pound draw weight.
3. A Classic Crossbow From a Reputable Brand
Coming in at just six pounds, the Wicked Ridge is an already proven compound crossbow that has harvested many a youngster's first deer. TenPoint Crossbow says to expect 380-400 fps speeds depending on the weight of the arrows you use with the bow's 185-pound draw weight. This crossbow has a 13.5-inch power stroke and comes in at 35.5 inches long and 15 inches axle-to-axle while cocked. It's honestly a great choice for everyone, not just youth hunters. It might be the one to consider if you're looking for something you can use yourself while the kids are in school. Ten Point includes everything you need to get started including a cocking device, a three-arrow quiver, and a lighted 3x scope. They even include three XX75 aluminum arrows and field points. This is a good option if your kid is a south paw as the safety can be easily switched to a left-handed configuration.
An Option That Will Last a Child Through Years of Use
If you are on the hunt for something rugged and adjustable that will last your young hunter for years to come, the Killer Instinct is a great choice. This crossbow offers a slim profile thanks to the 6.25-inch axle-to-axle cocked width that's going to be ideal for sitting in a ground blind or ladder stand with your young hunter. Another big benefit here is the adjustable buttstock that effectively makes this a crossbow they can transition from youth season to regular archery season as they grow older. The Fatal X has a 195-pound draw weight, and 13.5-inch power stroke that delivers 400+ fps speeds and 142-pounds of kinetic energy. We dig the cam design of this crossbow that gives it a 50 percent let-off. As a bonus, Killer Instinct includes a rope cocker, quiver, three crossbow bolts with field tips, and even a stick of rail lube to help keep the crossbow maintained. The crossbow is also backed with a limited lifetime warranty, so it's ready for many years of abuse in the field. It is a little heavier at 7.2 pounds, but should be manageable for youngsters with shooting sticks or a good rest.
5. The Best Low Maintenance Option
Coming in at six pounds, this light recurve crossbow is the perfect option for anyone who wants something simple to maintain. Just about anyone can replace the string on this one, no expensive archery pro shop visit required. Excalibur says to expect 340-fps arrow speeds from this one. It's a little slower than some of the other options on this list, but the simplicity in the design also means there are fewer things to go wrong and spoil a youngster's first hunt. We like the suppressors placed on the limbs to help eliminate shock and vibration. They are going to make this one much more comfortable to shoot for youngsters. This bow features anti-dry fire technology and comes in a couple different color patterns to match your child's hunting clothing. Excalibur also includes a quiver, rope cocker tool, and three arrows complete with field points to start practice right away.
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