Deer hunting with a crossbow provides an exciting challenge that many hunters relish. Using a crossbow enables hunters to have more range, accuracy, and velocity than traditional archery gear while providing a quieter shot than firearms for a stealthier hunt. With crossbow technology improving every year, 2024 will see some excellent options for deer hunters on a $500 or less budget.
When looking for the best crossbow in this price range, key factors to consider are:
- Power and Velocity – The feet per second (fps) of a crossbow determines how much speed and kinetic energy the arrow will have for deeper penetration. Most states require a minimum of 350 fps for hunting large game like deer.
- Draw Weight – This measures how much strength is required to pull the string back and load an arrow. For deer, a 150 lb to 175 lb draw is ideal for knockdown power.
- Accuracy – With added power comes recoil. A more accurate crossbow will provide a consistent shot placement through integrated components.
- Range – The practical shooting distance for a given crossbow. A range of 40-50 yards is best for deer hunting situations.
- Features – Aspects like safety mechanisms, noise dampening, decocking capability, scopes, and more affect the usability and functionality.
Taking all these factors into consideration, below are the top-rated crossbows that provide the best performance for deer hunting while fitting under a $500 budget:
Top Crossbows for Deer Hunting Under $500
|Barnett Whitetail Hunter II
|Anti-dry fire trigger<br>Lightweight synthetic stock
|Killer Instinct Rush 380
|Ultralight & narrow stock <br>Dead silent safety
|CenterPoint Amped 415
|CNC machined cams <br>AR-style stock
|Barnett Recruit Terrain
|Finger reminders & pass-through fore grip <br> Terrain digital camo pattern
|TenPoint Wicked Ridge M-370
|ACUdraw Pro integrated cocking mechanism <br> T2 trigger tech trigger
Below we will take an in-depth look at each of these top-rated affordable crossbows for deer hunting and review their power, accuracy, features, and other details that make them capable performers in the field for the money.
Barnett Whitetail Hunter II
- Speed: 350 fps
- Draw Weight: 150 lbs
- Power Stroke: 13″
With decades of experience crafting hunting crossbows, Barnett is a leader in entry-level to mid-range price point models that perform. The Whitetail Hunter II offers the best features of Barnett’s previous Whitetail Hunter models in one value-packed option.
The 150 lb draw launches arrows at 350 fps, achieving 94 ft-lbs of kinetic energy for ample knockdown power. The lightweight and compact composite stock provides excellent handling and maneuverability when tracking through brush or treestands.
Key features include:
- Anti-dry fire trigger system for safety
- Ventilated quad limbs for stability and strength
- Lightweight composite stock
- Realtree Xtra camo pattern
- Only 6.4 lbs total weight
With finger reminders, pass-through fore-grip, and 4×32 scope, the Whitetail Hunter II gives beginners and expert hunters everything needed for accurate shots out to moderate distances at a budget cost. Reviewers praise its easy assembly out of the box and good shooting groups at 20-40 yards.
Killer Instinct Rush 380
- Speed: 380 fps
- Draw Weight: 175 lbs
- Power Stroke: 15”
Pushing heavier arrow loads to 380 fps, the Rush 380 packs excellent power and knockdown energy with its 175 lb draw weight. The extended 15” power stroke generates over 100 ft-lbs of kinetic energy for deep penetration through a deer’s vitals.
Ultralight and narrow, the skeletonized stock provides quick handling and reduces noise vibration. The included Dead Silent anti-dry fire and safety systems keep every shot whisper quiet in the field.
Additional advantages of the Rush 380:
- Fully adjustable match-grade trigger
- Built-in string suppressors
- 5-arrow quick shot quiver
- LimbSaver noise dampening pads
- 1x30mm red dot scope included
Hunters praise the Rush 380 for its easy cocking mechanism and smooth, quiet shooting capabilities. It provides excellent accuracy out to 50 yards. While light for carry, the longer power stroke does make it slightly back-heavy. For the price, it’s one of the fastest options available.
CenterPoint Amped 415
- Speed: 415 fps
- Draw Weight: 185 lbs
- Power Stroke: 13.5″
With the fastest speed on this list, the Amped 415 propels arrows over 400 fps with its ultra-high 185 lb draw weight and 13.5” power stroke. A lightweight, skeletonized AR-style stock along with CNC-machined cams maximize power in a narrow frame for easier transport through the woods.
The Amped comes equipped with:
- Whiplash cam system for speed
- Anti-dry fire mechanism
- Adjustable tactical stock
- Quad limbs with precision bearings
- RAV (Rope-a-cam) cocking device
Hunters are impressed that 450+ grain arrows still achieve 370+ fps velocities. Combined with two dot red dot scope and noise/vibration dampening accessories, the accuracy and quiet power of the Amped 415 is hard to beat for less than $400. A top choice for confident shooters wanting knockdown shots at longer ranges under $500.
Barnett Recruit Terrain
- Speed: 330 fps
- Draw Weight: 140 lbs
- Power Stroke: 12.5”
A lighter option designed for young shooters, smaller-framed hunters, or beginners, the Recruit Terrain still offers excellent capabilities from Barnett. The adjustable butt stock and pass-through foregrip allow custom fitting for improved control and accuracy while aiding in cocking effort.
Additional useful features integrated include:
- Anti-dry fire trigger safety
- Finger safety reminders
- Realtree Edge camo stock
- Ventilated quad limbs
- Lightweight at 6.9 lbs
With finger reminders, easy cocking capability, and dampening technology to reduce noise, many reviewers mention the Recruit Terrain is easy for teenagers to accurately shoot tight groups out to 30-40 yards after just a short practice session. A great value option for deer in more wooded terrain.
TenPoint Wicked Ridge M-370
- Speed: 370 fps
- Draw Weight: 165 lbs
- Power Stroke: 12.6”
TenPoint revolutionized crossbow hunting by pioneering integrated cocking mechanisms and their patented ACUdraw system remains an industry leader for easy loading leverage. The Wicked Ridge M-370 comes equipped with the ACUdraw Pro to reduce draw weight by 50%, allowing almost effortless cocking for hunters of any strength and size.
Additional advantages include:
- Built-in string stops for quiet shots
- T2 trigger tech trigger for smooth release
- Integrated sling and quiver sockets
- Compact narrow-width stock
- Only 6.6 lbs total weight
Weighing under 7 lbs and using TenPoint’s precision manufacturing for accuracy, the M-370 shoots consistent 2” groups out to 40 yards. The safety, accuracy, and easy use make it one of the best options for youth hunters transitioning to crossbows or anyone wanting reliable performance for many seasons.
How to Choose the Right Crossbow for Deer
All the crossbows reviewed above have the power, accuracy, and features needed to take down deer. But depending on your specific needs and hunting style, some additional factors can help determine the best option.
Do you primarily hunt from ground blinds and shooting houses where extra power and downrange accuracy is an advantage? Or hunt thick wooded areas where fast handling and maneuverability up close is more important?
Prioritize velocity, kinetic energy, scopes, and cocking devices for field hunting. Focus on narrow frames, lighter weights, and noise reduction for heavy cover stalking.
Shooter Size and Strength
Make sure to match the cocking capability to your body size and fitness level. If unable to cock over 150 lbs draw weight, choose lower draw options with integrated cranking devices. Adjustable stocks help fit smaller shooters.
Lighter overall weight makes extended carrying easier through rough terrain. But be aware that weight also helps steady shots.
Beginner or casual hunters may only need 30-40 yard effective ranges while experts demand tack-driving precision at 50+ yards. Higher-quality scopes, triggers, arrow components, and sound-dampening accessories can tighten groups.
Consider effective needs, skill level, and how much time will be dedicated to consistent practice when assessing options.
Hunters new to crossbows should ensure their choice has anti-dry fire technology, finger safety reminders, automatic safeties, and easy decocking capability. Integrated slings also aid in safe handling.
While speed and power are advantages in hunting, safety should be the priority, especially for beginners or youth hunters. Review all safety procedures before heading to the field.
With many crossbow options at each price increment, setting a firm budget will help narrow choices by eliminating models outside the affordable range. Our picks cover low-cost beginner models to top-of-the-line mid-market crossbows under $500.
Prioritize must-have power and accuracy needs over accessories to stretch limited dollars as far as possible. Extra dampeners and scopes can always be added later.
By reflecting on your specific hunting requirements and constraints, it becomes easier to select high-value crossbows that align with individual needs and preferences. If still uncertain about where to start, any of our well-rounded top picks will serve most deer hunters extremely well without breaking the bank.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below we answer some of the most common questions asked about choosing and using crossbows for deer hunting:
What Draw Weight is Best for Deer Hunting?
The minimum draw weight legal for deer hunting in most states is 125 lbs but 150-175 lbs is better for adequate penetration through a deer’s hide and bones. Hunters with less cocking strength should use cranking devices built into many crossbows to achieve higher draw weights.
How Far Should My Crossbow Shoot Accurately?
The effective killing range for deer is generally agreed to be within 40 yards with most broadside shots occurring closer than that. Beginners should spend much of their practice within the 20-30 yards range to build shooting confidence. More advanced hunters can extend accurate range out to 50-60 yards with enough arrow speed and practice.
Do Crossbows Require Special Arrows?
Purpose-built crossbow arrows with heavier grains and higher tolerances for the dynamic spine are required for consistent accuracy and durability. Never try to substitute regular arrows or serious damage can occur to equipment or user. Many crossbow manufacturers now offer custom arrows sized to their prod specs.
Can I Hand Cock My Crossbow?
While possible with some practice, using only arm strength to span high draw weights is difficult and can lead to user strains. All our recommended models come with integrated cocking devices to aid loading. Using rope-cocking aides provides an important mechanical advantage for easy spans without excessive muscle exertion.
How Often Should I Practice with My Crossbow?
Achieving shooting proficiency requires consistent practice with any hunting weapon. Plan to shoot at least a couple of days per week through the offseason. As opening day approaches, practicing in full gear from shooting positions mimicking actual field setups will build muscle memory for in-the-moment confidence during those crucial seconds.
Get the Best Crossbow for Your Hunt
While rifles may allow longer range, crossbow hunting provides an up-close challenge that many find more rewarding. With arrow speeds rivaling compound bows and more stability than traditional archery gear, crossbow popularity continues to grow across hunting communities.
Our top-rated affordable crossbows deliver the power, accuracy, and penetrative force needed for an efficient, effective deer harvest. Consider individual factors around intended use, shooting capability, safety, and budget to select the model that best fits your upcoming whitetail hunt.