What Game can be Hunted with Crossbows?

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There has been an influx of hunters making the switch from rifle hunting, to archery hunting. And there are a few reasons for it.

First, in some places, hunting seasons are longer if you use archery equipment than they are if you are using a rifle. And second; archery hunting takes quite a bit more skill, requiring you to get closer to your game. That means each kills you make with a bow, was a hard-fought, and well deserved one.

But some questions present themselves when you decide to make the jump from rifle hunting to crossbow hunting. Things like; what game can I hunt with a crossbow? Will I need to purchase multiple crossbows? And what type of ammunition do I use?

Let’s start by addressing the first question.

What Game Can be Hunted with a Crossbow

Like most rifle hunters, most crossbow hunters are in search of deer. But honestly, if you live in North America, we strongly suggest expanding your horizons. And I mean that literally, venture out further into your world and find a new quarry. North America is chock-full of the beautiful game that tastes just as good as deer, if not better.

And the range of animals you can hunt with crossbows is as bountiful as the game you can shoot with a rifle. Of course, due to the nature of crossbows, you’ll have to get significantly closer to your prey. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

Crossbows can be used on games as small as rabbits and squirrels to animals like elk, bighorn sheep, and even reindeer (that’s right I still call them reindeer). I’ve even seen some folks take down a grizzly with a crossbow.

Multiple Crossbows?

Most crossbows will have an average draw weight of 150-175 pounds. Which works well for pretty much any game that you are going to be going after. Sure that’s overkill if you’re going for the smaller animals. But it’s perfect for animals with a thicker hyde i.e. elk and caribou.

But let’s say you’re looking to for something a little larger. Maybe you want to be the guy with the awesome story about how you stared down a grizzly bear and walked away to… well… tell the story.

In that case, you’ll need a higher draw weight, 200 pounds is where you need to be here. But if you’re new to bow hunting, then you don’t need to be hunting these majestic creatures. God forbid you to miss the kill zone – I assure you, you won’t be walking away from the repercussions of that mistake.

For now, you can stick with a crossbow with a draw weight of 150 pounds. The Barnett Whitetail Pro STR is a great bow for those just into the crossbow scene. It has a draw weight of 165 pounds and bolt travel of up to 400 feet per second. It’s a perfectly versatile bow that has you covered from the small game all the way up to elk and large deer.

Check out some other sweet crossbow options

Bow Draw Weight (in pounds) Kinetic Energy (ft-lbs)
Barnett Whitetail Pro STR 165 140
Barnett Whitetail Hunter II 150 103
Wicked Ridge Invader G3 165 97
PSE Fang Series 155 95

Ammunition

Ammunition always has been, and always will be, a hotly debated subject in the archery world. But when it comes to crossbows, you get to bypass that argument. Unlike compound bows, a crossbow manufacturer is going to take all of the guesswork out of what bolt you should fire out of it.

That’s because they recommend the best type of bolt to fire with your weapon. We recommend following the guidelines that the manufacturer sets for their crossbows. They have a person whose specific job is to figure out what bolt types are most efficient with their crossbow.

That said you’ve still got to figure out what type of broadhead you want to use for your hunt.

Fixed

A fixed broadhead is the sturdiest of all the broadheads and the ones that are used by the ‘traditionalist’ types. Because they’re one solid piece, they offer maximum power, and they utilize knife-edge blades that go all the way from the base of the broadhead to the tip.

Many people prefer these because they give you superior penetration power, and sturdier than replaceable and mechanical blades. Most of the high-end fixed blades will have vents on them to minimize surface area making them faster and more aerodynamic.

Replaceable

Replaceable blades are similar in design to the fixed blade versions, with the obvious difference being that you can replace the blades as needed.

You may ask yourself, “Why are replaceable blades beneficial?” These are generally a little cheaper, plus if only one blade chips you only have to that one blade. Replacing a blade is much cheaper than replacing an entire broadhead.

But here is the downside. Blades on these broadheads can come off when the bolt hits its target (or when removing the bolt). That makes gutting the animal a bit more dangerous.

Mechanical

Mechanical broadheads a far more aerodynamic than both fixed and replaceable blades. Why? Because the blades are essentially connected to the ferrule until it hits its target. At that point, the blades extract and cut into the target. These bad boys fly just like a field arrow, speed is where they shine their brightest.

The downside to these is that they aren’t nearly as powerful as the other broadheads (except the G5 Havoc, which still offers crazy power). Also, if you hit your target at the wrong angle, the blades may not eject properly.

Note:  These can only be used on compound or crossbows. If you’re using a recurve or longbow, you simply won’t be able to generate enough power to activate the blades.

Small Game Broadheads

You’re hunting tiny animals, like rabbits and squirrel, it’s absurd to use a giant fixed blade broadhead on your game. You’d simply shred it to pieces. And you’re not going to use your field point arrows for them either. Instead get some broadheads that are made just for small animals.

Small game broadheads are significantly different than their larger counterparts. They generally have duller points than other broadheads and they generally have arms (instead of arrows). These arms help to dig into the animal, without tearing right through them.

My favorite small game broadhead is the G5 Small Game Head. It is sturdy and puts a hell of a puncture in the animal. And a quick, humane kill is the only kill I am okay with.

Verdict

If you ask me, the most reliable broadheads are fixed blades. Of course, each archer is going to have their own idea of what is best. So really it’s all about finding what’s best for you.

Wrap – Up

Whether you are new to hunting, or you’ve recently decided to try archery hunting, there is one thing we want you to keep in mind at all times. We aren’t here simply to kill animals. Every shot taken needs to be an ethical one. So get your practice in at the range before you make the step to shooting game.

You should also check your local laws to be sure crossbow hunting is legal in your area. Cabela’s has a wonderful article discussing State and Province Specific Crossbow Regulations.

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