Crossbow Hunting Beginners Guide

The popularity of using a crossbow to hunt with is increasing every year. If you hunt with a firearm then hunting with a crossbow is a natural progression into bow hunting seasons. Using a hunting crossbow effectively and safely requires proper knowledge and practice. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a hunting crossbow:

Regulations and Safety First:

  • 49 of the 50 states now allow crossbow hunting in some form or fashion. In 29 states it is legal to use during the whole archery deer hunting season. Check the regulations of the state(s) you plan to crossbow hunt in for exact rules. But here is a good starting point –
  • Always treat a crossbow as if it’s loaded, even when it’s not. Keep the crossbow pointed in a safe direction at all times.
  • Keep your fingers and other body parts away from the string, barrel, and cams. You will lose a finger.
  • Wear appropriate safety gear, including eye protection when hunting.

Familiarize Yourself with Your Crossbow:

  • Read the owner’s manual thoroughly to understand your specific crossbow’s features and limitations.
  • Inspect your crossbow to ensure it’s in good working condition. Check for loose or damaged parts.

Choose the Right Bolts (Arrows):

  • Use arrows (bolts) that are specifically designed for your crossbow’s draw weight and length specifications. The nocks of bolts are usually moon shaped or flat.
  • Ensure the arrows are straight and undamaged.

Cocking the Crossbow:

  • Unlike a traditional bow – you need to cock your crossbow first.
  • Pull the string back with dead-even pressure on both sides of the barrel. Misaligned string by as little as 1/8 inch can shift your arrow’s point of impact by several inches.
  • Depending on your crossbow, you may have a manual cocking mechanism, a rope cocking device, or a crank cocking device.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cocking your crossbow. Ensure the safety is engaged while cocking.

Loading the Crossbow:

  • Place the bolt (arrow) on the flight groove, ensuring that the cock vane (the odd-colored vane) is aligned with the barrel or rail.
  • Make sure the bolt is securely seated against the string.

Aiming and Shooting:

  • Select your target carefully, ensuring it’s within the effective range of your crossbow. Even with the extreme FPS speeds that are available today, you will still want to stay below 80 yards for your maximum range.
  • Use a scope or iron sights for aiming. Adjust them to be accurate at different distances.
    Steady your crossbow by resting it on a stable surface or using a shooting rest or bipod.
  • Use proper shooting form, keeping your body aligned with the target, and maintaining a firm grip on the crossbow.
  • Slowly squeeze the trigger to release the bolt. Do not jerk it.


  • Keep your crossbow pointed at the target until you are certain the bolt has hit or missed.
  • After firing, immediately engage the safety and set the crossbow down with the safety on.

Practice and Training:

  • Regularly practice shooting your crossbow to become proficient and confident in your abilities.
  • Consider taking a hunter education course or crossbow-specific training to enhance your skills and knowledge.

Ethical Hunting:

  • Always adhere to local laws and regulations for hunting seasons, bag limits, and legal game species.
  • Practice ethical hunting by aiming for vital organs to ensure a quick and humane kill.


  • Clean and maintain your crossbow regularly, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Check the string and cables for wear and replace them as needed.
  • Store your crossbow in a dry, cool place to prevent rust and damage.

Remember, safety should always be your top priority when using a hunting crossbow. Follow these guidelines and your crossbow’s manual to ensure safe and effective use during hunting or target shooting activities.

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