The adrenaline surges through your system like rain runoff in a flood control channel. You just drilled a small target at 50 yards, and you are in the stratosphere.
How would you like to drill that pie plate from 50 yards time and time again? Imagine the exhilaration.
No need to imagine the reality of that accuracy, however. It is very possible, because crossbows can be extremely accurate weapons. Granted, most hunters may not want to shoot an animal beyond 30 yards, but if you’d like to be accurate beyond 50 yards, read on to learn a few tips on how to tighten your groups.
Check the Bolts
Randy Wood, of TenPoint Crossbows, often works in retail pro shops around the country, and he says people will come in and complain that their crossbows aren’t very accurate.
“The first thing I look at are the bolts,” says Wood.
He says he sometimes finds that enthusiasts will have two or three different types of bolts that are different weights and fletched with different fletchings. Sometimes, there are different field points or broadheads on the tip of each bolt.
“To create accuracy, every bolt must be the same,” he explains.
Jim Kempf, who enjoys shooting at distances beyond 50 yards when practicing, agrees.
“I wouldn’t shoot at animals at 70 or 80 yards, but I enjoy target-practicing at those yardages,” says Kempf, of Scorpyd Crossbows. “I have noticed that not all bolts are created equal.”
He notes that he shoots every bolt in a box at long ranges, and typically, there are a few that hold a tight group and a few that won’t.
“Every box of new bolts contains a few that won’t hold a group at 50 yards and beyond,” he says. “I won’t hunt with these.”
So, if you own a crossbow and have noticed that your bolt groups aren’t extremely tight, take a close look at your bolts and make sure they are consistent with each other.
Kempf, who suggests that enthusiasts fletch their own bolts, says he likes using Aerovanes, by Firenock, because they fly well at high speeds. In addition, Firenock has a great new fletching jig that accurately fletches the vanes onto any bolt or arrow for increased accuracy.
“Regardless of the type of jig a hunter uses, taking the time to fletch your own bolts, weighing your bolts for consistency and fine-tuning [them] will likely help you shoot more accurately,” Kempf says.
There is also a direct correlation between accuracy and crossbow fit. Thus, when in the market for a new crossbow, realize they are not one-size-fits-all.
Purchasing a crossbow is similar to purchasing a rifle: You will be more accurate with a rifle that fits you, just as you will be more accurate with a crossbow that fits you. If a crossbow stock is too long for your build, or if the overall crossbow is too heavy or cumbersome for you to hold, your accuracy will likely suffer. Therefore, the best approach is to “test drive” several.
“Shoot several brands and models until you find one that fits you like a glove,” says Kempf.
Following is what to look for.
“You want a crossbow that you are comfortable holding so that it becomes an extension of you,” Kempf explains. “If you feel awkward holding it, or if it is big and you are intimidated by it, you probably won’t shoot very well with it.”
The next consideration is the trigger. Just as a good rifle comes with a smooth-shooting trigger, the trigger on your crossbow should also be smooth.
“I always tell people to look for a crossbow that has a smooth, crisp trigger that doesn’t have much travel,” he adds. “A trigger with a lot of travel or a trigger that gets harder to pull as you reach the end of the trigger cycle is going to cause your accuracy to suffer.”
The Importance of Scopes
Your accuracy will also suffer if you don’t equip your crossbow with a quality scope—and don’t go cheap when making this purchase.
According to Kempf, the market features several great scopes designed for crossbows, so it won’t be hard to find one. Some people like a single-dot scope, while others prefer a multi-reticle scope. Kempf suggests that if you choose a multi-reticle scope, get one that fits your needs and the speed of your crossbow.
“If you want to shoot in 10-yard increments, make sure the scope will do that,” he says.
Most scope makers will tell you that the scopes are designed to be used with a crossbow that shoots at a certain speed with a certain grain bolt.
“Therefore, find one that matches the speed of your crossbow as closely as you can for the best accuracy,” Kempf advises.
Some scopes can be adjusted to the speed of your crossbow. Your reticles will be dead-on every 10 yards once the scope has been adjusted.
If you want to be able to throw darts at 50 yards and beyond, you need to practice well beyond your comfort zone in the field.
“I wouldn’t shoot an animal at 80 yards, but I enjoy shooting at 80 yards at the target range,” Kempf says. “If you can keep your bolt in a paper plate at 60 yards and farther, taking a 30- or 40-yard shot in the field will be much easier. I wouldn’t suggest shooting an animal at extreme distances, but practicing at those distances will help you hone your shooting form and make you a better shooter.”
The full story is in the Crossbows Fall 2011 issue.