Over the past couple of decades, there has been an increasing interest in hunting with crossbows. They’re easy to use, fun, and most importantly, something different from shooting a rifle or conventional bow. Adding another dimension to the sport is pistol crossbow hunting, which utilizes chopped down versions of the full-size crossbow models with a pistol grip rather than a buttstock and significantly shorter limbs. These tips for pistol crossbow hunting should help you to ease into this exciting sport and get a handle on some of the basics.
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Why Hunt With a Pistol Crossbow?
The shorter answer: because it’s difficult. Just as rifle enthusiasts enjoy hunting with a handgun on occasion, many crossbow hunters like the challenge that comes with using a pistol crossbow. The arrows fired from a pistol crossbow are much less powerful, which means you need to get closer to your prey. Isn’t that the reason most of us got into bowhunting in the first place?
Pistol crossbows also allow for much greater mobility; they’re smaller, lighter, and even easier to cock. Weighing only a few pounds, you won’t think twice about hiking deeper into the woods to find that elusive monster buck (though you should always consider how long it will take to retrieve your kill).
Tips for Pistol Crossbow Hunting
Hunting with a pistol crossbow doesn’t differ all that much from hunting with a full-size crossbow or conventional bows. You’ll be stalking the animal at much closer range than you would with a rifle and good shot placement will be critical for making a clean kill. Pistol crossbows are less powerful than their full-size cousins though, so these same principles will become even more important.
Don’t Go Too Crazy When Buying a Scope
At this distance you might wonder why you need a scope at all, you can see clearly see the deer with your own eyes. True, but can you see the exact spot over their heart and lungs that will result in a clean kill? Having a scope with a reticle, especially one with multiple reticles tuned to the velocity of your bow, can make a big difference as to whether your arrow is a kill shot or a grazing wound. You don’t need much magnification, 2x is plenty, but having just a little can give you a big advantage.
Get Up Close and Personal
While most crossbows and compound bows are capable of taking down game at 40 yards, the same cannot be said of pistol crossbows. Their lower draw weight (80 lbs vs 150 on many compound crossbows) translates into less kinetic energy, especially at longer distances. Their lack of a stock and front-heavy design also makes aiming more difficult. Limit your shots to 20 yards or less when using a pistol crossbow.
Wait It Out
Given that pistol crossbows can’t be relied on for a clean kills at distances greater than 20 yards, you’ll need to carefully consider how you’re going to close the distance. Most hunters do not have the skills to stalk an animal so closely, so the best solution is to just stay put. Get in your treestand and wait for the game to come to you. You’ll appreciate the compact and lightweight design of pistol crossbows as you sit up there for a few hours. Having a treestand to shoot from is also beneficial for accuracy as you’ll have something to brace against.
Focus on Shot Placement
To ensure a clean kill with a pistol crossbow, you absolutely must hit that sweet spot over the heart and lungs. You may not get complete penetration, but if you damage these vital organs, the animal should go down quickly without much suffering (and without you needing to follow a lengthy blood trail). Wait until it stops moving and presents its side to you, then take a moment to steady yourself before pulling the trigger. Taking your time might result in some missed opportunities, but it’s all part of the challenge of hunting with a pistol crossbow.