Category Archives: Crossbows

 

DSC_0045_Banner Picking the “perfect” crossbow optic isn’t as straightforward or easy as you might think, as there’s a lot to consider. Here’s what you need to know to make an informed purchase.

By Aaron Carter

The crossbow market differs from others in that all-inclusive “packages” dominate, and for good reason, too. Rather than having to piecemeal his or her way to a range- and field-capable crossbow, the bundler gets all of the items necessary for practice and hunting (except broadheads) with one buy. Included among the many articles is generally found some sort of optic for sighting; except for some bowfishing-specific and low-cost models, seldom are modern crossbows equipped with open sights. But, what if you’re displeased with the pre-packaged optic, the crossbow didn’t come with one, or it no longer works (for one of myriad reasons)? Below is a primer for purchasing a new, improved, or first crossbow optic.

Traditional-Type Scopes

The traditional-type optic rules the marketplace. Not only do these crossbow scopes resemble and function similarly to their firearm-mounted brethren, aiming is also by way of a crosshair (or multiple crosshairs and/or geometric shapes, such as triangles, or some combination thereof). Scopes with multiple aiming points (i.e. trajectory compensating reticles), such as TRUGLO’s TRU-BRITE XTREME, are preferable to those with a single one because you’re provided with exact holds at various ranges. Why? Despite the high velocities attained by modern crossbows, bolts still drop considerably—especially at the crossbow’s furthest practical ranges.
Key to accurate aiming points, however, is using a scope that enables you to match your crossbow’s velocity to a specific, preprogrammed trajectory setting on the second-focal-plane scope. Found on the magnification band, this feature provides precise aiming points for multiple ranges—most go from 20 yds. to 50 yds.—based upon the trajectory of your setup (i.e. crossbow, bolt, and tip/broadhead). For this reason, using published velocities by manufacturers isn’t “good enough”; you must chronograph the setup that you intend to use afield. It takes only minutes, and chronographs today are relatively inexpensive. I prefer Competition Electronics chronographs, which retail for around $100 and can calculate the velocities of everything from bows to high-velocity rifles.

A typical Bolt-drop-calibration style crossbow reticle. (This illuminated reticle is from TRUGLO’s TRU•BRITE XTREME)

Once set, you’re typically ready to shoot (not necessarily hunt) out to the scope’s maximum range without guessing holdovers. Verify the holds, though. Do not change the setting or the aiming points won’t be accurate. Too, if you change your setup in a way that affects the velocity you must chronograph it again. To eliminate confusion, some such optics have the distances (i.e 20, 30, 40, 50) listed beside the aiming points, though this isn’t necessary.

Your crossbow scope should be no less feature-filled than a riflescope. For example, it should be at least water resistant, though waterproof is preferred, as well as shock resistant and fog proof. Moreover, demand that it have fully multi-coated lenses and consistent, repeatable “clicks.” It’s also nice to have an illuminated reticle, particularly if you’re hunting from a ground blind during low-light conditions or hogs at night (where legal). These are usually rheostat controlled and have multiple colors from which to choose.

Surely you’re wondering if your riflescope can pull double-duty on your crossbow. To this I must say “no.” Standard riflescopes typically have a single aiming point, which would mandate zeroing and firing at a single distance. Do you want to be that limited in the field? Since you’re relying on hemorrhaging to kill an animal, not the tremendous terminal ballistics of a high-velocity rifle bullet, precision is key. Therefore, relying on “holding on hair” or some other imprecise compensating method can be viewed as unethical. Even riflescopes with trajectory compensating reticles wouldn’t necessarily correlate to a crossbow’s trajectories. Stick to crossbow scopes.

Dual•Color Crossbow Open Dot sight with 4 different reticles

Dot- and Reflex-Style Optics
In general, dot- and reflex-style optics have grown in popularity—especially in the shooting sports. But, they’re not as popular for crossbows … yet. Unlike traditional-type crossbow scopes, the aforementioned optics are generally both lightweight and unobtrusive. For example, TRUGLO’s 1X 34 mm DUAL-COLOR red-dot sight weighs a trivial 5.5 ozs., and the 1X 30 mm TRITON is only 7 ozs. The TRU-BRITE XTREME scope is more than double the weight of the latter. The eye quickly focuses on the glowing aiming point, and that illumination is invaluable in compromised lighting. The only downfall is that there’s no magnification, which makes sighting at-distance more difficult than with the traditional-style scopes.

As for the reasons mentioned in the section above, single-aiming-point, dot-style sights that are meant for firearms shouldn’t be affixed to your crossbow; instead, select one that has multiple aiming points (i.e. trajectory compensating system) that get smaller as they descend. Why is this important? Remember, there’s no magnification so you don’t want an oversize dot to take longish shots. One of the best compensating systems I’ve seen on a dot-style sight is found on the TRUGLO DUAL-COLOR, as you can select from one of four speed settings to provide the correct aiming points for your crossbow. Will it be as precise as selecting the exact velocity of your crossbow? No, but it’ll be very close (unless your bow is way outside of the norm with regard to velocity). As mentioned previously, you want your dot- or reflex-style sight to be rugged and dependable.

Once you’ve selected your favored design, the only thing left to do is mount the optic and adjust it, then spend time practicing. Then, come fall, you’ll be confident to take the shot at that once-in-a-lifetime buck, bull, or bear.

Ground Blind Basics: Tips for a Better Ground Blind Experience
By Aaron Carter
Want to hunt with archery tackle from a ground blind? Before heading afield here are a few things to ponder.

ground blind basics carter TRR_0632

For the archer, who must get close to his quarry for an ethical shot, the ground blind is an indispensible tool. Why? Ground blinds permit the hunter to position him- or herself at the desired range for the pending shot, reduce scent dispersion (especially when combined with other odor-minimizing measures), and hide game-spooking movement. In inclement weather, they also keep the hunter comfortable longer, keeping them afield. But, as with treestands and tripods, hunting from a ground blind presents its own unique set of challenges. Here are a few things to consider before climbing inside your ground blind for the first time.

ground blind basics carter Double_BJM_CrossbowHolding The Bow/Crossbow: Ground blinds shroud the majority of action occurring within its walls; however, any movement has the potential to alert nearby game—especially whitetail deer. For this reason, the bow (or crossbow) should be in as close to “ready” position as possible. Bow stands, such as TRUGLO’s lightweight Bow Jack and Bow Jack Mini, keep the bow in the vertical position so that the bow need only be lifted for a shot. (You can actually take the shot without ever removing this compact, lightweight bow stand from your bow.) Similarly, using a two-point rifle rest, such as the Caldwell DeadShot Field Pod or one of the camera tripod-mounted models, minimizes movement and provides a rock-solid hold for an accurate shot. Making height and leveling changes to the rest for the anticipated shot during set up reduces gross changes later—again, minimizing movement.

It’s personal preference as to whether you have an arrow nocked or bolt loaded with the bow on the stand or crossbow on the rest. Due to the length of an arrow extending from an at-rest compound bow, I do not nock the arrow until I’m preparing for the shot. It’s not only less cumbersome but also safer; there’s less opportunity to get cut. For the crossbow, though, I opt to have the bolt loaded. Here’s why: When the crossbow is atop of the two-position rifle rest and positioned for the shot, the barrel will be in the open and movement to insert a bolt will be highly visible. Further, bolts seldom project beyond the front of the crossbow so there’s less potential to get accidentally cut. Make no mistake, the potential still exists so be careful. To reduce the risk, select a mechanical broadhead with no exposed sharp edges.

ground blind basics carter TRR_0748Quiver Placement: Whether on a compound bow or crossbow, quivers can be cumbrous and a nuisance—especially in the confines of a ground blind with a small footprint. As such, removing the quiver is among the first things that I do upon entering a blind. But, you must keep it nearby for quick and easy access. Companies, such as HME, offer accessory hook systems that attach to the fiberglass supports of hub-style ground blinds to hold accessories at the ready—including quivers. For a low-cost alternative, rigging an S-hook or attaching a small bungee cord to one of the blind’s fiberglass poles will accomplish the same goal. Key is keeping it close enough to minimize movement.

 

Lighted Sights: As ground blinds are intended to hide movement, the interiors of most are black. That opaque color, when combined with the flaps lowered to further reduce movement, greatly lessens the amount of ambient light accessible to the fiber-optic bow sight. For this reason, it would behoove the ardent ground blind hunter to select a fiber-optic sight with extra-long strands to capture available light, or, if legal, opt for one that has ability to utilize an LED ground blind basics carter TG5805F - Side Viewlight, which can provide the supplemental light needed to brighten the pins. Featuring lengthy fibers, large aperture, glow-in-the-dark shooter’s ring, and Pro-Brite Technology Pins, TRUGLO’s New Carbon XS™ Xtreme sight is among the best choices currently in the marketplace. Regardless of what sight you choose, pair it with a larger peep sight to allow additional light to enter. You can check-out TRUGLO for your peep sight needs too.

 

By no means an all-inclusive listing of considerations, this should nonetheless provide food for thought and help make you a safer, more effective ground blind hunter. Safe and happy hunting.

Shooting Solo—Crossbows
by Joe Byers

Ohio Deer 2010 163Crossbow equipment packages typically include a scope with multiple reticle markings, which can be just as confusing as a multi-pin setup on a compound bow.  A red-dot sight with a single dot reticle is ideal for the new archer, hunting in early season when cover is thick and visibility minimized, in low-light situations, and for bowmen and women who wear glasses or may have difficulty seeing multiple reticles clearly.

Last fall, I set up a crossbow with a red-dot sight with a single dot reticle for a deer hunt in the Great Plains.  In these wide open spaces, one might think that multiple sight marks would be preferable for long range shots, however, whitetails there, and in most places, migrate to the thick cover of creeks, ravines, and river bottoms.

TX Deer 06 078I posted in one of these locations and friends put on a drive that pushed a 140-class buck into the heavy cover of a flood plain.  The buck appeared for mere seconds as it approached and the red-dot sight with a single dot reticle made concentrating on the exact spot incredibly simple.  The savvy buck moved through a patch of thick cedars exposing it’s vitals for just a second, yet sufficient exposure for a lethal, double-lung shot.

Red-dot sights usually have little or no magnification, which allows the hunters to see the targeted animal and its behavior plus a choice of a red or green dot for added definition.  Additionally, many models offer a rheostat to adjust the brightness of the dot to ambient light.  This may seem to be of minimal importance, yet bright sunlight can greatly diminish a red dot at midday while a brilliant aiming point can be distracting in low-light conditions.

One Dot- Multiple Ranges

With a 20-yard sight in, a hunter can concentrate on the low shoulder shot without calculating yardage out to 25 yards, where most hunting action takes place.   “I try to convince new crossbow hunters to keep their shot at 30 yards or less,” says Todd Brumley, Publisher of Crossbow Magazine.  “A lot of guys want speed and distance from their crossbows, but they don’t realize all the things that can change at longer ranges.”

 

Data from the Bench

TG8030GAIf you like systems that are simple and uncomplicated, the one-dot sight can work for you and here’s how easy it is.  I set up a TRUGLO® red-dot sight on a new Horton Legend Crossbow (about 330 fps), one of the easiest installations I’ve ever done.  After popping the included rings on the picatinny rail of the bow, I found the scope shot nearly dead-on at 20 yards and the scope adjustments worked exactly as listed.  Three arrows later, I was precisely striking at 20.
Of course, this data will change with variance in bow speed and arrow weight, but crossbows shoot exceedingly flat out to 25 yards.  My research has shown with a variety of bow and arrow combinations that a 20-yard zero will place an arrow five to six inches low at 30 and the drop-off increases disproportionally from there.  I once used this red-dot set-up on a deep-timber elk hunt.  I zeroed the bow at 30 yards and planned to adjust the dot placement for 40 and 50 yards, a system that I quickly adapted.  If you are a person who gets buck fever, a red-dot sight can greatly simplify the aiming process.  Shaking knees are another story.

TRUGLO Red dot on Horton LegendUsing a ballistic rifle target measured in inches for easy calculations, I shot again, hitting the dime-size bull’s eye ¼ inch low.  Next, I moved the target to 15 yards and using the same Easton FMJ, 425-grain arrow to control variables, struck ¾ inches higher.  Finally, I moved the target back to 25 yards and, continuing to shoot from a bench rest and hit 2 ¾ inches below the 20-yard zero.

From a hunting perspective, this data means that if you aim dead center at a deer’s heart at 20 yards and it suddenly comes five yards closer; you’ll take out the top of the heart.  Conversely, a deer that moves five yards farther or if your estimate of range is five yards off, that 20-yard aim will still catch the buck in the pumper.  If you hunt deer during the rut, this aiming latitude is critical since rutting bucks seldom stand still.