Practicing with your crossbow is something that every hunter should be doing. But when speaking with many hunters from around the country, I’ve found that many of them do not practice at all. They shoot their crossbows, but they aren’t practicing with their bows. What I mean by not practicing is the hunter that is shooting their crossbow from a bench every time they go out to shoot. Shooting from a bench is great for sighting in your bow. Or for learning how to shoot one. It takes the skill of actually aiming out of the equation. I can set a bow up on sand bags or a gun vise on a bench, center the crosshairs on the bullseye and walk away and let someone else pull the trigger. Is that practicing? Essentially that is what you are doing when shooting from a bench, only you are also the one pulling the trigger. Unless you are taking your bench with you in the woods, then shooting from one once your bow is sighted in does no good to you as a hunter. And it surely isn’t practicing.
To truly practice means to try and replicate as close as possible the same shots you will be taking while in hunting situations. This can mean shooting your crossbow from inside a ground blind, or elevated from a treestand. It could mean shooting off of shooting sticks or maybe just offhand. Trying to duplicate these shots before season will give you the confidence you need to make them during season. Shooting from a bench won’t.
The Crossbow Nation forum is filled with members showing pictures of just how accurate their crossbows are. Some members can achieve some pretty amazing groups at distances much further than what I would ever think about shooting an animal at. They experiment with different arrow spine and weight. They try different vanes and point weight. They can take a factory crossbow that shoots pretty good groups and get them to shoot almost same hole groups. But all of this is from a bench. While their achievements can be quite impressive, what good is it to have a crossbow that shoots one inch groups a fifty yards, if they can’t hold their bow still enough to shoot five inch groups when not using a bench?
This is where skill and practice come into play. For most crossbow hunters, they are more concerned about being able to make a kill shot at the moment of truth. The hunters that practice with their crossbows can do this with great confidence. Those that shoot from a bench all summer long and then go hunting, really have no idea where their arrow will go when they are turned around one hundred and eighty degrees in their treestand shooting offhand at a buck standing twenty feet below them. The hunter that practices those types of shots do.
So how should you practice with your crossbow? The first thing you should do is leave the bench at home. Next, try practicing shots that you might encounter in the woods. If you hunt from a stand, try shooting from an elevated position. Get on your roof if you have to. Of course be safe while doing so. Will you shoot standing or while seated? Or both? Whatever your answer was, that’s the type of shots you need to practice. Do you wear gloves and or a face mask while hunting? If you do, the gloves will change the way your trigger feels to you and a face mask can change the way your face sits on the stock of your crossbow. You need to practice while wearing those items. Did you sight your bow in at 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards? Do the deer you hunt always come in at those exact yardages? I’m guessing they don’t. So how high will your bow shoot at 35 yards if you use your 40 yard crosshair? Or how low will your arrow hit if you put your 20 yard crosshair on a deer that is 25 yards? You won’t know until you practice those shots. The list of possible scenarios are endless. The important thing for you as a crossbow hunter is to practice the scenarios you think you might encounter while hunting.
Shooting off the bench has a definite time and purpose. It is truly the best way to sight in your crossbow. However, after your bow is sighted in, it’s time to practice the right way. Get off the bench and go shoot your crossbow. When hunting season comes around, you’ll be glad you did.