A Level Crossbow Is an Accurate Crossbow

Remove cant (a tilted crossbow) from your shooting vocabulary.

A Level Crossbow Is an Accurate Crossbow

Many of today’s crossbows are technologically advanced wonders that offer many advantages for hunters and shooters. Whenever I get my hands on a new model, I can’t wait to dial it in at the range.

This was the case recently when I set a target at 20 yards and then immediately began placing arrows with pinpoint accuracy. Next, I moved the target to 40 yards and tinkered with the speed setting on the scope until the arrows found the “X” at the longer distance. With the bow sighted and set, I checked my accuracy at 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards. With ease, I shot nickel-sized groups at each range.

My hunting partner had watched me play with the new bow while I got it ready for the upcoming hunting season. Seeing his excitement, I offered him the opportunity to shoot it. He jumped at the chance. Immediately, he cocked the limbs, grabbed an arrow and eased in for a shot.

I watched the 20-yard target intently, expecting to see the arrow pierce the center of the bull’s-eye. To my surprise, the arrow hit four inches low and two inches left. The different points of impact immediately caused doubt in my mind. My buddy asked, “What went wrong,” to which I had no immediate reply.

He cocked the bow and sent a second arrow. Again, it hit low and left on the target. I knew there had to be an explanation for the conflicting arrow flight, but nothing came to mind. On the third shot, I watched everything my buddy did right up to the time he pulled the trigger. The arrow, once again, hit low and left.

The consistency of the bow, for both shooters, was excellent. However, the fact that there were two distinct impact points gave me heartburn. This particular crossbow came with a built-in level on the left side of the scope. I convinced my buddy to shoot once more. As he aligned the shot, I watched the bubble float back and forth in the level. As the trigger fell, the bubble slid to the far left as the arrow was sent to the target.

We were shooting on the side of a hill. Although my buddy swore he was holding the crossbow level, it was easy to prove he was canting the bow to the right when shooting, causing the arrows to fly low and left. As my friend cocked the bow and found the bull’s-eye for a follow-up shot, I ensured the bow to be level. His next shot was right back in the center of the target. Problem solved.

The unlevel crossbow experience was an eye-opener — I always knew that a canted bow would be off-target. Still, I never dreamed it would be off as much as it was. To make the shooting experience more challenging, we noticed the table we were using as a bench was leaning to the right. I had checked the level on the scope when I was shooting, but my buddy wasn’t used to referencing it and never thought to look.

Finding Level

Premium bows usually come with a level on the scope. If not, there are other ways to check your level in the field or on the range. A level app on your smartphone will allow the device to be held on the turret of your scope to check the level anytime or anywhere. An aftermarket riflescope level can be purchased at most sporting goods stores that carry high-quality optics and riflescopes. A magnetic level used for carpentry can be set on a crossbow scope.

The hunting camp we were in didn’t have many options, but there was a three-foot level that we used on the table and on one of our crossbows that did not have a scope level. Our eyes and minds were playing a trick on us with the lean of the table and the view of the side hill.


Don’t Be Fooled

I like to practice shooting off a sidehill at home. Whenever I am not on the mark, I immediately check my level. The sweeping right or left slope can play tricks on a shooter’s brain, making them think they are holding the bow level when they are compensating for what they see on the hill.

Look at the limbs and not the background. Will it sit level in your hand or tip to one side? Close your eyes and hold the bow level, then open your eyes and see how the scope looks when sighting the target. The difference in what you see, and feel is a good indicator of how our horizontal level is often skewed by what we see.


Leveling Tricks

I always look for a straight edge to check my bow level when looking through the scope. The edge of a barn or other structure can provide quick reference. Even a tree can work. Power poles are great to use and are often easy to find, even in open country. Nothing is guaranteed to be level, but if you continually look for it, the level will become second nature, and your bow will feel off-balance when not being held perfectly horizontal.


Test Your Range

Shoot your bow and sight in for various distances. Now purposely cant your bow to the right and shoot the same target. What happened? Then, cant the bow left and see what happens. Practice out of a blind or treestand, where you’d naturally lean to obtain the right angle for a shot. What happens?

Understanding and knowing the crossbow level will allow you to know when you are off target and have an explanation for it. Finding ways to level your bow in a hunting situation will ensure you’re always on target when that big buck finally shows up.

Body posture plays a significant role in shooting level, too. It is easy to drop an arm or shoulder to see our target through the scope, but you need to move your entire upper body to ensure the crossbow stays level. Pick up a crossbow and try to move it to get the crosshair on different potential targets around you. As you move, watch the level and see what happens as your upper body stretches to get on target. There is a big difference in accuracy and point of impact, and practicing keeping your bow level will allow it to become second nature when a hunting opportunity arises.

If you continue to have trouble, purchase an aftermarket level, and attach it to the side of your scope. It will always be a quick reference for shooting straight, and when you miss, you’ll have to come up with a new excuse.

If finding level is a chronic problem, investigate the Sig Sauer Electro-Optics SIERRA3BDX scope, made for crossbows. Not only does it communicate with a rangefinder for point of aim, but it has a built-in level that flashes yellow on the reticle to show which way to move to level the scope and bow for perfect leveling.

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