How Weather and Other Factors Affect Crossbow Speed

Many variables affect arrow speed and performance. Here are several factors to consider to get the most from your crossbow.

How Weather and Other Factors Affect Crossbow Speed

How well do you know your crossbow?

If someone were to ask me that question, I’d have to respond, “Which one?” I have a nice collection of crossbows from different manufacturers and like to tinker with each as much as possible. When I say tinker, I don’t mean messing with the working parts or engineering of the bow. I mean just the projectiles, knowing how they will perform in different conditions.

To become the best shot possible, it is important to know how a crossbow performs across this variable set.

 

Temperature

Does cold weather affect the way a bow performs? The temperature certainly has an impact on performance and shooting under various conditions is the best way to determine how a bow fluctuates when challenged by severe swings from hot to cold.

The ultimate test is to see if an arrow will hit the same bullseye when fired out of the same bow, at the same distance, under a wide range of temperatures. Consistency is far more important than speed.

When the temperatures hit minus 17 Fahrenheit at home, I thought it would be a good time to shoot and see how my TenPoint Nitro XRT reacted to the cold. The Nitro XRT set up with my hunting arrow and broadhead lights up the chronograph at 220 fps.

To be fair to the bow, I let it sit outside for an hour before cocking it. Putting pressure on the limbs at the indoor temperature of the house, and then letting it get shocked by the cold temperatures, with over 80 degrees difference seemed a little risky. The test also simulated hunting conditions, as I cock my bow in the field when the hunt starts, not at home before heading out.

Even in the cold, the crossbow cocked the same as it always does. The ACUdraw Pro worked flawlessly, and the limbs cocked without incident. Shooting from the bench, I was able to place an arrow on the “X” at 20, 30 and 40 yards. High-performance limbs on a speedy crossbow are designed to provide consistency under any circumstances. My arrow flies the same in the Florida heat as it does in the Canadian cold; I never worry about a dead hold when hunting in any season. Fast bows help to maintain performance under diverse conditions, especially at longer distances.

The only way to know for sure how your crossbow performs in less-than-ideal conditions is to test it.
The only way to know for sure how your crossbow performs in less-than-ideal conditions is to test it.

Rain

Knowing that standing obstacles of any size and weight were problematic, I wanted to know what would happen to an arrow shot in the pouring rain. Dressing for the occasion, I headed out to the range. There was no visible loss of energy or trajectory from my arrow in the heavy rain when shooting at targets. The tests performed might seem trivial to some, but the knowledge came in handy when I was sitting in a treestand on a spring bear hunt.

Rummaging through my backpack to put on my rain gear, I was uncertain how my extra movement would affect my hunt. Bears are sneaky creatures, often slipping in close to a site to watch for a prolonged period before committing to coming in. It was a moot point, as I knew I wouldn’t be staying in the tree for long if soaked to the skin with the cool spring temperatures dropping fast.

Finally, a big boar did show up. I never hesitated to put my crosshair directly on its vitals and squeeze the trigger, a real-world test that confirmed my previous assumptions.

 

Wind

How much arrow drift occurs with a crosswind? The best way to find out is to practice on windy days. The wind is always a consideration and knowing what your arrow will do at different distances means hunting smart on gusty days.

I have hunted Nebraska on several occasions with my crossbow and have come to expect wind on any trip to the Cornhusker state. There is a huge difference in how an arrow is affected when in a crosswind, and one that is partially blocked by a shelterbelt or other vegetation. I was surprised how much a bit of a cover close to the ground, or row of trees, would protect my arrow flight. The best comparison was shooting in the open, where the wind ruined arrow flight, causing drift and inconsistency. The hardest thing to predict is wind speed or gusts where you are shooting from versus where your arrow is traveling.

The good news is that shooting directly into the wind had little effect on arrow flight. I wasn’t able to check the speed, but accuracy and direct flight were not compromised when shooting directly into the wind. When challenged with the same wind later that day, I shot a great buck standing directly upwind of my stand at 45 yards. I’m glad I didn’t try a shot with any crosswind and waited patiently to put my knowledge to work.

Speed certainly helps maintain arrow flight in the wind. Crossbow arrows are short but heavy, so practicing for hunting conditions you’ll face will allow you to decide to take the shot and how many minutes of angle you need to hold to adjust for wind drift.

 

Other Obstacles

I can clearly say that the smallest twig or tree branch can cause havoc with the flight of an arrow. I practice knowing the trajectory of my arrow to avoid obstacles when shooting.

I’ve also shot through the grass to see what the arrow will do. Heavy blades of grass, or dense stands, pull an arrow down at a fast rate. Each blade of grass robs the arrow of energy, and it takes a toll on what is expected for accuracy.

Speed cannot make up for lost energy. Always find a clear shooting lane and know the trajectory of your arrow to avoid obstacles in flight.

 

Closing Thoughts

The variables mentioned above are the constant nemeses of any archer. Knowing how your equipment works under varying conditions will make a difference when faced with challenges. Too often we hear of failed equipment, wounded game, or lost opportunity because a hunter didn’t prepare for the worst. It is easy to deal with the best of conditions but put your myth-buster experiments to the test and find out firsthand how your equipment with react and perform in the face of adversity.

I try to practice under real hunting situations and often set up targets where there are challenges. It may be uncomfortable to have to dress in your raingear to practice with your crossbow, or to be out and about in gale force winds, but the information you glean from the experience is priceless.

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