Year-round Crossbow Challenge

The most successful crossbow hunters use their gear year-round.

Year-round Crossbow Challenge

As I see it, there is no off-season, and if not hunting, then practice and tinkering are in order. Think of it as part of our nomadic history. A visit to the arctic provided a glimpse into developing a calendar based on hunting activity, not on month or moon phase. Inuit hunters embrace the challenge of hunting year-round. The result is accuracy, consistency and proficiency with equipment to ensure an opportunity is never lost.

Most archers are addicted to the activity and sound of their equipment. Sliding an arrow down the rail, lining up the crosshair on a target, and hearing the distinct ‘thud’ of a broadhead finding its mark will leave most archers daydreaming for more. Like any passion for hunting, the more time spent with equipment, the more proficient one becomes.

Develop a calendar where you can escape to the field every month of the year for a different type of hunt or experience with your crossbow gear. Chances are, it will be your best year ever as a crossbow enthusiast, and fuel the fire to do even more in the future.

January - March

Early in the year, there are still a couple of late-season deer hunting opportunities. However, it is time to broaden perspective and prospects. Hogs and predators, where available, will challenge your ability and provide insight into the cold-weather performance of equipment.

The ultimate cold-weather challenge would be a polar bear or muskox hunt off the Arctic Ocean. Properly maintained equipment works in the cold and performs with the same results as in the warm months. The best part about archery gear is that there are no parts that freeze up. The challenge becomes more about maintaining precision while bundled in warm, bulky clothing.

If nothing else, get outside and practice with your crossbow. If all else fails, head for an indoor range to shoot regularly.

April - June

Spring brings a resurgence of life. Everything around us starts to grow, change color, and the circle of life for many species provides sights and sounds that inspire hunters to get outdoors. Turkey and black bear are common species to hunt, providing seasons through the end of June. Spring is a prime time to use new and different equipment. Can you use mechanical and fixed-blade broadheads from the same crossbow? Can you vary the cutting diameter to increase success rates? The best way to answer the questions is to get out and try them.

Trial and error can lead to disappointment, and over the years, broadheads have let me down with big, old gobblers. Nothing has better arrow-stopping capabilities than the feathers, quills and hollow bones of a turkey. A rear-deploying mechanical broadhead, such as the SEVR, has become a confidence card for me on big birds. The blades open and cut a swath of destruction that puts a bird on the ground fast.

Black bears, on the other hand, will test a hunter’s resolve for patience while facing a predator that could fight back. Waiting for the perfect shot has never been more critical. Experiment with lighted nocks to help visualize arrow flight — they also help you find the projectile after it is launched.

An annual activity is shooting gophers with a crossbow. When can you get the opportunity to cock the bow and shoot at live targets at varying distances so many times? It isn’t unusual to shoot 50 to 100 times a day, and it won’t be long before you can plug a rodent that is showing only part of its head outside of the burrow. It is the ultimate confidence builder and helps build positive relations with landowners, which might lead to other hunting opportunities later in the year.

Spring is also an ideal time to perfect your system for carrying a crossbow in the field, too. Because a crossbow isn’t as convenient to carry with a standard sling as a rifle or shotgun, you might want to consider carrying your crossbow in a backpack designed for the job. I prefer the options available from Alps Outdoorz. Experiment to find which system works best for you.

Find a dependable backpack system that will hold your crossbow during long hikes. This one is from Alps Outdoorz.
Find a dependable backpack system that will hold your crossbow during long hikes. This one is from Alps Outdoorz.

July - September

Crossbow maintenance and practice may seem like the doldrums of summer, but now is the time to stay focused. Maintenance is at the top of the list, and changing strings and trying new arrows and broadheads provide confidence when it counts.

The practice is about to pay off, as early pronghorn seasons and the bugle of a bull elk can fill a calendar quickly. Are elk filling the September time slot? For the big-bodied game, do you switch to a heavier broadhead for terminal performance? Pronghorn and whitetails can be jumpy, so speed and accuracy become paramount. Interchanging arrows and broadheads doesn’t take long, and having sighted in with a variety of equipment earlier in the summer means you can change quickly with little time on the range.


October - December

The last three months of the year can be a grind. Hunters scheme and make trade-offs to spend the maximum number of days in the field. For most, whitetails will fill the calendar, but there is plenty of exciting hunting often overlooked.

Hunting the Nebraska Sandhills, deer were my primary focus. After sitting in a blind for a day, however, it became apparent that an upland game bird and turkey license would be a necessity. Roosters ran up the fence, while turkeys worked their way into the hills each morning only to return in the evening. Extra arrows proved to be worth their weight in fresh poultry. Filling the calendar means being an opportunist and knowing what to look for to shoot another arrow.

Easton V3 100-grain small game heads
Easton V3 100-grain small game heads

Small Game, All Year

I keep a few Easton V3 100-grain small game heads in my pack (photo above). They can quickly be inserted into an arrow, changing a big game hunt into an upland or bird hunt. The expandable point causes blunt force trauma to kill small game quickly and efficiently. The V3 heads work well for small predators, as well.


Develop Your Calendar

Embrace the nomad spirit and design a calendar where hunting tools become part of a daily routine. New and exciting challenges draw you to the field. Small game is a great way to stay sharp throughout the year and can be a bonus when eating squirrels, grouse, rabbits and other critters that require a keen eye and well-placed arrow. The results will compare to going to the gym for a year when you don’t normally exercise. The inner spirit of a hunter will be honed with new ways to define success.


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