The crossbow: one hunter’s take

10 24 Ladd Crossbows

It’s been more than two decades now since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which is an intolerance to gluten, a compound found mainly in wheat, barley and rye. The only cure is to not digest gluten.

One of the scariest periods of my life was the six months leading up to my eventual diagnosis. I had lost so much weight and muscle strength that I looked anorexic and that summer, torqued my compound bow draw weight down to less than 40 pounds, and still could barely pull it back. As much as I tried to practice, I was shooting horribly. This included tanking at 3-D archery tournaments.

The diagnosis changed my life for the better, and just in time to save my hunting seasons that year.

Like so many hunters at the time, I got the archery bug in the early 1990s when compound bows were flying off the shelves and clubs everywhere were starting up archery leagues. I had a blast shooting the local 3-D (and 2-D) courses with my buddies and eventually competing in tournaments. I even won a few trophies (in the lesser-utilized fingers class) and better yet, killed a few deer.

My passion for archery has not changed. I still practice and about a dozen years ago took up traditional bowhunting and shooting when I acquired a very nice recurve bow.

When crossbow hunting expanded in New York in 2014 I decided to see for myself what both the excitement and debate were about. I tried a few out, liked it, and eventually purchased a pretty high-end (at the time) crossbow, that I still have.

I have to admit, although I’ve yet to kill a deer with it, I have come to really enjoy shooting this thing, and hunting with it. Yes, it’s dead on out to 50 yards but I’m not confident that a shorter and lighter bolt from this crossbow has the kinetic energy to consistently drop deer at that distance, not to mention flight time. Therefore, just like so many years with my compound, when I hunt with my crossbow I’m looking for a shot inside of 30 yards.

Perhaps the newer crossbows are smaller and lighter, but I have found that walking through the woods with a crossbow is nothing like walking with a compound, or better yet, a recurve bow. You can’t, or at least you shouldn’t, sling a cocked crossbow over your shoulder and therefore you have to carry at the ready position or unload it. I’m also not crazy about hauling the thing up in a tree stand, although I am getting better at that.

Although I’m sure some crossbows are quieter than others, I have found them to be noisy. Mine, and other crossbows I’ve heard, make a loud “thwack” when released, which again leads to my concern about a deer jumping the string.

If crossbow hunting opportunities increased in New York, especially in the Northern Zone, where we only have three days of hunting before the muzzleloading season opens, I would likely lean towards using the crossbow more often simply because of having more confidence in it at this point in my hunting career.

My health scare a few decades ago only serves as a reminder that like so many other hunters have experienced, the day will likely come when I can’t pull back a compound or recurve bow. The thought of not being able to enjoy the archery season scares me, and I feel for those former bowhunters who are aching to get back into the early fall woods.

If expanded crossbow seasons help keep our fellow hunters going, while at the same time inspires others to take up or expand on this great heritage of deer hunting, then I’m all for it. Until then, I’ll use it when I can.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Dan Ladd

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