Crossbows are an ancient weapon sporting deadly accuracy and ease of use. They were outlawed for decades as a hunting weapon, but in recent years have been permitted in more and more states, usually with certain restrictions. Initially, crossbows were allowed in some states for hunters with physical disabilities such as shoulder, wrist or hand problems. Many employ foot stirrups to draw the string and cock the crossbows, making them easy to load. The next category to open up allowed hunters of a certain age to use crossbows, typically 55 or 60 years of age and up. These laws were seen by all hunters as wise and judicious, giving hunters who otherwise could no longer hunt the opportunity to get out into the woods for recreation and fellowship with other hunters. It also gave them the opportunity to take some very nice deer, bear, elk, or other quarry with their new crossbows.
As hunting with crossbows became legal, equipment manufacturers took notice and began designing fantastic crossbows for the market. Brands like Darton, TenPoint, Barnett, Excalibur and Horton led the way with models that produced sizzling speeds and incredible accuracy. While most compound hunting bows deliver arrows at 235 to 290 feet per second, many crossbows are capable of speeds well over 300 fps. And their accuracy is unchallenged
As more and more hunters lobbied their state governments and departments of natural resources for the right to hunt with crossbows, they have responded. Currently, while crossbows are entirely outlawed in a few states, most allow for limited use. Some allow for open use wherever compound bows are legal for hunting. In limited use areas, the restrictions are applied due to the distance a crossbow arrow can fly. Where hunting pressure is heavy they are outlawed. Where it is lighter, they are allowed. While many hunters refuse to use them, considering them to be not as sporting as bows, others are picking one up and giving them a try. They offer a unique hunting experience, and many hunters use them on occasion for hunting, while others simply enjoy using them for recreational target practice in the back yard or at the range.
If you are considering purchasing one of the fine crossbows on the market first check with the DNR in your area to find out the laws about their use. You may have to apply for a special permit, or travel to the least crowded areas of your state to use them. Be sure to use extra precautions when hunting with these high-powered weapons, including plenty of practice ahead of time to ensure proper use.