Bow-hunting is a popular sport, and learning how to use a crossbow is an important first step. After all, most people will not automatically know what to do when you place a crossbow in their hands, so it takes a little advice and assistance – not to mention a little practice – to learn how to use the bow properly so that you and everyone around you is as safe as possible.
Don't Be Unprepared
Preparation is the key to keeping yourself safe while out hunting with your crossbow. Following the rules exactly as they are intended goes a long way in making sure everyone stays safe throughout the day, but it is also good to learn more about the crossbow itself. For instance, there are times when these bows have misfired, often with disastrous results. If you don’t want this to happen to you, your number-one goal should be to learn to use the bow the right way.
Operating a crossbow isn’t necessarily complicated, but as with other types of hunting equipment, there are certain do’s and don’ts that you have to follow to be safe. If you’d like to learn some tips to help prevent your crossbow from misfiring in the future, the main suggestion is to learn to shoot the bow properly, because each time you do something wrong, it increases the odds of a misfire.
Know What to Do When the Bow Is in “Safe” Mode – and When it’s Not
Just like most weapons, crossbows come with a “safe” feature that will prevent them from firing when they’re not being used. This is quite naturally a very important feature, especially when you’re around a lot of people, but you should always make it a habit to immediately remove your finger from the trigger whenever you take it off of “safe.”
Remember … “safe” off, finger off the trigger. This one simple rule could make the difference between a bad accident you’ll regret and having a good time while you’re hunting. Even better, make it a habit to keep your finger off of the trigger at all times, except when you are getting ready to fire, just to be on the safe side.
Of course, learning how to use the bow properly can save you a lot of stress and worry over misfires, so if you need a basic “how to” lesson, here it is.
Getting Started with Your Crossbow
There are several ways to load your crossbow, but the most common way is to use a cocking rope. In this instance, you’ll want to make sure the crossbow is firmly planted on the ground and your foot is in the cocking stirrups. If they are, it makes pulling the strings back with the cocking rope a lot easier to do.
Next, you’ll want to place the middle of the cocking rope into the groove of the bow so that when you pull on the rope, it will tighten in the proper amount. The middle of the bowstring should be on the groove at the top of the bow close to the stock. What this does is create a light tension to help pull the bowstring back. If your bow allows for the cocking rope method of loading the crossbow, this groove will already be in it.
The next step involves placing the rolling cocking hooks on the bowstring itself, on either side of the barrel. The ropes have to be directly on the bowstrings with one on each side of the barrel, and the hooks should be facing away from you. If you like, you can even mark where the cocking hooks are on the bowstring so it is easier to do the next time around.
The Next Few Steps Are Equally Important
At this point, you can pull the ropes just a little bit to ensure the handles are even with one another. When this happens, you’ll know you’re pulling both ends of the rope at the same time. Remember that if you don’t pull both cocking ropes at the same time, you’ll experience inconsistent and sloppy accuracy.
When you pull back, make sure you do it in one motion and with some force. You should keep pulling until you hear a few clicks because this will tell you that the bowstring is cocked and ready to go. NOTE: make sure the “safe” feature is on when you do this and keep your finger off of the trigger to be safe!
Take one bolt and place it in the groove of the barrel. Always place the odd-colored fletching in the groove first so that the crossbow isn’t damaged. At this point, you’re ready to shoot the crossbow.
The Fun Part: Shooting Your Crossbow
To get started, slide the bolt back into the barrel, making sure it is seated firmly against the bowstring. Your bow may even have a clip that helps ensure the bolt doesn’t slide around, which is even better. Take off the “safe” mode, and take the correct stance. Aim the crossbow at your intended target and squeeze – don’t pull – the trigger, exhaling as you squeeze.
Never jerk the crossbow, and always keep it aimed directly at the target. If you check the placement of the shot after it’s complete, it can help you adjust the scope if you need to, or whatever else you need to do to get a better aim the next time.
There’s no such thing as being too safe when operating a crossbow, and following the rules to the “tee” can greatly reduce your chances of a misfire. If you know you’re doing everything correctly and you experience a misfire anyway, it might be a good idea to have the bow checked out by the experts to make sure it doesn’t need adjusting or a new part.