Whitetail Hunting photo

Rivals in today’s crossbow debate would do well on Capitol Hill, where facts needn’t be factual and arguments needn’t hold up to the slightest scrutiny, so as long as they fire up the true believers. Some crossbow haters, for example, insist that crossbow bolts are too light (compared to the average arrow) to make consistent kills. If they bothered to weigh a bolt, they’d find out how stupid that is, but there’s no need because the folks drinking up that Kool-Aid have never weighed a bolt either.

On the other side of the coin, crossbow proponents scoff: “Bah! A crossbow is no more deadly than a compound bow. It’s still a 30-yard weapon.” And that, too, is total B.S.

Now would be a good time to tell you that I have been consistently for the extended use of crossbows (with some caveats), as it will increase hunter participation. So I’m not picking on the proponents here. But let’s just face the fact: Crossbows are unequivocally more deadly than compounds.

I just got back from hunting turkeys in Nebraska with the folks at Cabela’s, who were good enough to pitch wall tents for us on the prairie and let us loose on the local mix of Merriam’s, Easterns, and hybrids. During the hunt, carrying the company’s new Instinct Lancer crossbow, regular F&S contributor Will Brantley and I belly-crawled to the edge of a cornfield where a big Eastern gobbler and eight jakes milled at 60 yards. Brantley (who has also written about the hunt over at Realtree.com) raised a tail fan he’d brought from Kentucky and spun it slowly left and right. Seeing this, the gobbler started to close the distance. But then he got a little edgy, and… pfunk. Brantley dropped him at 48 yards.

Never in a million years could he have pulled that off with a vertical bow.

The next morning, on the rolling prairie, Brantley and I were belly-crawling again, this time toward a big Merriam’s courting a couple of hens. As we topped the last knoll, the gobbler’s head popped up above the grass at about 70 yards. Brantley raised up the fan again, but this tom wasn’t edgy. He barged in, looking to kick some turkey butt, and I bolted him at 30. He dropped like he’d been pole-axed, with neither flop nor flap. When we walked up to the bird, he looked like he’d been hit with a .308.

I would have never been able to draw on that bird with a vertical bow. And, whereas 30 would have been a long shot on a turkey with a compound, it was a chip shot with the crossbow.

Yeah, that’s turkeys. But all of this translates easily enough to big game. The Cabela’s Lancer shoots a 385-grain bolt at 395 fps, making it far more flat-shooting than any compound, and with more downrange kinetic energy and momentum, to boot. Now look through the bow’s excellent range-compensating scope, and it’s suddenly a piece of cake for anybody — even a beginner — to be hell on wheels beyond 30 yards. Put in just a little effort to sight in precisely with a rangefinder, and you can kill deer at 60 to 70 yards all day long.

True enough, there are guys who make 50-, 60-, even 70-plus-yard kills with compound bows. But they are the exception, the rare experts who sleep with their bows and devote great gobs of their free time shooting them. The best crossbows, on the other hand, make these shots easy for just about anyone–and that makes them significantly more deadly.

I’ll say again that this is not an argument against the expanded use of crossbows (which I largely support.) It’s a plea for both sides in the crossbow debate to drop the silly arguments, instead of repeating them like fallacious talking points in a political debate. How about instead we agree on the real facts, and then go from there?

Anyway, I say crossbows are deadlier–period. You can agree with me or shoot me down. Whoever makes the best argument will be invited to rant and rave right here as my guest.