What to Know About Muzzleloaders, Crossbows

What to Know About Muzzleloaders, Crossbows
(Shutterstock image)

Been hunting with a gun or bow all your life? That may be a good reason to switch. 

Hunters, like their quarry, are creatures of habit.

Gun hunters and bowhunters generally use the same firearms or bows and employ the same techniques year after year, season after season. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

However, successful hunters who have mastered their favorite pursuits may want to consider switching to blackpowder arms or crossbows just for the sake of change.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both genres and mastering them may take a little longer, but isn't that what hunting is all about?

muzzleloaders, crossbows


Muzzleloader hunting is more about gear maintenance, components and loading than it is about actually firing the gun.

Even with modern advances in propellants and ignition designs, these firearms must be kept clean and maintained regularly in order to avoid rust, corrosion and tarnishing. 

In addition, proper operation of a muzzleloader requires a rather substantial tool kit that will include speed loaders, powder, bullets, primers, bullet starters, and a wide variety of cleaning and maintenance gear.

Keep in mind that while some in-line muzzleloaders are capable of 200-yard accuracy in the right hands, for the most part blackpowder arms are most effective at ranges under 100 yards.

muzzleloaders, crossbows


When it comes to the cost of crossbows, the sky is the limit.

However, there are some excellent horizontal bows on the market that cost under $400 and can produce "Robin Hoods" all day long.

At $15 per arrow, doing so can be costly, but the point is that today's crossbows are extremely accurate out to 40 yards, which is all the distance any whitetail hunter needs.

Despite having rifle-type stocks and scope sights, modern crossbows are short-range implements. They are universally heavy and awkward.

Also, crossbows are slow to load, and so hunters can expect to get off one well-aimed, accurate shot at a given target. It is possible to cock and load a crossbow while in a tree stand or blind but the process takes more than enough time to allow an alert, suspicious deer to vacate the country after a near miss with the weapon.

Modern crossbows are well-designed, sturdy and dependable but they do require waxing between shots, annual maintenance and periodic replacement of strings and cables.

With careful use, a crossbow should be on-target for 500 shots or more before factory adjustments must be made.

Some states have separate seasons for these sporting arms and some allow their use during the regular firearms seasons. Why not put the fun back into deer hunting by switching to a muzzleloader or crossbow in 2017?

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.