You might think that because a crossbow has a heavier draw weight, it's more dangerous. The truth is, as with any other hunting tool, safety during use is critical with the crossbow.
The device deserves respect. But you shouldn't fear it. Here are tips for staying safe and enjoying your hunting tool for years to come.
Read Up On It
The very first thing that every new crossbow hunter should do is sit down and read the owner's manual — cover to cover. That manual will explain proper handling and safety procedures for your specific bow. There are some general practices that apply to all crossbow users regardless of which bow they shoot.
Lube and Wax
Generously use rail lube and string wax. If the string breaks, bad things will happen to your crossbow and perhaps to the shooter or the people in close proximity. Both lube and wax preserve the string. If your string begins to fray and strands break — change it, immediately.
Use the Safety
Most crossbows are on safe at the end of the cocking process. Always check to make sure that your bow is on safe before doing anything else. This is very important!
Make sure that the string is centered after cocking by marking your serving so that you can visually verify that it has been drawn back evenly. If the string is not centered, it will change the impact point of your arrow similar to using a different anchor point on a vertical bow. Mark the string so you will visually confirm it is centered against the rail every time you cock the bow.
Keep the Thumbs
Now listen up! Please make sure that you thumb and fingers are below the rail of the crossbow before releasing your arrow; if not, when you pull the trigger the string will hit your thumb and something is going to give. It will not be the string! I've seen a variety of severe wounds inflicted by a crossbow string and none of them are fun, even the ones that do not draw blood instead of amputate. The fact that most folks only do it once is of little comfort when you are hopping around, screaming in pain.
Don't Dry Fire
Shooting a crossbow without an arrow to absorb the energy will damage your bow and when that happens you never know where pieces might fly. You may be seriously hurt. Remember that a loaded crossbow should be handled exactly and with the same care as a loaded firearm.
Back It Up
On the range, make sure that you have a solid and reliable backstop. You'll need a safe area that is at least 300 yards deep and open to allow plenty of room for obstruction-free arrow flight.
Targets should be of a high quality capable of stopping every arrow from a crossbow. If the target is badly worn or of an inferior quality, damage may be inflicted to the shorter crossbow arrows causing costly repairs or even destroying the arrow completely.
Now let's move into the field and take a look as some common-sense practices there.
Haul To the Stand
When hunting from an elevated stand, always cock your crossbow on the ground and then use a tow rope to raise it to the platform. Do not attempt to climb into a stand carrying your crossbow. Once you are secured in your stand with a safety harness, then raise your crossbow and load it. Never have an arrow in place when raising or lowering your crossbow. That's how people get killed, and yes it has happened.
Reload on the Ground
Unless you're sitting in an enclosed stand, after taking a shot, your crossbow should be lowered to the ground to be re-cocked. If you use a cocking device, which can be implemented from a sitting position, remaining in your stand is acceptable. But never lean over in a tree stand to cock your crossbow.
The preferred method for crossbow hunting is from a ground blind or an elevated stand. The crossbow may be used for still-hunting or stalking, but extra caution should be applied. The crossbow may be cocked and on safe, but one should never move through the bush with an arrow loaded on the rail. When game is spotted, only then should an arrow be loaded onto the crossbow. Until that moment, the arrow with the broadhead completely protected should be carried in a bow or hip quiver, not in your hand.
What's Beyond the Deer?
It is important that you never shoot a crossbow at a sky-lined animal. It is critical that you are able to see exactly where your arrow is going to go so that no living thing is accidentally harmed by your shot. As with vertical archery, one should always wait until the game you are shooting at is relaxed and standing still.
Know Local Laws
It is important that you are fully aware of all local ordinances regarding shooting your crossbow. Check with local officials or authorities to make sure that you are not violating any laws while you practice.
Safe Shooting is Fun Shooting
There are no more injuries with a crossbow than there are with vertical archery equipment, but accidents happen every year. Knowing your equipment and being aware of common-sense safety procedures will ensure that the time you spend in the field will be accident-free and gratifying for all around you. Good luck and good hunting.