It makes sense that a crossbow hunter would want to protect his investment once it is out of the box. Modern hunting crossbows range in price from $500 to over $2,000 and by design are inherently prone to damage to exposed critical parts including strings, cables, cams and scopes. Tossing a valuable crossbow on top of a pile of gear in the back of a pickup and driving hundreds, even thousands, of miles to a prime hunting destination is just asking for trouble.
Arriving at camp with a broken or damaged crossbow can ruin a trip because replacement parts are often difficult to find and delivery of those parts can be a challenge, especially if you are in a spike camp deep in the high country.
Crossbow cases are unique in that no other bow or firearm can fit inside them. Shaped like a miniature hammerhead shark, crossbow cases are designed to protect a crossbow's limbs, stock and scope, plus provide room for extra arrows, field tips, broadheads, sling, tools and other accessories.
A well-designed crossbow case will get you and your gear to your destination without loss or damage, but not all crossbow cases are alike.
When traveling by air, nothing beats a hard clam-shell-style case. Plano's Manta 1133 heavy-duty plastic case is designed to protect crossbows and accessories from rough handling over extended trips. Plano's pillar-lock feature offers crush-proof structural support during travel or long-term storage. Molded contact points meet when the case is closed to form "pillars" that make the case crushproof. Foam inserts and heavy-duty internal straps ensure a snug fit.
Airline and ship baggage can endure rough handling, it's a good idea to securely strap or duct tape your hard case to avoid damage to your gear. Crossbows and their cases are heavy, awkward and unwieldy, but if you take care of your gear before it is shipped it should arrive with only the usual dings, dents and scratches that are common with automated baggage handling equipment.
At present, no hard plastic case designed for crossbows is bullet-proof or entirely damage resistant. Plastic will bend and crack if enough force is applied; plastic clips, latches and locks are sometimes unreliable and hinges may break or fail over time. For extremely long trips or situations where many air carrier changes are expected, it may be best to ship the crossbow in its original box (see below) to ensure its safe arrival at camp.
Soft crossbow cases are most effective when used while traveling short distances by vehicle, ATV or boat. Because even a locked soft case can be vandalized, it's best to avoid using them if the case will be unaccompanied at any point during the trip.
Always transport soft-cased crossbows with care to avoid unnecessary shifting, dropping or potentially damaging contact with rigid objects. Never place a soft case at the bottom of a pile of gear or in a position where it may shift, fall or slip during transit. Take the time to pack wisely; place heavier gear, boxes and loose items at the bottom of the pile and then place the soft case securely on top. Use bungee cords, ropes or straps to secure the soft case in position and check the load frequently during the trip for unexpected shifting.
An excellent, sturdy BackTrack soft case is offered by Game Plan Gear which also manufactures a variety of crossbow cases, carriers, slings and straps. Game Plan's soft case is large and sturdy enough to hold any model crossbow including those with long, recurve-style limbs and high-mounted scopes.
The BackTrack case also features plenty of zippered top and side pockets for arrows and accessories plus several straps and handles for ease of handling and transport. The case is roomy enough for all of the gear, including clothing that the well-equipped crossbow hunter will need for a successful outing.
A number of companies offer sturdy soft cases for crossbows and accessories, including Barnett, Redhead, Wicked Ridge, Excalibur and others. All of these items and other accessories may be ordered online and can be shipped directly to your home or work place within a few days.
Other Options: Ship It
In some instances the best way to transport an expensive crossbow and accessories is via UPS, FedEx or some other reliable shipping company.
Consider shipping crossbows, heavy hunting clothes and other gear that could be at risk on normal commercial flights. Some pre-trip planning is necessary but shipping is often the best way to ensure your gear will arrive on time with no damage or loss.
For best results the crossbow should be disassembled and packed in its original box. Be sure all the necessary assembly instructions, tools and parts are included so you can reassemble the crossbow when it arrives at its destination. Of course, the crossbow should be sighted in after reassembly.
Accessories including arrows, broadheads, cockers, slings and other gear may also be safely shipped via land carriers. Send crossbows at least two weeks prior to your arrival and be sure to keep your tracking data up to date so you (and your destination contact) can follow its progress.
Leave plenty of time for your gear to arrive so that your contact can verify its arrival and condition prior to your departure. And, be sure to make arrangements for shipping your crossbow home at the end of the trip.
Crossbows are generally reliable, dependable and rugged, but accidents do happen. For this reason, always keep your crossbow manufacturer's customer service telephone number and e-mail address on hand in case important parts need to be shipped directly to your hunting destination. A good place for this information is inside a convenient pocket or pouch on your crossbow case.
I hunt with a crossbow about 100 days per season and have only had two occasions when I needed to order spare parts. On one occasion I accidently snapped the arrow retention spring on my crossbow while tracking a wounded buck through some particularly nasty greenbriers. I called the manufacturer that day and had them overnight a spare spring, which allowed me to continue hunting with only a few hours of lost time.
On another hunt I was lowering my crossbow by rope down from my tree stand when the quiver became hung up on a metal brace. The quiver's plastic base shattered, which meant I'd have to carry the quiver separately for the remainder of the hunt. I called the manufacturer and explained the problem. They shipped a new quiver and mount overnight (at no charge to me) and I was able to continue my two-week trip without a hitch.
Crossbow hunting seasons can last from September through February, but the long off-season can take a toll on equipment. Crossbows should be handled with care and protected from the elements during the off-season. Dust, rust and mold are the most common off-season enemies a crossbow will face.
To keep your crossbow in as-new condition be sure to clean and oil the crossbow per the manufacturer's instructions, apply bow and cable wax as necessary and then cover the crossbow and hang it in a dry, cool place where weather, insects and inquisitive hands can't reach it.
Soft and hard cases are ideal places to store your crossbow when it is not in use. Keep the case unzipped or slightly open to allow air to circulate inside the case. Be sure to clean and store all of the necessary tools, lubricants, arrows and accessories nearby so that they will be easy to find and ready to go next season.
IT'S IN THE BAG
Hunters quickly find that hunting with a horizontal bow is a bit more complicated than merely purchasing a crossbow.
In most cases the manufacturer's basic crossbow package includes the bow, a scope, a few arrows and a quiver.
Some include a cocking device, others a sling, but in most situations the hunter is required to purchase a variety of important accessories, and all of these items must be transported to and from the hunting area in order to ensure a successful trip.
In addition to a cocking rope and sling, it's important that basic items including:
'¢Allen wrenches and other tools
'¢Spare string and stringing device