Having a top-tier crossbow is a wonderful thing. However, if you take the time to do some research and accessorize that crossbow, you’re success rate and on-the-hunt enjoyment will soar.
by Brad Fenson
Still hunting through the Boreal Forest, the smell of decaying aspen leaves and cranberries nipped by frost put my olfactory senses on overload. The whistling wings of a goldeneye duck made me look skyward. The mottled feathers of a ruffed grouse vanished into the underbrush along the trail. I listened intently for the distant bugle of a bull elk. The forest’s sights, smells, and sounds left little doubt it was fall.
The grouse was a welcome sight. I quickly snatched an arrow from my quiver and checked it to ensure it had the Easton Small Game Head and not a SEVR broadhead. I always carry an arrow for harvesting small game, and have enjoyed success on days when four-legged critters don’t cooperate. The arrow slid down the rail of my Nitro 505 crossbow, and I leveled scope’s crosshair on an opening where the grouse would appear.
Seconds later, the head bobbing of the alert gamebird came into view. I slid the safety off on the bow and slowly engaged the trigger. The arrow was dead-on accurate. It caught the grouse at the base of its neck, flattening it on impact. A flurry of wingbeats brought a quick end to the event. I collected my prize and the arrow that had done its job.
Some might consider me a gear junkie. I prefer to see myself as an accessorized hunter who enjoys success. Being prepared for any opportunity increases the chances of launching an arrow, and who doesn’t want to be successful? I shot four ruffed grouse on my day in the forest, and although I didn’t tag an elk, I still considered it productive.
Hunters Demand More
Avid rifle hunters tote premium cartridges, superior optics, a steadfast sling, shooting sticks or bipod, scope covers, and a case to keep things secure during travel. An advanced crossbow enthusiast will also use a superior optic, steadfast quiver and sling, sound-dampening devices, carbon arrows, bone-shattering broadheads that provide confidence, lighted nocks, and a travel case. Cocking ropes are necessary. However, most crossbow goers have advanced to a cocking aid to cock or de-cock the crossbow. Experience with any discipline, including crossbow hunting, leads individuals to equipment that provides an advantage.
Premium crossbows are typically sold as a package, ready to go to the range to sight in and confirm aiming points. The concept allows anyone to purchase a crossbow, start shooting, and be ready to hunt within days. A package deal provides all the essentials to get started. With a package deal, you can shoot accurately, and get out hunting as soon as possible. The basics come with the bow, but plenty of other upgrades should be considered.
Slings and Packs
On a Wyoming antelope hunt, I packed everything required for the day in my daypack. This included my crossbow. Using my backpack allowed me to head for my blind in the dark and have my hand free to open the door and get settled.
Anyone who has packed a crossbow for a day or week-long adventure in the woods knows they can feel front-heavy. Having periods where your hands are free allows your arms to be rested and ready to steady a crossbow when a shot opportunity arises. A quality daypack with a crossbow carrier or holder protects your equipment and prevents your arms from feeling fatigued. The ALPS Commander X or Pursuit Backpack has room for everything from a lunch and water bottle to hunting accessories like knives, tags, and game bags. The best feature is the crossbow or rifle holders, which support heavy equipment firmly in place and protect them in rough terrain.
Some great slings are on the market, and a little doctoring will ensure they keep your crossbow on your shoulder. A nylon or leather sling will constantly slip off your shoulder. This is especially true if you are wearing synthetic clothing. Add a couple of silicone beads to the sling, which will grip and allow it to stay in place.
Hunting black bears in the wilds of northern Alberta, my treestand was high in a spruce. Accuracy and not tracking a bear in the dense cover were paramount to success. Having a steady rest was crucial. A rest is a natural accessory to steady the bow. A good rest will keep you on target, and ensure accuracy as if shooting off a bench.
Crossbow-specific rests, like the TenPoint Steady Eddy, stabilize the crossbow for precision shooting. When arms do not have to bear the total weight of a crossbow, it is easier to hold steady and engage the trigger slowly.
The Steady Eddy is a telescoping two-section monopod that works in several ways. It attaches to your crossbow using a 360-degree rapid-pivot tube and clamps under the stock when not used. It is adjustable, too. To set the desired length, turn the extension pole, set the length, and retighten. The Steady Eddy works for standing or sitting shots.
I have used the Steady Eddy tucked into my boot while sitting in a treestand or stabilized into my waist for a standing shot. The more you practice with one, the more ways you realize how to put it to use.
Broadheads and Small Game Heads
Small game heads or judo points, along with quality broadheads, are standard equipment on any hunt. Arrows, broadheads, and nocks are vital pieces of your hunting projectile, and they need to be taken care of to ensure they are in perfect working condition. The projectile puzzle is easy to manage with an MTM Crossbow Bolt Case. This case is an excellent option for transporting and storing up to a dozen arrows up to 23.1 inches in total length. The foam inserts keep arrows separated so fletching, and broadheads don’t meet each other. The case can go with the rest of your luggage or gear, and you’ll know your equipment will be pristine when needed.
Field Target and Discharge
High-performance, modern crossbows are easy to use and maintain. Cocking and de-cocking aids have quickly become essential for safety and managing a crossbow during a hunt. The days of carrying a cocking rope and discharge target are optional.
TenPoint offers its premium crossbows with an ACUslide cocking and de-cocking system. There is even a manually operated de-cock offered for some TenPoint and Wicked Ridge Crossbows using the ACUdraw 50 SLED rope cocking device. Once you use a cocking and de-cocking device, it is hard to go back to a rope. The bow is cocked consistently and evenly with both limbs, and this adds to the accuracy of your crossbow.
If you use an older bow and don’t want to give up the nostalgia, pack a Delta McKenzie Travel Pro Crossbow Target to practice and discharge at the end of each day. The target has a welded core that will maintain its integrity without splintering when used with broadheads. It is a safe and reliable way to discharge your crossbow and ensure your arrow and broadhead stay in good working order.
If you are looking for convenience or don’t have room to pack a target or bag, the TenPoint Crossbow Discharge Arrow is a great go-to. This arrow allows you to unload your bow at the end of the day without firing an actual arrow. The specialized 725-grain bolts are ideal for a fly-in adventure or backpack trip where you don’t have a target.
Arrow Release Fluid and Arrow Puller
The blistering speed of modern crossbows can make it challenging to remove arrows from a target. The TenPoint Bednar Perfect Arrow Puller is ideal for anyone wanting to shoot targets and not damage arrows when pulling them out. There are several arrow pullers on the market. Make sure you get one that is rubber or silicone, as they grip the smooth carbon arrows better. The Bednar Puller was designed to pull arrows from high-density targets and has three interchangeable grips sized to fit different arrow shaft diameters.
String wax and rail lube are often overlooked as an accessory when they are a necessity. They help improve string life and reduce contact on the rail. They also ensure consistency between shots. Every crossbow hunter should keep rail lube handy and use it every ten shots or less.
A top-tier crossbow is excellent. However, you’ll increase the amount of punched tags and meat in your freezer if you pay attention and accessorize for success.