Crossbows are extremely accurate if you practice from a shooting bench at 20 yards, yet that’s rarely a realistic representation of hunting. Sure, you can hit the 12x ring every time, maybe bust a few nocks, yet that quickly gets boring and won’t help you from a ground blind or tree stand. I recently deer hunted in Texas where I met David Choma, the driving force behind the original Horton crossbow and now a design engineer with CAMX crossbows.
As we sighted in our bows for the hunt, Choma asked if I’ve ever practiced with my “off” hand. “I practice off-hand frequently,” was my response but that wasn’t what he meant. “If you are right handed, can you shoot left handed?” he continued, an idea I hadn’t considered.
“Off” Hand Practice
If you do the math (geometry), from a sitting position, a hunter can only swing his crossbow (or rifle) about 90 degrees, basically covering 1/4th of an animal’s potential approach. If that same hunter can switch hands, he doubles the field of fire and basically can shoot any target he can see.
I’m both right handed and right-eye dominant and I wondered if I could close my right eye to shoot left handed. Ironically, that wasn’t an issue since the closeness of the scope lens to my left eye presented a clear target image. Practicing at 20 yards, my first shot was close to bull and the second was dead on. I quickly learned that switching hands is quite easy with a little practice and Choma showed me how he could shoot the CAMX upside down (Show-off)
The ranch we hunted had a “draw blood” policy. If you wounded an animal, your tag was filled, an extra reminder to make every shot your absolute best, which it should anyway. None the less, I found myself among four men with crossbows and you can guess that a challenge quickly emerged about who could shoot the best group off-hand.
Personally, I try to shoot off-hand as much as possible because I believe that from 15-25 yards the natural flow of the bow better matches with the movement of an animal and you make a better shot than using a rest. The results of the contest weren’t listed on a leader board, yet I represented myself well shooting a 3-inch group at 60 yards off-hand with the CAMX.
Shoot Odd, Not Even
As archers, we seem to be in love with even numbers, especially 20. Crossbow scopes come sighted in at 20 yards like deer know to stop at that distance. Crossbow hunters have an advantage over our compound brethren with a scoped sight and a flatter shooting set-up than most vertical bows. Still we tend to practice at 20, 30, and 40 yards when we need to practice at 23, 27 and 42.
Ranging distance isn’t the issue, although you want to practice with a laser rangefinder until you can do it flawlessly. If a buck stops at 37 yards, where do you put the 40-yard reticle? Paul Vaicunas was also on the hunt and faced this exact situation. “I put the 40-yard pin on its heart and the arrow hit right in the middle of the chest,” he said.
These three steps will keep the boring out of a practice regimen and make you a more effective hunter at the moment of truth. Practice “off” hand, off-hand, and at random distances and you are bound to succeed. For information on CAMX crossbows, visit www.camxcrossbows.com