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Crossbow safety

Daniel Church, NR Educator and Volunteer Hunter Education Instructor

Like any other shooting skill, using a crossbow safely and accurately will require a combination of old and well-learned knowledge.

The four basic rules of firearm safety (TABK) apply to crossbow use and hunting.

  • Treat every crossbow as if it were loaded.
  • Always point the crossbow in a safe direction.
  • Be certain of your target and what's beyond.
  • Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

Crossbow License Required: Crossbow hunters are reminded that they will need to purchase a different license than in previous years if they wish to use a crossbow during the crossbow deer season. New laws have established two kinds of deer hunting licenses applicable to archery and crossbow seasons. A crossbow license will allow hunting deer and small game with a crossbow. An archer license will only allow hunting with what is typically considered archery gear - a bow drawn and held through the effort of the person releasing it (this excludes crossbows). Under the new law, those who wish to hunt with a crossbow during the crossbow deer season must purchase a crossbow license. Those hunting during a gun deer season under the authority of a gun deer license may use a crossbow under the lesser weapon law. The crossbow and archer licenses are included in the Conservation Patron license.

Take these other steps to stay safe while using a crossbow

  • Always read and review the manual of your crossbow and follow all manufacture safety rules.
  • Never attempt to repair your crossbow unless you are properly trained, consider taking to a pro- shop for repairs or return to the manufacturer.
  • Crossbows have a safety! Most crossbows are on safe at the end of the cocking process. Immediately after cocking always check to make sure that your bow is on safe before doing anything else. This is very important!
  • Always use bolts/arrows recommended by the manufacturer and handle carefully. Protect yourself and the arrow points with a covered arrow quiver.
  • The safest way to carry, transport, and raise or lower a crossbow from a stand, is to have the crossbow un-cocked at all times.
  • Never dry-fire a crossbow. Crossbows have a draw weight of 125 to 290 pounds. The safest way to un-cock a crossbow is to fire a bolt into the ground or target.
  • Make sure that the limb tips are free of obstructions and your fingers, hand or arm is not in the string path at any time while the crossbow is cocked.
  • Although crossbows can be extremely accurate at great distances due to the slow velocity of the bolt/arrow, care should be taken not to take long shots at game. Most crossbows are incapable of beating an animal's reaction time at distances greater than 50 yards.

View educational videos and training aids to help educate yourself about crossbow safety

Crossbow education and safety information are made available by the North American Crossbow Federation (NACF). One of the primary crossbow training materials is Crossbow 101 [exit DNR] a 20-minute video. You may obtain other written materials that accompany Crossbow 101 by contacting the NACF [exit DNR].

TenPoint Crossbow Technologies offers online Crossbow Training [PDF].

Last revised: Monday October 13 2014