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Deer Hunting With a Crossbow | How Far Do You Shoot?

Deer Hunting With a Crossbow
Written by Marc Niad
Last Update: August 11, 2023

The deer was twitching its tail near a body of water. Even, no casual flicks were visible for a while.

It’s the typical backdrop for a perfect deer hunting story that involves a crossbow. Such a situation might make you think that success in this game comes without pain.

But, it doesn’t. Why? Ask yourself, “How do crossbows work and how can I use them properly? Do I have a sound familiarity with aerodynamics?”

If your answers are a ‘no,’ and you are serious about deer hunting with a crossbow seriously, I’m going to tell you something you should know.

Deer hunting is neither a random game nor does it lack the beauty and demands of an adventurous undertaking.

Rather, it requires dexterity, knowledge, and the right gear. In this article, you’ll come across the basics and practical tips on using the right crossbows for deer hunting.

How to use a Crossbow for Deer Hunting: Pro Tips

For beginners, it’s a set of tasks that have to be performed with dedication, discipline, and caution. I’ve tried to cover the basics and practical insights into the real thing.

Let’s have a look.

1. Check the Gears Out

Making the right combination of a bow and an arrow or a bolt is always challenging.

But I won’t let you through all that technicalities. Just the specifics of the bow and arrow would be okay, and you’ll learn more with time.

  • Make sure your crossbow comes with the right draw power which is typically 75-125 pounds.
  • Get your crossbows that are lightweight and outfitted with quality dampeners and scopes.
  • Carbon arrows are great for newbies as they can eventually take light aluminum arrows and ultimately metal jacket arrows, the most accurate ones.

2. Get a Good Rest

No matter how light your crossbow is, it’ll become harder to hold onto your hands after some time. That’s why a good rest is essential in bow hunting.

A good rest includes a shooting rail, which will not only give you stability and accuracy but it also will provide comfort with your shots.

If you don’t have a safety rail, you can use a shooting stick, bow hanger, or monopod instead.

3. Load Your Crossbows

There’re three ways of loading your weapon: Hand cocking, using cocking ropes, and cranks. I’ll discuss the first two ways in brief.

Since you’re learning, your hands should be in use.

how to load crossbow

Have one of your feet within the cocking stirrup place it on the ground and grab the string on any of the stock’s sides.

As you need to guide the string; so placing the thumbs alongside the barrel should help.

Now is the time for some more physical work, such as keeping the arms straight, standing up, putting equal pressure on all sides, and finally, pulling the string back to ensure it locks where it should.

Using cocking ropes can be another way to go.

Using cocking ropes loading

  • Step through the cocking stirrup, try to brace it hard, and run the strap’s back over the weapon’s butt.
  • Attach the cocking rope using its hooks to the sides of the string.
  • Hold the handles of the strap, and stand firmly as long as it takes the string to lock in place.

4. Place Your Stand Carefully

Crossbows have limited access to how far you can swing left or right while shooting, which can cost you many opportunities to shoot.

You’ll never know which direction your trophy buck is coming from. That’s why placing a stand is so important. Select a position with good maneuverability and freedom to swing your bow around.

This’ll not only create more shot opportunities for you but also will make your position safer.

Make sure you have enough room to get around obstacles and make a clean shot. Keep adjusting the stand till you get the best results. Don’t forget to cut down or remove any obstacles that might interfere with your shot.

5. Shoot It Right

By now, you’ve got how to load and set up your stand. Now is the time to learn to shoot it. Here’s what to do if you want to make your first shot count:

Hold the Weapon Appropriately

The handbow is close to the trigger, but your finger isn’t on it.

Your handbow stays parallel to the trigger (it’s for your safety). Your other hand stays on the foregrip. Make sure the fingers are under the barrel.

Holding the crossbow Appropriately

Aim and Shoot

You’ll see a mounting scope or sight pin that allows for aim through. Since deer are not as small as birds, some would suggest you not focus on sighting too much.

But you should sight in because it’s standard practice, mainly because you don’t want to hit anything else other than your target.

There are factors associated with shooting accuracy that you should take into account.

Crossbow shooting accuracy

As soon as you sight the target, you need to squeeze the crossbow trigger having the target aligned correctly in your sights.

As the trigger gets released and the bow fires, you will get some noise and see that the bolt hurtles toward your target (if shot correctly).

After you fire your shot, follow through and keep watching to see where your bolt goes.

It’s essential that you remember your form and always remain steady until the bolt hits its target. This will help reduce the risk of sending arrows off in another direction.

Use a Draw line

Using a draw line will help you get your crossbow into an elevated stand safely and quickly. This is a great safety practice to keep any unwanted accidents from happening. Don’t try to load an arrow if the stand isn’t secure.

6. Know the Law

Learning the law is necessarily the first step before you start anything in real. We know outdoor activities are often governed by state laws.

So, are crossbows legal?

Most US states have specific regulations on the use of crossbows, and you should look for the ones for your state.

Some states allow crossbows during archery, gun, and hunting seasons while some allow them in bow-only regions and for handicapped hunters during archery season.

It seems there are a lot of dos and don’ts when you should be a law-abiding hunter.

Don’t worry; Feel free to read our detailed article on the legal obligations for crossbows in the USA.

Ethical Rules

While all principles may not apply equally to people’s leisurely activities, deer hunting should not be done without any respect for the deer and nature.

Here are some ethical principles you should follow when you go deer hunting with a crossbow.

  • It’s wise to leave fawns because their survival is critical to the deer populations and its future generations. So, you should identify your target precisely.
  • A clean shot and kill should be your purpose.
  • Many people kill for sport which an ethical hunter won’t go for.
  • Make sure you use as much of the hunted deer as possible (to reduce the amount of wastage).
  • Never use baits/lures that are prohibited.
  • Finally, try to stick to a chase’s fair and legal rules.

Practicing Before the Actual Game

It would be best if you didn’t jump into a real game right after learning how to shoot. Don’t want to be like those who get hurt (mostly due to lack of practice) during their early deer hunting events.

Even, you shouldn’t be up to killing another wild animal other than your target (a deer) either.

You may collect some archery targets, often in the shape of an actual deer or some static objects to practice shooting for perfection. Choose an open area; so you can get your arrow’s trajectory clear.

Where to Shoot Deer With Crossbows?

Last but not least, you should pay special attention to the place where you are aiming to shoot. To achieve a humane kill, you’ll need to spend the minimum number of shots possible.

However, that becomes a problem in deer hunting as all the vital organs of the deer are protected with a thick layer of bush and hides.

That’s why your target selection should aim toward easily penetrating the protective layer and doing as much damage to the vital organs as possible.

There are multiple ways to go about this. Here are the 3 most commonly used shot angels when hunting deers with a crossbow”


This is considered the holy grail of deer hunters. You can achieve this angle when the deer is standing sideways to you. From a broadside angle, you’ll get the widest view of the deer’s vital organs.

Shooting from this angle increases the chance of damaging the heart and one or both lungs. A shot in the right place from this angle will deliver lethal damage to your buck.

Firing from the broadside angle almost always ends up in a clean, quick, and humane kill. Here’s how to do it:

Line up your verticle scope with your target’s (deer, in this case) front leg. Now, align the horizontal reticle to approx. 1/3 -1/2 way up the target’s body.

Quartering Away

deer shot placement

Don’t worry if you can’t get a clean broadside shot of your trophy buck. If the deer is moving away from your direction, a quartering away shot will be the best to secure the trophy.

With this angle, you still get access to large vital areas and can do maximum damage. However, the window of taking a successive quartering away shot is shorter.

As the deer move away from you, it changes the angle necessary to deliver lethal damage. If the angle is greater than 45°, you shouldn’t take the shot as it’ll only increase the possibility of ending up with a wild wounded animal.

Here’s how to find your Aimpoint in your quartering-away shot:

  • Line up your vertical reticle with the shoulder or the off-side leg of the deer.
  • Now, hold the horizontal reticle approx. 1/3 -1/2 way up to the deer’s body.

Quartering Toward

The quartering-toward shot is the exact opposite of the quartering-away shot. This is the go-to shot placement of many hunters when hunting deer coming towards them.

Just like in the quartering-away shot, the quartering-toward shot also has a short timeframe to make it work. However, the time frame is even shorter here.

This is a tricky shot to make. That’s because when the deer is coming toward you, some of its vital organs get blocked by the near-side shoulder blade.

If you can’t penetrate that, the deer will escape wounded, and nobody wants that.

That’s why you should only consider this when all the conditions are in your favor, there is no other option available, and you are confident enough about your accuracy. Here’s how to find the right aiming spot:

  • Line your vertical reticle up with the inside edge of the near-side leg
  • Hold the horizontal reticle approx. 1/3 -1/2 way up to the deer’s body.

Stay Safe: Dos and Don’ts of Crossbow Hunting

Now that you know what and how to do things with crossbows, it’s time to focus on your safety and the surroundings. Here’re the dos and don’ts.


  • Taking a first-aid box that contains alcohol wipes, aspirin, bandages, eye wash, gauze, latex gloves and pads, blister and medical tapes, scissors, smelling salts, sterile pads, and a tourniquet
  • Using suitable safety glasses
  • Putting on a harness for the whole body
  • Using a safety rope if you want to do treestand hunting
  • Clearing all obstacles to your crossbow limbs
  • Remaining as much undetectable as possible using the appropriate camouflage


  • Wrapping your thumb around the forearm of the crossbow
  • Carrying or stalking with a loaded crossbow
  • Keeping any of your fingers inside the release path of your bowstring with the crossbow cocked and/or loaded
  • Shooting just because any movement is sighted
  • Pointing a loaded crossbow in random directions
  • Putting the finger on the weapon’s trigger long before you want to shoot
  • Cocking a crossbow before reaching a treestand safely


1. How Far Can I Shoot A Deer With A Crossbow?

Around 40-50 yards. Any more than that, and you’ll have trouble hitting the target. Even if commercial crossbows can hit a fixed target over 100+ years, when it comes to moving targets (unpredictable whitetails), the range decreases drastically.

2. Should I Use Lighted Nocks With My Crossbow?

Yes, of course! Flying arrows are almost impossible to notice, especially in low-light conditions. Plus, you need to know where the arrow hit the deer. That’s why a lighted knock is essential.

3. Is A Crossbow Legal In My State?

Most Probably yes. Almost half states of the USA have legal permission to use, carry, and shoot a crossbow. In Canada, it’s legal in 9 provinces among 16.

However, the law varies slightly from state to state. It’ll be better to check out your local state law to find out whether you can go crossbow hunting or not.

About the author

Marc Niad

It’s been several years that Marc, a retired teacher and a proud dad, has silently been piling up mature bucks down the South. This humble hunter began his hunting journey at quite an early age and since then, he spent countless hours in the woods and learned good lessons in terms of woodsmanship. Along the way, he also made money sharing his skill with his followers and well-wishers.

The Ranger Expert is the brainchild of this veteran hunter who loves hunting the swamps and the hills around the Mississippi and Homochitto rivers. His most favorite hunting technique is taking his climbing gear and going to the top of pines with a 25.06 – the old-fashioned way!

He gets most of his games during late December through mid-January – his favorite hunting time. Marc strongly believes that hard work, passion, and a bit of luck can bring you success in the wild.

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