Why Do Compound Bow Hunters Hate Crossbows?

Barnett Raptor FX3 - Why do compound bow hunters hate crossbows?
Barnett Raptor FX3 – Why do compound bow hunters hate crossbows?

I have often wondered why do compound bow hunters hate crossbows.  My own background in archery began at a young age with a youth recurve.  Later I upgraded to a compound bow and hunted with one for twenty years.

I live in Wisconsin.  For many years crossbows were allowed by people over a certain age, or if a person had a disability that made using a traditional or compound bow too difficult.

In 2014 crossbows became legal to hunt with in Wisconsin.  No Longer is age or a disability a requirement to use one to hunt.

That’s when all hell broke loose in the Dairy State among bow hunters and people looking to use a crossbow.

I Now Use A Crossbow To Deer Hunt

For twenty years I was a compound bow hunter.  I am a member of several bow hunting forums and would read daily during the 2013/2014 crossbow transition years the anger from compound bow hunters had towards crossbows.

I personally didn’t care if people wanted to use a crossbow to hunt deer.  Just like I don’t care of a hunter wants to use a traditional bow or a compound bow.  If it’s legal to use, and you can use it safely, and can ensure an ethical kill of the game you are hunting – then use it.

In 2014 I was in a car accident and broke by sternum.  Cracked it right in half.  Ever since then I haven’t been able to draw a compound bow without feeling pain in my sternum.  It’s incredibly disconcerting.  I ended up missing the 2014 bow season due to my accident and not being able to draw a bow safely.

In 2015 I switched to using a crossbow and purchased a Barnett Jackal as an ‘entry’ level crossbow.  I have to admit I ended up liking it and enjoyed my time in the woods.  It took some getting used to.  Hunting with a crossbow did not come as easy as I expected it to.  It was much more cumbersome and unwieldy in the woods.

In 2016 I sold my two compound bows I had, one was even signed by Ted Nugent.  In the spring of 2017 I bought a new Barnett Vicious reverse draw crossbow and sold the Jackal.

When going to the local pro-shop, which caters to traditional, compound, and crossbow users, I would get dark looks from other customers when browsing the crossbow hunting products.  Sometimes I would even hear people mumble under their breath negative comments about crossbow hunters.  I even have had a few people approach me directly when shooting my crossbow at the local range about their disapproval of the crossbow for deer hunting.

Oddly enough, I mostly read about and see first hand crossbow disapproval from compound bow hunters.  I don’t see it hardly at all from any traditional bow hunters.  Traditional hunters are probably past it… having gone through their own frowning of compound hunters when they came on the scene decades ago.

Why Do Compound Bow Hunters Hate Crossbows?

I have an answer to that very question, one based on my own observations and interactions with bow hunters in general over the past twenty plus years.  Bow hunters in general don’t like sharing the woods.  When they get out in the woods to hunt they want other people to be as far away from them as possible.

Believe me, I get it.  Most bow hunters would agree that hunting with a bow is, by nature, a secretive sport where silence and stealth give the hunter an edge over his prey.  Wanting to have control over your hunting and not be disturbed by others is high on every hunter’s mind.  Nothing can ruin months of preparation and planning faster then finding a car parked on the road where you hunt knowing they are others in the woods.

Bow hunters don’t like the idea of there being more people in the woods.  And early on there was concern that opening up a crossbow season would put a lot more people into the woods.  I get it.  I hunt public land and don’t like the thought of more people in the woods either.

Here in Wisconsin the compound hunters tried their hardest to fight crossbows being made legal for everybody to use.  I saw first hand the many discussions of the subject online, and heard it discussed at length at my local Rod and Gun club and pro-shops.

Now, not all compound users are against crossbows.  Many are in fact okay with them.  Sadly it is the complainers and haters that are the most vocal.

There is one thing I have noticed online above all else when reading in the various bow hunting forums, and it’s that bow hunters are territorial.  It doesn’t matter if they own private land or hunt public land, they are territorial and want to keep other hunters, even small game hunters, away from their bow hunting spots.

How does that apply to crossbow hunters?  They worry that crossbows make it too easy to hunt deer.  That people who have never hunted before because they didn’t like drawing a bow will pickup a crossbow and start to hunt.

Rifle hunters outnumber compound hunters significantly.  The Wisconsin standard gun season is only nine days long.  That is largely due to the number of hunters that gun hunt.

The Wisconsin archery and crossbow season is 114 days.  Again, this is largely due to the number of hunters that participate in the archery and crossbow season.

Compound hunters don’t like the fact that crossbow users get to hunt during the same time period as they do.  They are concerned that rifle hunters that don’t show a liking or aptitude for traditional or compound bows will transition towards crossbows – putting more people in the woods.

Crossbows are rifle-like in many ways.  You don’t have to draw and hold the bowstring with a crossbow.  You handle a crossbow much like a rifle, and can even use optics like on a rifle.

From what I have discerned compound hunters are worried there will be more hunters in the woods and that the archery season could be shortened.  They are also concerned that more hunters will mean less deer, and less opportunity for a successful hunt.

Because I am a curious sort I did some checking online to see what the statistics were for the archery harvest in Wisconsin.  I also checked the crossbow harvest, and then checked both against the number of tags that have been sold.  Check out the table below I created from the factual numbers I found online provided by the Wisconsin DNR.

Wisconsin Archery and Crossbow stats for the years 2006 to 2016. Source, Wisconsin DNR.

  • When the crossbow season was added the number of harvested deer dropped for the archery harvest.
  • The Archery harvest declined while the crossbow harvest appeared, but roughly the same amount of deer were harvested between the two.
  • While the number of archery tags sold declined slightly when the crossbow season was added, the number of crossbow tags skyrocketed.
  • On average the total deer harvest stayed roughly the same, but nearly 80k to 90k more tags were sold overall to hunt deer.  That is over two million extra dollars in revenue for the State of Wisconsin in tag purchases alone.

It’s safe to say at this point the Wisconsin crossbow season is not going anywhere.  The State of Wisconsin is making way to much revenue from the massive increase in license sales.  The impact on the harvest has not changed, and with mild winters the past few years the deer herd numbers are up.

What Compound Hunters Say About Crossbows – And Is It True?

Again I need to reiterate that not all compound hunters have a seething dislike of crossbows.  It’s the vocal ones that stand out.  But what are they saying about crossbows to disparage them, and is there fact behind what they are saying?  Let’s take a look at that.

I am going to be as unbiased as possible.  As I said before, I never cared what it was a person used to hunt, as long as it was legal, and they were proficient with the weapon.  I spent twenty years hunting with a compound, and now three years using a compound (counting the upcoming deer crossbow season).

  • Using a crossbow takes the sport out of archery hunting because it takes less skill to use a crossbow:

I call total BS on this one.  All of the actual hunting skills still apply for crossbow users.  You still need to be mindful of wind, scent, silence, motion and deer patterns.  Setting up a modern compound bow with sights, kissers, releases, dampeners, etc… makes it pretty darn easy to shoot a bow accurately.  I know, I’ve been there and done that.  And compound bows have let-offs as high as 85 percent, so holding is not that difficult if you stay within a safe draw weight you are comfortable with.

The one thing that differs here is that crossbow users don’t have to draw and hold on a deer.  But with modern compounds with 80 percent let-0ff holding steady is not all that difficult.  My nephew got a compound bow, his first bow, and the pro-shop set it up for him with all the fixings and he was shooting bulls-eyes thirty minutes later at thirty yards.

If you have never hunted with a crossbow before try and take one out into the woods with you.  You will find it is heavier and much more cumbersome to maneuver around and use than a compound bow.

  • Crossbow user take long shots and injure more deer:

I know hunters who don’t know their limitations and take bad shots all the time.  Rifles, compound bows, traditional, and crossbow users; sadly hunters no matter what they use will do this.  Most hunters know their limits and know to take the shots within their skill limit and their weapon’s limit.

Taking long shots comes down to hunter ethics and education.  Before crossbows came along in Wisconsin you would hear about bow hunters taking long shots they shouldn’t have.  Now crossbows are here and we are hearing about it with those hunters as well.  But now compound hunters are making a big stink of it and have tried to use it as an argument point against crossbow users.

Education here is key.  Just because you can take a long shot, and have when practicing with a compound or crossbow, does not mean you should when hunting.

  • If you use a crossbow to hunt you are just being lazy:

This one makes me laugh because only the people who have NO KNOWLEDGE about crossbows and how they work and are applied to hunting would say something so asinine.  Traditional bow hunters must laugh their butts off when they here a compound user say this about a crossbow user.

Personally speaking, I found it easier to use a compound bow when hunting than using a crossbow.  Try still hunting with a crossbow once and you will know exactly what I mean.  People also say that crossbow hunters don’t have to put in as much work as compound hunters do which blows my mind when I read or hear that.  You put as much work into something as you want to, be it scouting, patterning, practice…whatever.

Just because I use a crossbow doesn’t mean I don’t go through the same prep for hunting as I did before.  Why would anything change?  How did I become lazy when I switched to a crossbow?

Crossbows Are Here To Stay In Wisconsin

I have been hunting deer since the age of twelve with a rifle.  When I was in my late teens I picked up a compound bow and started to get into hunting with that as well.  I know the ins and outs of archery deer hunting and the tools used to harvest deer.

A few years ago due to the accident mentioned above I switched from a compound bow to a crossbow.  Different weapons to hunt with to be sure, both have their challenges and both have their advantages.  I enjoy using the crossbow, miss my compound bows, and can tell you that using a crossbow is not the cakewalk the naysayers claim.

Anyone like me who has made the switch will likely tell you they miss using their compound bow, and that the crossbow does not deserve the harsh treatment and lip service it gets from some compound users.  The accusations are not well founded.  Luckily over the past year things have settled down some.  That trend will continue, I am sure, or at least hope.

The truth is this; crossbows are here to stay in Wisconsin.  The impact many were worried about is not there, and too much revenue is being earned from tags for crossbow users.  Look in any hunting magazine and you will see big dollars being spent advertising both compounds and crossbows.  They are certainly part of the deer hunting industry.

Whatever you use just make sure it’s legal where you hunt, and that you know your limitations.  Hunt safe, hunt ethically, and enjoy the outdoors.



TD is the owner and publisher of TD All Outdoors. He has been enjoying the outdoors since since he was a child. Over the years he has spent as much time as he can solo wilderness canoe tripping, overlanding, hiking, fishing, bushcrafting, hunting, hammock camping, and more. Aside from this blog, he also own his own coffee brand, www.folklore-coffee.com.

8 thoughts on “Why Do Compound Bow Hunters Hate Crossbows?

  1. Think of it this way. I could take my 10 year old cousin out “bowhunting” with a crossbow she had never shot. I could put her in a stand with me and she could kill a deer without ever firing the weapon. That would never happen with a compound or traditional of any draw poundage. Crossbows can be propped on shooting sticks or rails for stability. Crossbows never have to be pulled back in the heat of the moment. You cant tell me you’ve never not shot a deer bc you missed your opportunity to draw back or the deer spotted you mid draw due to the extra movement. Crossbow hunters can shoot prone which if you’ve ever hunted from the ground, would understand how much of an advantage that is. I will never be convinced by anyone that there is equal skill involved.

    1. Hi Jake,

      Thanks for reading and your comments. All are interesting perspectives.

      Here is some interesting history: Crossbows have been around since the middle 5th century BC… -550, in China (some ancients text even suggest further back to the 7th century BC.. WOW!!). The modern compound bow was invented in the mid 1960s. I’m not arguing a cause for the crossbow based on its ancient pedigree, just wanted to state some remarkable facts.

      There is no doubt the crossbow is easier to master and has conveniences. Everything you mentioned makes it easier for a hunter to become proficient with a crossbow sooner and with less hardships than may be found with a traditional bow or modern compound; making a hunter better able to make a clean harvest if they work within their limits.

      However, there are skills required of ALL hunters that go far beyond their choice of crossbow, compound, or traditional bow… the skill of hunting; using the wind, tracking, patterning deer movement, and much more… all go beyond and require knowledge and proficiency that mater not to what weapon is being used to make the kill.

      Long ago I used traditional. Then in the mid 90s I switched to a Browning Compound. Then after my car accident four or five years ago where I cracked my sternum in half I switched to crossbows. I use what I am currently most proficient with to make the cleanest harvest – and I would hope any hunter would do the same and not bend to peer pressure from one group or another. But its the the skills beyond the weapon that makes the hunter, the skills of tracking, wind, deer movement, scent management, etc…


  2. Great article. I just got into archery/crossbow hunting and have also felt the scorn from many of the elitist compound bow hunters while shopping and in the field. I am over 50 years old and even with working out 5 times a week and strengthening my core I could not draw and hold secondary to an impingement in my neck at the C5 level… Thankfully after age 50 you dont really put too much stock in what others opinions are. Most of the time if i am confronted by a “purist” i simply nod, smile and wave; however for those truly obnoxious confrontations i point out all of the technology on their compounds and simply state until you switch to a recurve please do not lecture me. Lastly I would challenge any compound bow hunter to try and quietly (and with minimal movement) get a crossbow off a hanger from an ultralight portable compared to the ease of a bow. In the end we all know what that it is truly about not wanting to share woods with other hunters

    1. Thanks for reading and the awesome response! Everything you said hits home with me. I blow off 99% of the scorn when I come across it. Like you said, you start to reach a certain age and could care less what people think who you don’t know.


  3. I have been hunting with a recurve since I was 12. I am 43 now I have recently switched to a cross bow recurve and love every minute of it. I still bring my recurve on hunting trips, never know the situation you will be put in and I hunt archery all season no guns.

    1. I am getting there too. Over the past couple years I find myself not at all excited about the gun hunting season. I enjoy archery far more.

      Thanks for the comment!


  4. Hi, I am John Robert Your article “Why Do Compound Bow Hunters Hate Crossbows?” is very helpful for me. After reading your article I got a lot of knowledge from your article. I have some knowledge about bow but after reading your article I think; I have to gain more knowledge about this topic. Thanks!

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