In desperation, many potential crossbow hunters grasp at straws and buy the cheapest, the fastest or just the prettiest crossbow. When someone buys using these criteria to guide them there are two possible outcomes.
Either they are very lucky, or they are doomed to disappointment.
So here are some recommendations from Excalibur Crossbow's Bill Troubridge about what to look for when making a crossbow purchase.
First and foremost, don't be led astray by high velocity.
"Sure, faster crossbows will shoot flatter and hit harder, but at the normal crossbow ranges of 20 to 30 yards you'll seldom see enough improvement in performance to justify the additional effort it takes to cock them," Troubridge said. "Also, since it only takes about 20 foot pounds of energy to completely penetrate a deer with a crossbow arrow, all of that extra horsepower will be wasted on the ground behind your whitetail."
So choose a crossbow that suits your physical size and strength, and is easy to cock without resorting to the slow and expensive crank-type cocking aids that the ultra-high-powered units demand.
"If you hunt the really big stuff, those high-powered crossbows might make sense, but I killed a bull elephant with one arrow using a crossbow that is comfortable for the average man to cock quickly and easily using a rope cocker – and the arrow darned near went right through it," Troubridge explained.
With that in mind, a wise man once said that there's no free lunch. When it comes to crossbows this adage still rings true.
"If you buy a cheaply made oriental crossbow you'll savor the low price right up until something goes wrong, which is generally when you need it most, and then service can be a nightmare," Troubridge said.
He therefore recommends buying from a North American manufacturer that can guarantee quality products and service.
"Remember, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is," Troubridge said.
And remember that good looks can be deceiving.
In today's world, we are taught that high-tech is better, but the more complicated something is the more likely it is to fail when it comes to reliability in real hunting conditions.
"It always confuses me that a hunter who relies on the time-proven simplicity of a bolt action rifle for deer hunting would want to buy the most fragile and complicated crossbow," Troubridge said. "Don't be baffled by bells and whistles; look for a crossbow with a proven track record for reliability because nothing can ruin a deer season like having your crossbow out of commission."
Troubridge recommends testing crossbows before making the investment.
"Don't be afraid to try out the crossbow options that impress you the most," he said. "Most serious dealers have ranges that allow you top handle and shoot crossbows while making your decision.
"Nothing will convince you like a few shots."
He said to try cocking them first to ensure you can comfortably draw the string back with a rope-cocking device.
"If not, it's not the crossbow for you," Troubridge said.
Quality of manufacture, trigger pull, safety position, mass weight and overall feel are easy to understand when you can compare crossbows side by side, so Troubridge recommended taking the time to really compare and see what shoots best for you.
Excalibur Crossbows provides a wealth of information on their Web site, and you can even look through their forum to share information before you make your purchase.
"With a little extra research now you'll be able to make an informed and intelligent buying decision, and choose the right crossbow to enjoy for decades to come," Troubridge said.