Never leave your crossbow cocked for more than 24 hours because it causes unnecessary stretch on the string. Leaving it for that long puts the bow under stress, causing damage to it, such as bent axles, extended limbs, and impaired cams.
Novice archers often wonder if they can leave their crossbows cocked without damaging them.
Some archers will leave their crossbows cocked hours before their next hunt or competition. Other hunters may have already left their crossbow cocked for weeks or months without apparent damage.
But they won’t know of any damage because there are already microtears on the crossbow. Strains and stress are hard to see at first, but they will occur anytime.
The damage due to the prolonged cocked position shortens the lifespan of the bow. It will have issues with safety too.
Experienced archers prefer to leave their crossbows cocked within the day but not for extended periods. They suggest that if you’re taking a break from your hunt, your crossbow has to be in an uncocked position.
You can do that by shooting at a target into a backstop. Avoid walking or stalking at animals to and from your stand with your cocked crossbow for safety reasons.
Less time on cocked position, more time for actual use
Leave a crossbow in a cocked position for about 4-24 hours but not beyond that. The lesser time your bow stays in that position, the more time you use it in actuality. The fewer hours it’s left uncocked, the more time you will enjoy before having replacement parts.
Crossbows are better than other bows, taking less effort to hold back, pull, and aim. A loaded bow can have the hunter ready for shooting for hours. That gives the archers more time to observe and prepare for the perfect shot.
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Damages on the crossbow
Unless you can afford to buy a crossbow, avoid cocking it for more extended periods. The consequences of prolonged periods include:
- Too much stress on the string or cable causes the limbs to extend beyond their natural position.
- The limbs deflect far out and bend the axles
- The axles stretch out, and they wear out the cams too.
If you found these damages way before the next hunt, you’re lucky because you still have time to fix your bow.
But if the damage is near the date of competition or hunt, you would miss the hunting season.
Potential risks on crossbows
You may hear stories of other hunters who leave their crossbow cocked for weeks already without any damage.
Contrary to their belief, their bow already has minor strains. It’s not evident at first glance, but crossbows cocked for so long have shorter lifespans.
Wear and tear will be another effect of extended periods of tension to crossbows. You might think that crossbows can withstand lots of pressure.
It’s partly true but only for a certain period. Leaving your bow in an unnatural position, like a cocked position, will cause it to break.
What to do if you left a cocked bow for an extended period
Checking the manufacturer’s instructions is the safest way to determine how long a cocked bow can tolerate stress.
The simplest way is to shoot the bolt at a target. Recover the bolt and keep your crossbow in a safe place.
You can also uncock your bow during your break and when hunting ends. You can either use a decocking arrow or a rope cocker (rope cocking device). But if you’re not sure how to use either, take your crossbow to a pro shop. They will fix that for you.
When should you cock a crossbow when hunting?
The easiest and safest time to cock your crossbow is when you’re still on the ground before you climb on a treestand or hide behind a blind. Only cock the bow if you’re also ready to shoot, and do it before you load the arrow or bolt.
Other hunters also cock their bow before climbing into a treestand. They pull it up without the arrow. They pull the string back with even pressure on both sides of the barrel.
Treestands have limited spaces for you to cock the bow. You also need constant pressure in the stirrup to get a successful cock. Skipping the pressure isn’t helpful.
Prepare to cock your crossbow
Always examine your crossbow. It would help if you ensured there were no cracks on the limbs or defects on the riser.
Check your bowstring for signs of wear and detachment to avoid any inconvenience. Always have an extra bowstring ready.
Your bolts or arrows are another set of things to check. Any splintering and bending on the shafts will need any replacement or fix. The broadheads have to be ready, and they must be appropriately attached. The broadheads must be on the quiver if you’re on the treestand.
Servings are essential
Before you continue reading, let’s talk about the serving first.
Servings on the crossbow are essential because they protect the bowstring from arrow retention claws. They touch and ride the crossbow rail once you fire the bolt.
When the bow is already loaded, the serving must be on the center of equal lengths. Any miscalculation can impact the bolts as they will end up getting off by several inches in any direction.
Back to cocking your crossbow
You can cock your crossbow on the ground first. You can also do it at home before you head to the woods. But make sure you don’t have any loaded arrows.
If you shoot straight, you need to cock the crossbow in the same direction too. Don’t rely on your dominant arm too much because it can cause the serving to become off-center during cocking.
One solution to this problem is marking the serving with a marker on each rail side. Do this while the string is at rest. The marks you’ve made will be a guide when you pull the string back while maintaining equal sides.
Shooting your crossbow
Remember these tips to have fun and safe hunting:
- Place your arrow or bolt in the barrel first.
- Make sure that the bolt is in a secure position.
- Get ready to aim at the target.
- Once the target is within shooting range, make sure nothing is distracting your path.
Only pull the trigger if you have a clear shot. Never aim at anything you don’t intend to kill.
Tips on crossbow hunting on a treestand
Using your crossbow on a treestand can be a challenge. Compared to a compound bow, cocking a crossbow needs more strength and a foot stirrup. It’s different when using it on the ground.
Hunting accidents happen in treestands. Hunters think it’s easy to climb and sit on the stand, but it’s dangerous. Consider this handy guide to have a safe and effective hunt.
- Always use a lineman’s belt and safety harness when you’re climbing up and down. Take a safety line to use if you lose your footing.
- Set up a tree stand properly and choose a sturdy tree to support your weight, ladder, and weight.
- Make the first shot count, which means only shoot at a target if you have a clear path. Reloading a crossbow on a treestand takes a lot of strength, so aim at the target if it’s within 30-35 yards whenever possible.
- Learn to shoot both left and right-handed. If you shoot at a deer from your left and you are left-handed, try shooting right-handed (you don’t have to take a shot at an awkward angle). Crossbows allow ambidextrous shooting. That means you can pull the trigger using both hands.
Crossbow hunting can be the most rewarding experience if you hunt safely. You must invest in quality equipment, like safety gear and materials used in the treestand, to ensure you have the safest hunt possible.
An advantage of a crossbow is that it’s less demanding to maintain. Choose the best wax for the bowstring and cables.
Lubricate the rail, trigger box, and exposed mounting bolts. You will provide smoother traction and protection of the bolt (against corrosion and weather-causing damage).
Clean the scope lens for any smudge or dirt. You don’t have to clean it all the time except when something obstructs your view. Don’t forget to wipe dust and dirt stuck in the rail, nook, and groove.
Make sure to tighten all your bolts. Check for the bolts’ tightness every 50-100 arrow release. You can use a suitable screwdriver and keep it in the archery case at all times.
The key to crossbow care is to keep your crossbow conditioned to avoid accuracy and lifespan issues.
Never wash your crossbow with water. Instead, aim for wax and oil treatments to ensure efficient cleaning. If you have access to compressed air, you use it to remove dust in the joints of the cam and axles and the trigger box.
Is it wrong to dry fire a crossbow?
Dry firing your crossbow is never a safe practice. Although a crossbow has a dry-fire inhibitor (DFI), which prevents damage to the bow, the force of the bowstring is enough to cause frays and breaks on the serving, limbs, and other parts.
A dry fire on the crossbow can have the same negative effect as leaving the bow cocked for over a day. In some cases, it brings more damage than expected.
During a dry fire, it causes an intense release of energy on the bowstring, which vibrates to the limbs of your crossbow.
The bolt or arrow should absorb 75% of the released energy. But without it, the crossbow absorbs all of the power. A dry fire causes a weakened structure of the bow. Damage will be apparent through these:
- Derailed bowstrings
- Cracked or delaminated limbs
- Misplaced cables
- Bent axles
A crossbow may explode and shatter into shards. The flying parts will hit anyone or anything nearby.
Not every manufacturer covers damage caused by dry firing. So the moment you dry fire a crossbow, they will not include damage caused by dry fires in their warranty.
Why archers dry fire crossbows
Dry firing is a common situation for beginning archers. They will think that dry firing their crossbow is more convenient than firing it with an arrow attached.
People will also assume that dry firing is safer than wasting an arrow. Some are too curious to fire an empty crossbow without knowing the damages of a dry fire.
Most dry fires are more accidental because archers tend to make mistakes. The bolt or arrow is not in the correct nock position. There are times that the bowstring slips out of place.
Using too-light bolts can mimic a dry fire. That happens because the bow exerts so much power. The energy goes back to the bow instead of the bolt doing the absorbing.
What to do after a crossbow dry fire
Expect a component failure after a dry fire. The first move you have to do is check for any apparent damage, regardless of minor or significant.
Try the cotton-ball method to check for any damage. Slide down your cotton ball on the limbs to detect any gaps or splinters. If you don’t see any fragments, it won’t mean that your crossbow is free from damage.
Next, you have to check the riser and cams for any cracks. Its purpose is to check for any weird sounds. If nothing is unusual, cock the crossbow with precaution.
You can shoot for some practice shots to check for inaccuracy right after.
Lastly, take your crossbow to an archery store so a professional can thoroughly inspect it. They can best determine the parts that need replacing and fixing.