There’s an old New Yorker cartoon of an arrogant, clueless one-percenter at his desk, telephone in hand. “I’ve just been informed that a billion is one thousand million. Why wasn’t I told this before?”
I identify (sort of) because I just discovered that a scoped crossbow gives you up to an extra 30 minutes of legal hunting time compared to a compound. Why wasn’t I told this before?
I recently went on an afternoon hunt with a new friend, Patrick O’Neill, whose nickname is Fidge and who was using a crossbow. Fidge walked to his ladder stand, and I set up 80 yards away in my climber by an oak dripping acorns.
Neither of us saw much, and by sunset I could no longer see my sight pins. Although half and hour of legal light remained, it was legal dark as far as I was concerned. (I thought lighted pins might extend my hunting time, but what I’ve found is that once it’s dark enough that you need lit pins, you can no longer see what you’re aiming at.) Anyway, ready to get down, I texted Fidge to ask how much longer he expected to hunt. “I’m good right up to the end of legal light,” was his reply.
That’s when it hit. I was using the wrong weapon. I even owned a crossbow. I’d bought a Carbon Express Covert CX1 for Michelle after she screwed up her shoulder. After sighting it in for her, I never touched it again because, for one thing, I love shooting a bow. I like that you have to practice more or less constantly to stay good at it. And for another, I’m a little intimidated by the crossbow. It seemed to explode when I pulled the trigger—a huge shudder of released energy. And it was a beast, occasionally burying bolts past the fletching in the target. You had to keep all that energy cocked and ready in your treestand. A guy at my local archery shop told me that most people replaced the string after 200 or 300 shots. You obviously didn’t shoot the thing for amusement.
Of course, all of these objections went out the window in the face of extended hunting time.
But I can’t get the thing to group. I’ve checked everything, and it still shoots inconsistently to the left in one round and to the right the next. Or it puts two bolts almost in the same hole and then sends the third 12 inches somewhere else.
I googled “crossbow accuracy troubleshooting” and descended into madness. First I was advised to mark the center of the cocking rope—which I did—to make sure it was aligned when cocked. But when cocked, the center of the rope is hidden in the ¾-inch wide trigger latch. Then I was told I needed to replace my 2-inch vanes with 5-inchers “for consistent accuracy,” which made me wonder why they came with 2-inchers.
There’s more. The bow’s track is supposed to leave telltale “groove marks” on your arrow, which you can actually see and decipher if you are insane and have taken Sanskrit. Hieroglyphics at the front of the shaft indicate that the arrow is too heavy. If at the back, too light. If your arrow is grooved at the center, it means that the deer has gotten away and you need to stop looking at the damn groove marks.
The only marks I saw on my arrow were the plastic fibers of the target that seemed to have melted onto to the shafts when I pulled them out. I may have a psychic “read” my arrows, but I’m not there yet.
I don’t even want to think about the next step, which involves testing the “wobble” of your arrows on a “RCBS Case Master gauging tool used in ammunition reloading.” If you happen to have an extra one of these lying around your house, I’d like to borrow it.