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How Much Draw Weight Do I Need For Crossbow Hunting?

By: Nate Eslinger

How much draw weight do I need for crossbow hunting?

You'd be surprised how many people aren't aware of the fact that crossbows have varying draw weights to accommodate the wide range of hunting available. In fact, the gulf varies from the 50 lb. draw pistol crossbow to the 200-lb.-plus, full-size crossbows. That difference in resistance can mean a bolt ejected at 130 feet-per-second (fps), or one ejected at over 330 fps. But how does draw weight - and the resulting speed of the bolt - factor into hunting?

If you have your sights set on taking home a rabbit or two, you won't need much more draw than 150 lbs. That degree of resistance will typically give you a bolt speed of 220 to 250 fps. This is actually plenty of power to bring down a turkey, an antelope, and even a deer - provided you wait for the right shot and hit a kill zone.


Believe it or not, rabbits are tricky beasts to nail with a crossbow because they're relatively small and are prone to either crouch, jump, or dart when they hear the twang of the crossbow. Because of their meager size and therefore naturally smaller kill zone (as compared to a deer or antelope), the speed of the bolt is actually more critical than it is for larger animals. You'll want the fastest bolt speed possible to actually hit a coney, rather than the grass where it used to be.

For larger animals with thicker hide and more fat density such as elk, caribou and small bears, you'll want a crossbow with a draw weight of 175 lbs. or more. Note that these larger animals aren't particularly quick about getting out of the way of a bolt or arrow. What's needed here is raw power to penetrate into the kill zone of the animal - not speed - although you'll have plenty of it to work with. Some 175 lb. crossbows fire bolts at speeds up to 300 fps or higher.

While the average guy can span (cock) a 150 lb. crossbow, a 175 pounder is a bit tougher. You may want to consider getting an assistive device to help you span the crossbow. Many of the new crossbows available feature a handy foot device to assist in this procedure. It looks like the non-working end of a shovel - big enough to slip your muddy boot into while you pull back on the stock of the xbow.

Now if you're into the really big game such as moose, grizzly bear, and cape buffalo, you'll want to go with a 200 lb. draw crossbow. A 200 lb. draw weight will give you bolt speeds up to and exceeding 330 fps - plenty of power and speed.

Because of the danger inherent in shooting one of these magnificent creatures, it's wise practice to work your way up to them. You can't afford to miss a grizzly bear at 40 yards out, knowing that it will take you at least 5-10 seconds to prep the crossbow for a second shot. A grizzly bear in the wild can cross a football field in roughly 6 seconds, so hopefully you're in a tree stand at this point. Start with something that won't actually kill you if you maim it - like a fuzzy little rabbit!

Now that you know what draw weight is best suited for your style of hunting, all that's left is to choose a crossbow. To help you decide between a compound and a recurve crossbow, check out these additional articles.

Now...go hunt!

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About The Author, Nate Eslinger

Nate Eslinger is an avid outdoorsman with an intense fascination for crossbows - both ancient and modern. He maintains a website dedicated to providing helpful information for beginning crossbow hunters:
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