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Michigan Crossbow Hunting-Tom Lounsbury

Tom Lounsbury

Sat, 23 Feb 2013 19:14:43 EST


The thick dictionary I frequently use succinctly defines a crossbow as: “a weapon consisting of a bow fixed transversely on a stock, the string of which is released by a trigger mechanism”.
I’ve often heard the crossbow described as a bow attached to a gunstock. To be historically correct, a gun is actually a barrel attached to a crossbow stock. Crossbows have been around for a very long time, much longer than firearms. They have even been demonized at times. Way back when, the Pope at the time decreed it was a sin to kill a Christian with a crossbow, but fine to kill non-Christians with one.
This relates much to the fact that it took time to create a highly skilled archer in Medieval times, which in the case of an English longbowman, required years of practice from childhood on, and he was a specialist in his field wielding a longbow the average person couldn’t even pull back due to immense draw weights. The average person however, could easily use a crossbow, and in a very short time with minimal training become reasonably accurate with it. In the class system at that time, this meant a lowly peasant thus equipped with a crossbow, could easily plink an upper crust knight right out of the saddle, if the shot was placed right. Not good form at all for the upper crust and about as chivalrous as dying from snakebite.
Like most baby-boomers, I began my bowhunting adventures with a recurve bow. It was during the mid-1970’s that all my bowhunting friends began to convert to a new outfit called a “compound bow”. I can remember some dyed in the wool bowhunters thinking the new compound with all its wheels that made drawing and holding the string back much easier, was going to be the ruination of bowhunting. Personally what my hunting buddies used was no concern of mine, but when they switched to compound bows, I went to a longbow and stuck with it for many years, even on caribou hunts in the Artic, with the belief that if it works, don’t change it. I must admit, that I did in good-natured fun, kid my buddies about using bows with “training wheels”. Then arthritis came along, to my left shoulder (the arm holding the bow, being right handed). Training wheels didn’t look too bad at all then.
I must admit that I looked at the crossbow, which was allowed for hunting with a special permit according to physical limitations, and I even picked up an application from the DNR. However, I discovered that I could readily use my son’s compound bow and used it to bag a buck that fall. I then went full tilt the following year and went to my own compound bow. My choice was simple, I could remember my buddies raging about their Darton compounds in the early days, and for a fact the Darton SL-50 put compound bow technology on the bowhunting scene and paved the way in marketing compounds for the archery industry. Besides all that, Darton is a made in Michigan product.
My choice was a Darton Pro 3000, which worked fine for me. I quickly discovered that when going from instinctive archery to using sights and a release, that the quality of the release makes or breaks accuracy capabilities. Just like having the right trigger pull on a firearm. I took my best buck ever with a bow that fall using this system, at 39 yards, a distance I probably wouldn’t have tried with my longbow. In my case, I know for a fact that using the quality compound bow, carbon arrows, sights, and a fine (Scott Saber-Tooth) release, increased my range capabilities in the hunting field.
I was fully aware of the debate about crossbows being legitimized for deer hunting in Michigan, but must admit I didn’t get too involved with it. (I even have bowhunting friends that think crossbows are an abomination in general).
Then the NRC passed the new crossbow regulations for Michigan, quite frankly surprising the daylights out of me, as well as many others. For some it was a cause for utter dismay and for others an absolute delight. Personally I like shooting all types of hunting arms including bows, handguns, rifles, shotguns, and muzzleloaders. Ultimately I am a hunter, and not just a bowhunter or gun hunter.
Naturally I again thought of Darton as they’ve been making crossbows since 1996, and Darton owner/innovator Rex Darlington has been in the family archery business since 1958. I made a point of traveling to the Darton factory located in Hale, Michigan to check out a couple of their crossbow models at the time, the Blazer, and the Lightning. The Lightning model had all the bells and whistles, and this is the one I test fired in the indoor range with the assistance of Darton sales manager Ted Harpham. I will never forget my first shot with a crossbow ever. When the crosshairs of the scope settled on the bullseye at 20 yards, I eased back on the Lightning’s three and a half pound trigger. Crossbow’s aren’t silent by any means, and the abrupt “whump” made by the Lightning despite all its sound depression aids, was near identical to the report from my Gamo air rifle. This isn’t ear shattering either (and why I like the Gamo for squirrel hunting), and isn’t going to be heard from any great distance. But if you miss, the game animal in question is going to know for sure it has been shot at.
It also takes awhile to reload, in about the same timeframe as stoking a muzzleloader, and often longer.
However, right upon hearing the whump, I also heard the “bolt” (the name for the arrow-like projectile for crossbows) hit the target with a loud smack, testifying to some rather fast velocity. I was pleased to see I had hit the bulls-eye near dead center. I repeated the process to make sure the first shot wasn’t a fluke. This not only impressed me but let me know that if you are relatively good at shooting a rifle, it certainly doesn’t take long at all to achieve the same shooting skill with a crossbow. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that.
Needless to say, I bought a Darton model Lightning crossbow. This was done after some serious pondering, I must admit, because quality crossbows aren’t cheap to buy. In fact they run along the same price figures as quality firearms, and no doubt you get what you pay for.
Since crossbows for deer hunting in Michigan have been legalized, I’ve taken several (Thumb) whitetails from near point blank range, and out to almost 50 yards (crossbows are not long range hunting arms by any means - and most of my deer were taken inside 30 yards). I started out with an electric red-dot sight but have recently switched to a scope for better sight acquisition in low light and brushy conditions, and I also use a winch for cocking because for me it is much safer (using a cocking rope in a tree-stand can be tricky business I care not to deal with). A real beauty of a crossbow is that it can be steadily braced for that counting shot (and also fired from a prone position), and such has paid dividends for me in putting tenacious whitetails down for the count.
When the archery deer season opens (and it is fast approaching) I may decide to use my traditional bow (although in a lighter draw weight these days), my compound bow, or my crossbow, depending upon the environment being hunted (and applied hunting technique) or simply my mood. Personally, I enjoy doing it all during our wonderful bow season and quite frankly, I appreciate the choice.

For more information on Darton bows and crossbows, go to



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