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To expand hunting to the next generation, many states and provinces now offer special youth hunting seasons where youngsters can get first crack at a deer or elk before regular hunting seasons start. It’s a great way for beginners to get started because it offers the chance to see a lot of animals before the pressure of the season makes them harder to find. While many states allow their youngsters to use just about any legal weapon during these seasons, there’s something to be said for starting your young hunter out on a crossbow. While there are youth bows out there, not every young person is going to be ready for the discipline and practice required from a recurve or compound bow straight away.
That’s why we like crossbows for young hunters. They offer better range and accuracy. At the same time, they still require discipline and patience to line up a perfect shot, making them an ideal learning opportunity for young hunters in the basics of shot placement and safety. Today we’ll examine what you should look for in a youth crossbow. We will also give some of our recommendations on crossbow packages that are best suited for use by younger hunters who are just learning the ropes of the tradition.
How to Select a Youth Crossbow
Unlike with firearms and compound bows, not many hunting crossbow manufacturers specifically market their products to youth hunters. Which isn’t too much of problem, mostly because your primary concern with a crossbow for youths is weight. You don’t want the crossbow to be too heavy for your young hunter to raise or aim. Although it’s not a bad idea to invest in a treestand with a shooting rail or shooting sticks for them to rest the forend on. It’s just going to make them more accurate and will also reduce movements that could spook a deer or other big game animal.
A crossbow with an adjustable stock is also a good idea. Simply because it allows you to adjust the butt stock to your young hunter’s frame for more comfortable shooting. This will also save you money in the long run since you can then use the crossbow yourself or keep adjusting it to grow with your young hunter. We do recommend getting a shorter, more compact bow. Not just because it’s going to be easier to handle either. A shorter bow is ideal because the sight picture will be reduced and easier for a younger hunter to aim accurately.
The nice thing about crossbows is that the bow is going to hold the bolt at full draw by itself. That means you don’t need to compromise on draw weight and power based on the reduced physical abilities of the child. That gives crossbows a huge edge over starting a youth bowhunter on other forms of archery. Odds are, you are going to be cocking the crossbow for the child anyway for safety reasons, so it also doesn’t really matter if your bow of choice uses a mechanical or rope cocking device.
No matter what crossbow you choose, it’s important to make sure the child gets plenty of range time before heading out for his or her first hunt. Practice is a good time to go over the basics of game animal anatomy, shot placement, and safety procedures. Properly done, the lessons will last a lifetime. We do recommend keeping shots for youth hunters with a crossbow inside of 40 yards despite the capabilities of the weapon. Some parents may choose to limit them to even shorter ranges than that. Simply because it’s a good chance to teach vital lessons on the discipline and patience required in hunting. These are lessons they can carry with them throughout their hunting career. With that in mind, here are the top bows we’d consider if introducing a youth hunter to the tradition this fall. We chose these options based mostly on safety, simplicity of use, and weight of the weapon. Although we also tried to pick options that should last a while and won’t break the bank for a young hunter’s first weapon.
1. A Simple Option Designed For New Hunters
Barnett Avenger Recruit, Amazon, $299
The Avenger Recruit is an excellent choice for youth hunters since it was designed with beginners in mind. This is a no-frills option with a 130-pound draw weight that produces speeds of 330 feet per second (fps). This bow features an adjustable buttstock that’s perfect for growing youth hunters. At the same time, it’s a very compact package. The bow is 16 inches axle-to-axle. The overall length is just over 34 inches. The 6.4-pound weight of this crossbow also makes it ideal for younger hunters to easily handle. Barnett packed an additional safety feature into this one in the form of an anti-dry fire device in the trigger. They have also included a 4×32 power scope and an arrow quiver. The only thing they don’t supply are crossbow bolts and broadheads. For $300, this is a great package to get any young hunter started.
2. A Compact Limb Design Perfect for Small Blinds
Center Point Archery CP400, Sportsman’s Warehouse, $699
We like this option for hunting from a compact tower stand or ground blind where space is at a minimum. This bow’s limbs are just 10.5 inches un-cocked and six inches when the cocking system is engaged and ready to fire. That’s just going to make it easier for the child to turn and fire at an angle if a deer comes within range in an unexpected spot. When fired, the 13-inch power stroke produces arrow speeds of nearly 400 fps. Center Point says to expect 142-foot pounds of energy, more than enough to down whitetails and other similar-sized game. There’s also an anti-dry fire system and auto safety which are great features when working with younger hunters. The bow also isn’t overly heavy at seven pounds. Center Point includes a 3×32 illuminated scope. They also include a rope cocker that will make quick work of the 200-pound draw weight.
3. A Classic Crossbow From a Reputable Brand
Ten Point Invader 400 Wicked Ridge, Academy Sports, $674
Coming in at just six pounds, the Wicked Ridge is an already proven compound crossbow that has harvested many a youngster’s first deer. TenPoint Crossbow says to expect 380-400 fps speeds depending on the weight of the arrows you use with the bow’s 185-pound draw weight. This crossbow has a 13.5-inch power stroke and comes in at 35.5 inches long and 15 inches axle-to-axle while cocked. It’s honestly a great choice for everyone, not just youth hunters. It might be the one to consider if you’re looking for something you can use yourself while the kids are in school. Ten Point includes everything you need to get started including a cocking device, a three-arrow quiver, and a lighted 3x scope. They even include three XX75 aluminum arrows and field points. This is also a good option if your kid is a south paw since the safety can be easily switched to a left-handed configuration.
An Option That Will Last a Child Through Years of Use
Killer Instinct Fatal X, Bass Pro Shops, $599
If you are on the hunt for something rugged and adjustable that will last your young hunter for years to come, the Killer Instinct is a great choice. This crossbow offers a slim profile thanks to the 6.25-inch axle-to-axle cocked width that’s going to be ideal for sitting in a ground blind or ladder stand with your young hunter. Another big benefit here is the adjustable buttstock that effectively makes this a crossbow they can transition from youth season to regular archery season as they grow older. The Fatal X has a 195-pound draw weight, and 13.5-inch power stroke that delivers 400+ fps speeds and 142-pounds of kinetic energy. We also dig the cam design of this crossbow that gives it a 50 percent let-off. As a bonus, Killer Instinct includes a rope cocker, quiver, three crossbow bolts with field tips, and even a stick of rail lube to help keep the crossbow maintained. The crossbow is also backed with a limited lifetime warranty, so it’s ready for many years of abuse in the field. It is a little heavier at 7.2 pounds, but should be manageable for youngsters with shooting sticks or a good rest.
5. The Best Low Maintenance Option
Excalibur Mag 340, Cabela’s, $749
Coming in at six pounds, this light recurve crossbow is the perfect option for anyone who wants something simple to maintain. Just about anyone can replace the string on this one, no expensive archery pro shop visit required. Excalibur says to expect 340-fps arrow speeds from this one. It’s a little slower than some of the other options on this list, but the simplicity in the design also means there are fewer things to go wrong and spoil a youngster’s first hunt. We also like the suppressors placed on the limbs to help eliminate shock and vibration. They are going to make this one much more comfortable to shoot for youngsters. This bow also features anti-dry fire technology and comes in a couple different color patterns to match your child’s hunting clothing. Excalibur also includes a quiver, rope cocker tool, and three arrows complete with field points to start practice right away.
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READ MORE: HERE ARE OUR PICKS FOR THE BEST YOUTH HUNTING RIFLES AND SHOTGUNS
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