Perhaps you have thought to yourself that bowfishing with a bow isn’t the choice for you. That’s okay. You don’t have to do bowfishing with a bow. In fact, you can buy a bowfishing crossbow. My time with a crossbow was some of the most fun that I have ever had while bowfishing, and honestly, I find it a little easier to take the shots.
Can You Bowfish with a Crossbow?
The short answer to that is that yes, you can go bowfishing with a crossbow, and it can be a lot of fun. I like this because I find it even easier to aim and take shots at the carp. Before you can get started, however, we will have to cover some of the different aspects involved with it like:
Special Bolts with a Bowfishing Crossbow
Like with bowfishing arrows, the bowfishing crossbow will use heavier bolts without feathers. The weight and lack of fletching helps them to penetrate the water more easily. Like with regular bowfishing, you will usually take fish within 20 yards of you, so you don’t need a lot of distance.
Check with Your Local DNR
Before you go out and try crossbow fishing, you should first call your local DNR. Bowfishing in itself is a special kind of sport, but it becomes even more unique in its regulations with a crossbow, and you have to make sure that you have crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s before you go out and try it.
Make sure that you can legally bowfish with a crossbow in your area before you try it. Just because you can use a bow doesn’t mean that they will always allow a crossbow. Some places consider it a firearm. In addition, you want to know what they let you crossbow fish for. Like with bowfishing, it will usually be for the rough fish. That means the carp, the gar, the catfish and the suckers, but this depends on your region.
The Reel Setup
For the reel with your crossbow, it will usually come with a 200-pound dacron line, which ensures that the fish don’t break the line. Like with bowfishing, the crossbow should come with a safety slide because you don’t want the bolts to come flying back at you.
People have died this way, so it is important to take precautions, and it gives you peace of mind. The AMS Bowfishing 5/16 inch EverGlide Safety Slide keeps the experience of crossbow fishing fun because you don’t have to worry that the bolts will come flying back at you. People have died this way.
In general, the cost of a crossbow reel isn’t the most expensive part of it, and you can usually pay as little for this type of setup or as much as you want. It depends on you. Usually, once you have a setup, it will last for years.
What License Do I Need?
With a bowfishing crossbow, you just need the standard fishing license to go bowfishing. If you’d like to learn more about that, check out my article, “Do I Need a License to Bowfish?” That would prove a more valuable article on the subject. However, I will cover some of the aspects of it.
For example, be sure that when you use a bowfishing crossbow, you can do it legally in your area. In some places, they may not allow it. These regulations exist to protect our state waters and make sure that they remain beautiful for future generations.
In the past, they required special permits to hunt with the crossbow, and this included for those who were disabled. They no longer require this, however, in terms of paying for it in most cases. Instead, they usually give you a free stamp that shows you have it. That is what you need for this. Check with your local DNR to make sure.
What Specific Rules Should I Understand?
To get the most specific rules, you need to speak with your local DNR because this varies from state to state, and it can also vary from region to region, county to county. Impossible to put it all down in an article accurately. With that said, you can usually use crossbows for bowfishing even in areas where they may have made it illegal otherwise for hunting.
Still, you should check with the local DNR because I don’t want anyone to suffer the consequences of an expensive fine. In addition, you may want to print out the rules and carry them because there have been cases where even the game warden didn’t know the exact rules.
This keeps you from having an unpleasant day on the water that would have otherwise been a good time. Even if they’re wrong, never argue with a law official. Take it to a lawyer who can protect your rights. In addition, tell them that is why you took the extra step of printing it out and carrying it on you.
Should I Put a Sight on My Crossbow?
Bowfishing isn’t like regular hunting because most of the shots that you take will happen from within 10 to 20 yards at most. Most of this type of shooting is called snap shooting. That means you take short and instinctive shots. You could do it like you do with whitetail hunting, but in most cases, bowfishing requires you to react fast.
You don’t have a full three minutes to take a shot. Instead, you have to lift the crossbow and take the shot as quickly as possible. This makes it different to where you don’t need the sight on your crossbow. It’s excess.
If you have the sight on your crossbow, you can remove it easily. It isn’t difficult. Much of what you do with a bowfishing crossbow involves an instinctive aim and release. You won’t have time for much else. It takes some practice, but once you get used to it, you will find it to be a wonderful sport.
In addition, you don’t have too difficult of a time with aiming because of how most of the shots happen from within 10 to 20 yards. That’s especially good for a crossbow because they have a much shorter range.
The Negatives of a Bowfishing Crossbow: What to Know
Despite it coming with a little more convenience than what you might get with a regular bow, bowfishing crossbows do have a couple of negatives that go with them. For example, the bowfishing crossbow weighs more than what a composite bow or recurve bow weighs.
You have cases with the crossbow where it completely overpowers the fish and shoots completely through it. That isn’t helpful. That especially becomes a problem with some of the fish you’d find like carp. The problem with the bolt shooting straight through the fish is that you have a greater risk of harm to the bolt. The bolt can get stuck in the mud or strike the shallow bottom of the lake or river.
If you’re going after gar or alligator gar, the power of a crossbow would be fantastic because it would smash its armor. Here’s the other fatal flaw of the bowfishing crossbow: speed. When you go to take shots at the fish, you need to be fast. You have to think of redraw here. It doesn’t redraw easily, which can be a big disadvantage.
That said, in most cases when you go to take the shot, the fish will disperse anyway, so this isn’t necessarily a huge disadvantage to bowfishing with a crossbow.
Why You Should Try a Bowfishing Crossbow
You have a couple of reasons that you may want to try a bowfishing crossbow. For example, a lot of people use the crossbow for hunting if they’re disabled and can’t use a regular bow. You could also consider that a chief benefit of using a bowfishing crossbow. If you can’t necessarily use a bow, you can always go with a crossbow.
The other thing is that it doesn’t cost a lot if you already have one. You don’t have to worry as much about bumping your crossbow into the boat because of how its design differs from a bow. In that regard, you could probably get away with using the crossbow that you use for whitetail.
I also find how I like the ease of use with a crossbow. I can aim it fast and easy, and I pull the trigger when ready. It doesn’t take much time at all to take a shot. In the past, I liked it so much that I didn’t use much else for bowfishing. Regular bowfishing does have its merits, however. Although, if it weren’t for the much slower shooting of the crossbow, I may have stuck with a crossbow up to today.
Know the Crossbow Laws
Along with knowing the crossbow fishing laws, you also have to know the laws on crossbows in general. Oftentimes, the crossbow has a shaky legal status because of its “potential for deadly force,” which doesn’t make much sense to me when guns and bows can do the same thing.
You have to check with your local state regulations to know the exact laws, but you do have a common thread that runs through many states. For example, every state seems to allow them on some level, but you have to find out how much. In some cases, they can only be used for disabled hunters. Some states classify them as a firearm, rather than as a bow.
Shoot Sitting Down
Perhaps one of the things that makes the crossbow appeal to me comes from the fact that I can take farther shots sitting down. For up close shots, I still have to stand up to get the right angle, but the crossbow requires a lot less involvement than what you’d get with a bow.
When I get tired of standing, I can simply sit down and rest for a while with less worry that I will miss my chance.
Take the Quiver Off
One of the biggest complaints that a lot of people have about the crossbow comes from its weight. You can get rid of some of that weight through getting rid of the quiver. Not only do you reduce the weight, but you will also make the size of the crossbow smaller.
That might sound like a small thing, but when out in the boat all night with a crossbow, the extra weight can make the experience more tiresome. The other issue comes from how the quiver can catch in the wind, which makes aiming more difficult. On a lake or river, you tend to get more wind because of how you have nothing to impede it.
What Bowfishing Crossbow Do I Recommend?
If I were to make a recommendation, I’d say that the best bowfishing crossbow is the PSE Thrive 400 Crossbow Kryptek Highlander. This crossbow shoots at 400 fps, and you get anti-dryfire for the ultimate safety. The package comes with a quiver, cocking rope and rail lube.
It also comes with four crossbow bolts, but these aren’t the bolts that you need for bowfishing. You will have to buy the special bowfishing crossbow bolts separately, and you can buy the AMS Bowfishing Crossbow Bolt here.
Some of the pros of this crossbow include lightweight and compact, faster and quieter than other crossbows and you get 400 fps. That makes it an exceptionally fast crossbow. You won’t find much better out there!
What about some of the cons? The cocking string is a bit short, and it makes a lot of noise that can scare off potential fish. However, you can do that through using lactate on the pivot screws. With that said, they should’ve done that before at the factory, rather than making the customer do it.
A bowfishing crossbow can be a lot of fun. I used one for the longest time because of how I liked to do bowfishing with it. That said, I got out of it because of how I like how a regular bow can string another arrow much faster. I do believe bowfishing with a crossbow has its merits, and you may even want to try it to see if it would work for you.