Bowhunting: Crossbow vs Compound Bow

When it comes to bowhunting, most hunters have a preference on what they like to use. Some swear by compound bows only with the thoughts that compound bows gives more of a challenge than crossbows. Today, we are going to go over crossbows vs compound bows and why one may be a better fit for you over the other. So let’s get started…

State Laws

Depending on what state you live/hunt in, there may be laws that help you with this decision. For example, up to only a few years ago, you could only use a crossbow during gun season in Indiana. Since a crossbow has a trigger, they were considered a firearm. Then the law was changed to you could only use a crossbow during the second half of the bow season. Today, you can now use crossbows during all seasons.

Before deciding to move to a crossbow, you will want to make sure what the laws are in your own state.

Per state rules as of February 26, 2018 are listed below. The below list is only intended as a quick first glance at if considering a crossbow may be worth the purchase. You should check your current state DNR site for full rules.

State’s crossbows legal deer hunting seasons

  • ALASKA: In bow only areas only, where gun/bow are both in season, bow season for the handicapped hunters (with Exemption Form)
  • ALABAMA: Can use during all of deer season
  • ARKANSAS: Only during archery season
  • ARIZONA: All season for handicapped hunters that have permit. Open to all in firearms season
  • CALIFORNIA: Open to everyone during gun season. Approved use for someone with physical disabilities though there is a process to be approved
  • COLORADO: Can use crossbows during gun season. Handicapped can use during bow season.
  • CONNECTICUT: Can be used during all of archery season
  • DELAWARE: Can be used during all of deer season
  • FLORIDA: Can be used during all seasons
  • GEORGIA: Can be used during all seasons
  • HAWAII: Can only be used by permitted disability hunters
  • IOWA: Only people over 70 all season, anyone during late muzzle loader season
  • IDAHO: Only during hunting season marked “any-weapon”. People that are handicapped may obtain a permit for all season
  • ILLINOIS: Can be used during all of bow season
  • INDIANA: Can be used during all of bow season
  • KANSAS: Can be used during all of bow season
  • KENTUCKY: During Modern Gun Season. 65 and older can use between first Saturday of September through the third Monday in January.
  • LOUISIANA: During archery season
  • MASSACHUSETTS: By permitted handicapped people only
  • MARYLAND: During bow season
  • MAINE: Must have crossbow permit, go through crossbow training
  • MICHIGAN: During any gun season
  • MINNESOTA: During gun season or a permitted handicapped person
  • MISSOURI: During bow season
  • MISSISSIPPI: During all of bow season
  • MONTANA: During gun season
  • NORTH CAROLINA: During bow season
  • NORTH DAKOTA: Must have disability crossbow permit
  • NEBRASKA: During bow season
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE: During gun season and permitted handicapped people. Must have crossbow permit
  • NEW JERSEY: During bow season
  • NEW MEXICO: Gun season for everyone, bow season for certified handicapped people
  • NEVADA: Legal in “Any Legal Weapon” season only
  • New York: You will want to check current regulations here
  • Ohio: During bow season
  • OKLAHOMA: During bow season
  • OREGON: Not legal at all, sorry
  • PENNSYLVANIA: During bow season
  • RHODE ISLAND: During bow season but requires bow classes
  • SOUTH CAROLINA: During bow season
  • SOUTH DAKOTA: Handicapped people only during bow season
  • TENNESSEE: During all seasons
  • TEXAS: During bow season besides the county of Grayson
  • UTAH: Any legal deer hunting season
  • VIRGINIA: During bow and gun season but requires a crossbow licence during bow season
  • VERMONT: Legal for 50+ people. Only with disability permit if 49 or uner
  • WASHINGTON: Only legal for people with qualifying disabilities. Requires submission from Doctor
  •  WISCONSIN: Only during gun season. Requires crossbow permit
  • WEST VIRGINIA: During bow season besides McDowell County, Mingo County, and Wyoming County
  • WYOMING: During bow season

Compound Bow vs Crossbow


Credit: Dwight Stone


Hunting with a crossbow is similar to hunting with a rifle but not the same. It is more challenging to hunt with a crossbow then a rifle but not a challenging as with a compound bow.

A crossbow would be a good fit for someone that may not be up to pulling back 75+ pounds, someone who might be physically challenged, or someone that gets cold/stiff easy when sitting in a deer stand all day. I’m one of those people. It may also just be more convenient to use a crossbow if you have never used a compound before but want to tale advantage of bow season (in some states). I always say, the best hunting happens before the guns start going off.

Here are a couple advantages of using a crossbow over a compound:

  • Will be locked and loaded when the time comes
  • Easier to get into a good shooting position
  • Not needing to stand and draw
  • Further shot distance
  • More accurate

Credit: john skewes

Compound bow

Compound bows are the most widely known bows used for deer hunting. They take a lot a lot of practice, patience and strength to use.

Many people prefer compound bows for a couple of reasons. Firstly, people say that it about the hardest way to hunt today. So if your looking for accomplishment, this can go down as a pro. Compounds take a lot of skill to use. Think about how much work goes into using one.

Some people want the challenge of using a compound bow, I know I love it. It takes a lot of practice shooting from different positions including different height levels. If you already bow hunt, I’m sure you know that. Shooting from an elevated position (tree stand) shoots different than making our shot at ground level. We have all had that miss from the tree because you over shot… If you are thinking about buying a compound bow, I suggest reading our article titled 3 Best Bang For Your Buck Compound Bows of 2018.

Here are a couple pros for using a compound bow:

  • Nothing makes you feel prouder than dropping a buck using a compound bow
  • Harder hunt equals more of an accomplishment
  • You need to be skilled being mindful of every move you make


Though, some say bows are inferior to crossbows, it really comes down to personal preference. Whichever choice you make, you will need to prepare and get to know your tools. Each requires you to set them up personalized to your style. You will want to practice as much as possible and shoot from as many angles/heights as possible.

Sources: Images used under Creative Commons. Images have not been changed.