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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crossbow Shooting and Flintlocks

Good shooters have good habits.
A firearm requires a high level of attention and focus.
When shooting a flintlock or muzzleloader, even more awareness is required. When a shooter is distracted by conversation for example, it is all too easy to skip the step of dropping a powder charge down the barrel. Miss this key step and then ram a lead ball down the barrel without blackpowder in place and you will have one of those "Aw Shucks" moments knowing the next 30 minutes will be spent extracting a lead ball wedged down the rifling. (30 minutes if you are lucky)
Inattention at the range can produce exciting moments; like the fella who forgets to remove the ramrod from the barrel after loading but absentmindedly pulls the trigger anyway. Exciting.

Crossbows require a high level of attention just as well. There are similarities to muzzleloader shooting. Normally, both of these sporting arms offer only one shot opportunities. After a day in the field, both arms are discharged by firing. The loading and unloading events should be done with care and never rushed. As a good friend told us this week, his muzzleloader Instruction Book left the indelible impression in the back of his mind that if he was not careful, he could "blow himself up" to use his words.
On crossbows, warning labels indicate that the string path must be kept clear of hands and fingers. Care must be taken when discharging an arrow. Crossbow limbs move and can strike objects (like trees) if the shooter is inattentive. Special care must be taken when shooting at the range or with friends because a moment's distraction can create a hazard. The best practice is to consciously get into the "habit" of following the same safe routine 100% of the time without deviation. What that means is cocking the bow and loading the arrow in the same manner routinely and safely the same way every time. Stay out of the string path. At your hunting location, set up in your blind or stand but try to follow the same process on every hunt. Cocking rope in backpack upper left compartment , rangefinder left coat pocket, first hunting arrow #1 in quiver position #1. There is nothing wrong with a laminated checklist showing required hunting equipment needed for every outing. Airplane pilots use checklists for every flight. These checklists are very helpful when hunting frequently but for short periods such as after or before workdays. Success is when your hunting partners begin commenting that your behavior is getting very odd. That means you are probably in the SAFE ZONE. In summary, identify the key steps, systematize your hunting process and get into good safe habits. Safe habits will keep you efficient and maximize your outdoor experience.

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