Crossbows more closely resemble rifles for having stocks which serve as a convenient platform to place on a steadying rest. Due to this, my basic rule of thumb while hunting with crossbows is to always avoid shooting offhand except when targets are very close (inside 25 yards) or under exceptional situations when a rest simply isn’t available. This is especially true when shooting at live animals, where botched shots aren’t an option. Finding and utilizing a solid rest can be inconvenient under pressing circumstances, can certainly take more time, but on important shots at game when you must absolutely be sure. It’s better to seek a rest and perhaps allow a shot opportunity to skip away than make a hasty shot and miss, or worse, wound an animal. Remaining calm and thinking things through is always important.
While stalking afoot it’s easy to get caught in the open with no rest in sight. In such scenarios your first instinct should be to drop and go prone, resting the stock over a hand with elbow firmly planted (best), sitting with the stock resting over a knee (good), or if you must stand due to grass or vegetation, wrapping the left arm (right-hand shooters) into a sling and pulling elbow/upper arm into your torso beneath the crossbow stock (only when necessary).
If conditions and time permit I prefer to find a stump, fence post, horizontal tree branch or rock to rest on top of. I guess 23 years of guiding big game clients instilled this in me. If a shot is imminent, I first look for a rest before even thinking about shooting. A daypack or folded jacket tossed over a stump, rock or hump of ground also serves as a steadying rest, so long as limbs/cams clear after triggering. Always think in terms of crossbow-limb clearance, as damage to your weapon can result should they impact hard objects while firing.
The Right Stand
Those who hunt from elevated positions can create steadier shots by choosing the right stand design. Most ladders are extremely crossbow friendly, equipped with wrap-around, padded shooting rails that make ideal crossbow rests. Just assure this rail is designed to actually support some weight, or tightened down to prevent sagging under load, to assure it won’t let you down under the weight of a fully-loaded crossbow. Some climbing stands include front rails, which are another solid option for crossbow hunters.
Tripod stands and hard-side ground or tower blinds are also crossbow ready. While hunting in Texas last fall, shooting a crossbow after shoulder surgery, I occupied a hard blind set on an elevated platform and holding horizontal windows that provided bench-rest stability. I shot a wide buck at 76 yards due to this rock-solid arrangement.
While prepping stand trees you can often create more crossbow-friendly perches by trimming branches judiciously. The tendency when trimming stand spots for bowhunting is to eliminate all forward branches because they interfere with vertical bows. With crossbows you can leave a limb rest to set your crossbow atop, or simply used to steady an elbow while aiming. Keep this in mind while preparing trees for crossbow-specific stand sites.
Overall, the ideal crossbow rest is something like TenPoint’s SteddyEddy, a telescoping, two-section monopod that promotes solid crossbow shooting while seated in a standard hang-on treestand, from inside a pop-up blind and even while standing. While standing, the SteddyEddy is propped into a hip or midsection and used to support the weight of the crossbow effortlessly. Length is adjusted via a twist-lock barrel, the unit attaching to your crossbow with a 360-degree pivoting tube which includes snap-on connection system. When not in use the SteddyEddy clips under the stock, ready for instant action. It comes with two model-specific rod-retention clips.
Somewhat less convenient, in regards to being instantly availability by being anchored to the crossbow itself, a simple walking stick, V-cradle adjustable standing-/sitting-height bipod shooting sticks or tripod-mounted shooting cradle are also crossbow viable. In a pop-up blind in particular, tripod shooting rests allow setting crossbows at ready and leaving them in place until a shot is taken.
Offhand shots with crossbows can prove uncomfortable and inaccurate and the game you hunt deserves your best efforts. Taking an extra moment to find a rest, or setting up solid situations ahead of time—including investing in rest products—assures more confident and successful shooting at coveted game animals