Standard archery targets will stop crossbow bolts… but not for long. Today’s heaviest crossbows launch arrows with kinetic energy nearly twice that of the average compound bow. Punching a bolt into a crossbow target designed for broadheads may make you envious of King Arthur and his ability to pull a sword from a stone; if you pull with enough force, you may dislodge the shaft, and you can easily bend an expensive arrow.
Crossbow hunters should practice on anatomically correct archery targets. Remember that the targets – or at least the core – will wear more quickly, and you must be wary of pass-through shots. 3-D targets help you pick an exact spot and increase lethality, yet a large, deer-size target is not needed for routine practice. Bag targets are an excellent choice, since the face often has multiple bull’s-eyes to test your accuracy. You can shoot hundreds of shafts into these targets with little chance of a pass-through or of bending a bolt upon removal.
Small, portable foam pieces serve several critical purposes. First, they can be moved to simulate your most frequent hunting style, such as shooting from a stand at steep angles or out to maximum range. Secondly, smaller portable targets handle broadheads well; some are designed specifically for broadheads so that the shafts can be removed more easily. (Don’t assume that your broadheads will fly identically to field points.) Finally, a small portable block or cube makes an excellent discharge target. When you return to your rig each day, take a practice shot to both release the tension on the limbs and make sure everything is working well. This works even in headlights.