No one can deny that the choice of hunting method (firearm, muzzleloader, bow, crossbow) greatly impacts the activity. Not only does it influence the difficulty of harvesting a deer but it impacts practivce time, equipment costs and season length as well.
Most current programs use modern center-fire firearms (either rifles or shotgun-slug guns) in their programs, and there are many benefits for doing so. As stated earlier, your participant is likely from a non-hunting family and is likely to be somewhat intimidated by all of the things that they have to learn to become a successful hunter. In addition, many are likely to be anxious about killing an animal and their ability to “do it right.”
Selecting modern center-fire firearms will help reduce some of these concerns. Selecting calibers that have adequate down range energy to be lethal without un-necessary recoil is relatively straightforward decision. In addition, most participants can achieve a moderate level of accuracy with this equipment in a relatively short period of time. Limiting the range that shots are taken in the field will also help participants gain confidence in their ability to make a good shot. Modern center-fire firearms also allow for a quick follow-up shot if it is necessary.
Some current programs are considering crossbows instead of firearms. Crossbows are similar to firearms in that most participants can achieve a moderate level of accuracy with this equipment relatively quickly. However, the distance and shot angle should be carefully reviewed during the class and reviewed with mentor/ guides before the hunt. Crossbows rarely allow for a second shot, so the initial shot taken needs to be carefully considered.
In many areas, using crossbows will open up access to land in or near urban areas. If crossbows are used, additional safety material will need to be covered in the hunter education section of the program. In addition, extra time should be devoted to blood trailing and “after the shot” considerations.
If crossbows are used, because of their limited range, it may be advisable to also use tree stands for hunting. However, doing so adds tree stand safety as an additional topic to cover during the course. In addition, hunting from tree stands will require that you coordinate with your guide/mentors to make sure they have tree stands that can accommodate two people at once, and have the proper safety equipment, such as fall restraint systems, installed.
We do not recommend that conventional archery equipment or muzzleloaders be used in the initial program offering. This equipment lends itself to being part of an advanced, “next step” program that is offered as a supplement to the core course. Again, your participants are novices that have little experience with hunting. Using conventional archery equipment or muzzleloaders adds a level of complexity and a need for additional practice that may impractical within the program structure and, therefore, undermine participant confidence.
The resources below cover the pros and cons of rifle, muzzleloader, bow and crossbow hunting. Share them with your students who are choosing how to hunt.
We've attached several articles about the advantages of one method of hunting over another. You can review them and make your own decisions or share them with your trainees and let them decide how they would rather hunt.