Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 70 - Firing a Crossbow

I have never fired a crossbow. While I have always maintained a mild curiosity about the weapon, my desire to fire a crossbow has never been strong enough to spur action. As a result, I have maintained limited exposure to crossbows throughout my life, let along opportunities to fire them. That stated, the idea of firing a crossbow seemed a perfect way to end a weekend in the north woods. After all, life in the north is about living off the land and one way to do that is to keep a hearty stock of weaponry for any number of hunting seasons. Like me, Ryan had no experience firing a crossbow before today, which gave him motivation to track down a local resource that could help make the experience a reality. After some brainstorming with his roommate Eric and making a few short calls around the area, Ryan quickly tracked down a location to fire a crossbow. Following his effort, the two of us made a trek to Montee’s archery shop in nearby Miltown to cross another event off of my “I have never...” list.

The crossbow
With knowledge this trip was my last through the north woods countryside before making my trip back home, I took time to soak in the sights of untouched land and natural beauty as we drove. My efforts made the drive seem all too brief, but that wasn’t unwelcomed given the forthcoming experience. Upon arriving at Montee’s Ryan and I exited our vehicles and made our way into the store. Just inside the door Montee, an older man wearing a camouflage hat and a goatee, stood behind a glass counter filled with a variety of firearms. Around him rows and rows of weapons and ammunition wound their way through the store. Looking around the building, I quickly located a row of crossbows hanging from a rack above a back counter. I quickly pointed them out to Ryan, which caused both of us to approach the rack and take a closer look at the weapons. After a quick look at the inventory we returned to the front counter and greeted Montee. “Hi there. I’m the guy that called about the crossbow.” Ryan said as he approached the glass display. “Sure! Let’s go in back and try them out!” the man said with enthusiasm. Together the three of us returned to the rack of crossbows before working out which weapon we wanted to fire. Moments later, Montee guided us to a shooting range and prepared us to fire a crossbow for the first time.

After a brief walkthrough on the function and safety of the weapon, Montee gave us instructions on loading the weapon, lining the sights, and firing the arrow. He explained the arrow would leave the crossbow at 330 feet per second, which increases the intensity and range of the weapon in comparison to most traditional bows. Astounded by the speed and power of the weapon, I watched very carefully as Montee loaded the crossbow, remove the safety and fired the first shot. A sound similar to an air piston firing overwhelmed the room when he pulled the trigger. In turn, the bolt in the bow flew to the end of the range in the blink of an eye. “Holy crap,” I said in response to the first shot. The sight and sound the weapon in action simply baffled me, and the power behind the arrow slightly intimidated me. Regardless, I knew I needed to fire the bow to gain the experience, which kept me focused on the task at hand.

Ryan taking a shot

Following Montee’s shot, Ryan and I looked over the empty crossbow as Montee retrieved the arrow. We retraced his steps in loading and firing the weapon as he returned with the arrow in hand. Montee promptly handed the arrow to Ryan upon returning and invited him to take a shot. In turn, Ryan cocked the bowstring, loaded the arrow, and took his position before the target at the end of the range. Following Montee’s instructions, Ryan carefully lined up his shot and recalibrated his stance. A few seconds later the sound of suddenly disturbed air and the arrow hitting the target erupted at Ryan’s pull of the trigger. “Wow, that’s nice” he said lowering the crossbow and assessing his shot. He gave the crossbow a quick once over before walking to the end of the range and retrieving the arrow once more. Returning to my position, Ryan handed the crossbow and arrow to me. “You ready to give it a try?” he said as he placed the weapon in my hands. “Heck yes I am...” I said as I took the crossbow into my arms and prepared to take my first shot.

Locking the bowstring

Checking the sights
The first thing I noticed about the crossbow was its surprisingly light weight. It was easy to handle and comfortable in my hands as I manipulated the weapon and prepared it for firing. At Montee’s direction I cocked the bowstring and prepared to load the weapon. Before preparing to fire I took a brief look down the sights to get a feel for the targeting mechanism. Comfortable with the sights, I loaded the weapon and pulled it to my shoulder. With the crossbow in firing position I lowered my head before the scope once more and took the target into view. I paused for a brief moment to rethink my steps and ensure my sights were aligned. Confident I was ready to fire, I released the safety and slowly squeezed the trigger. Suddenly, I felt a slight kick as the familiar rush of the bow firing blasted through the air. With the force of 330 feet per second the arrow left the crossbow and buried itself at the center of the target at the end of the range. Pulling back from the sights, I was stunned at the ease with which the crossbow fired. It seemed impossible that such a lightweight and simple weapon could be so powerful, yet I had just seen and felt the force of crossbow’s bolt slamming into the target. Stunned by the experience, I lowered the crossbow to my side and said the only thing that came to my mind, “That’s unbelievable.”

Following my shot with the crossbow, Ryan explained he would be in touch with Montee in the near future. I thanked him for the opportunity to fire the crossbow and reiterated my thoughts on the power of the weapon. In response, Montee shared a quick story about a customer being caught off guard by the force of a crossbow at short range and explained they are weapons that should not be taken lightly. Understanding his remarks, we thanked Montee for his time and made our way out of the store. Awhile later Ryan and I shared details of our first experience with a crossbow over lunch. We agreed the takeaways from the experience were somewhat unexpected and that the time spent firing the crossbow was a good way to wrap up my weekend in the north woods. I carried that thought with me as I made my journey back to Madison later in the day. My first experience visiting Ryan in Luck had been stacked with new experiences that covered a broad spectrum and gave me a taste of life in the north. Ryan was right in saying the weekend wouldn’t let me down. We certainly made the most of it, and that’s all I could ask for.

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