Cash in on the Crossbow Craze

The number of crossbow hunters is increasing each year, and there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue from coast to coast.

Cash in on the Crossbow Craze

Willy Lines of Full Draw Outdoors explains the many features of a high-tech crossbow to a customer. He often takes prospective buyers to his store’s indoor range.

Crossbows have a long and storied history. While some of the earliest designs trace back to military use in ancient China, crossbows eventually spread across continents and civilizations. In the ensuing millennia they have been adopted for all manners of waging war, pursuing game — even taking out zombies in sci-fi adventures. As growing numbers of hunters and shooters discover the crossbow’s alluring combination of precision, power, fun and challenge, modern versions of these iconic hunting tools are making cash registers ring for archery retailers across North America.

“Interest in crossbows has increased exponentially,” said Willy Lines of Full Draw Outdoors in Stacy, Minnesota. He noticed a dramatic jump in crossbow inquiries and sales following a state law change enacted in 2023 that allows Minnesota whitetail deer and spring wild turkey hunters to use crossbows throughout the respective archery seasons. The new law expanded the use of crossbows, which previously were allowed only for hunters with a permit (due to a physical limitation), who were 60 or older during archery deer or turkey seasons, or during firearms seasons for deer or turkeys. Crossbows were already allowed for all hunters during the fall wild turkey and bear seasons — and for rough fish during bowfishing season.

“About 90 percent of crossbows are sold to deer hunters for that purpose solely, or to deer hunters who also hunt black bears or turkeys,” Lines noted. “The other 10 percent are seeking bears or turkeys and not deer.”

The surge in popularity isn’t limited to Minnesota. Crossbows are a hot commodity across the continent. And this fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by manufacturers, who’ve responded to consumer demand with a plethora of crossbows and accessories running the gamut of price points. For retailers, navigating this sea of options can be intimidating, but Lines keeps it simple by following Full Draw’s longstanding commitment to providing top-quality equipment to increase people’s enjoyment of the great outdoors. “We’re passionate about setting people up for success,” he said.

That philosophy has guided Lines and his business partner, Jason Stepp, since they purchased Full Draw in 2010. The lifelong friends were customers of the shop, which was operating roughly 10 miles north of its current location.

“When the owner asked if we had any interest in buying the business, we thought, ‘Why not?’” Lines recalled. “We both love archery. So we took a shot at it.”

That shot paid off, as under their stewardship the shop has grown steadily ever since. Eventually they made the move to a larger building just off Interstate 35 north of Stacy. The new location taps a booming population on the north end of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metroplex, and being a chip shot off the interstate doesn’t hurt drive-by business either.

Full Draw’s full parking lot shows the reward of providing great service.
Full Draw’s full parking lot shows the reward of providing great service.

A Full-Service Shop

Crossbow sales benefit from Full Draw’s archery product and service portfolio. “We’re a full-service shop,” said Lines. “We carry bows and crossbows, accessories, and service everything we sell.” Maintenance and repairs are a key factor in the crossbow market, he notes. “Realistically, most crossbows are high-maintenance devices. Their components are under tremendous pressure and require routine maintenance for safety and peak performance. For example, replacing strings and cables is a big deal. Some models need to be restrung annually, while others require it bi-annually or at 5-year intervals.”

Handling repairs is also key. “We see a lot of issues where people don’t follow the specific sequence for cocking or de-cocking their crossbows, which leads to problems,” he explained. “If you purchase a crossbow at a big-box store and have an issue, you either get your money back or pound sand. We explain what happened, how to prevent it in the future, and fix the problem.”

Stocking a variety of crossbows and accessories allows archery retailers to tap a booming market ranging from beginning to advanced shooters.
Stocking a variety of crossbows and accessories allows archery retailers to tap a booming market ranging from beginning to advanced shooters.

Lines and his crew are also very hands-on when helping customers choose a crossbow. “Since they’re a universal weapon, much of the buying decision comes down to fit and feel, and what attributes or features are important to the individual shooter,” he said. “For example, choosing between manually cocked models or crossbows with some type of cocking devices fixed or integrated into the bow is a major consideration. Some crossbows when cocked need to be uncocked at the end of the hunt, which leads to whether you’re OK with shooting it at the end of the day or prefer to unload or de-cock it. We explain all the ins and outs of each option.”

Lines is also happy to take prospective buyers to the range and have them test out different crossbows. “That’s a great way for people to really get a feel for a particular crossbow, its weight and operation before they make their final decision,” he said. 

As he explained the process, I wished my father had chosen such a route when making a recent crossbow purchase. Hoping to try his hand at the sport in his early 90s, he bought a very low-cost crossbow package from a big box store and ended up very unhappy and never able to shoot it. He made that purchase on his own — with little to no guidance from sporting goods staff — and we’ve since discussed taking Lines’ advice and testing different models at the range before pulling the purchase trigger. Hopefully that will lead to many memorable hunts in autumns to come. Also, when his crossbow needs maintenance, a full-service archery dealer will be a godsend.

To help fellow archery retailers cash in on the crossbow craze, Lines recommends these personal favorites in the following categories:

Top-Selling Crossbows

Full Draw offers a variety of top archery brands. “In vertical bows, Mathews, Hoyt and Bowtech are our biggest players, followed by Elite and PSE,” Lines said. “On the crossbow side, it’s Mission and TenPoint, along with Excalibur and Wicked Ridge. These are all brands we believe in, and we steer customers to specific products within these lines depending on their budget and personal preferences.”

The Mission Sub-1 Lite is Lines’ top crossbow pick. “It’s my No. 1 crossbow, if I were buying something within my budget that would be my personal favorite,” he said. “The accuracy and reliability are impressive.”

The proven Mission Sub-1 Lite is a top-selling crossbow for Willy Lines’ Full Draw Outfitters in Stacy, Minnesota.
The proven Mission Sub-1 Lite is a top-selling crossbow for Willy Lines’ Full Draw Outfitters in Stacy, Minnesota.

Built off Mission’s acclaimed Sub-1 platform, the Sub-1 Lite is billed as the company’s most versatile crossbow. It’s also extremely user-friendly. For starters, its compact frame tips the scales at just 6.9 pounds. Plus, it’s a cinch to cock, adding to the ease of handling for a wide range of shooters. As a bonus, it features Mission’s innovative Benchmark Fire Control technology. This system includes a match-grade dual-stage trigger set at a crisp 3.3 pounds, and Easy-Load bolt-retention arm that allows you to safely de-cock the device with the push of a button and relaxing of the string.

A patented CNC-machined rail banishes vertical nock travel for exceptional accuracy, which is further aided by the Sub-1 Lite’s high let-off, fully synced cam system, which eliminates horizontal nock movement. The cam system also yields effortless cocking and de-cocking. Other amenities include a rifle-inspired precision stock offering six length-of-pull adjustments and 1.25 inches of adjustment in the comb to ensure a custom fit for every shooter. MSRPs start at $1,899.   

TenPoint’s Venom X and Viper 430 also rank high on Lines’ list. “Both are very popular and feature the ACUslide cocking and de-cocking system,” he said. ACUslide features an auto-brake gear system that eliminates the risk of losing control during the de-cocking process — a prospect that’s dangerous to shooters and damaging to the device. If your hand slips off the handle, the handle stops in place. Plus, it’s extremely quiet — a huge concern for hunters who don’t want to spook game when de-cocking their crossbow.

With MSRPs ranging from $1,049 to $1,140, the Venom X is TenPoint’s lowest-priced ACUslide. It’s also the lightest, weighing in at a svelte 6.9 pounds. Measuring 9.75 inches wide (axle to axle when ready to shoot) by 32.5 inches long, the compact crossbow is a great fit for close quarters in stands or blinds. Don’t let the proportions fool you, though. Performance is stellar, too. The Venom X delivers blistering bolt speeds of 390 feet per second. Accuracy boosting features include a two-stage, zero-creep S1 Trigger with roller sear system and Pro-View 400 scope (mounted on a rock-solid Scope Struts base) with aimpoints out to 70 yards and an updated reticle for clearer views and better shots downrange.

The TenPoint Viper 430 is dependable and tremendously accurate.
The TenPoint Viper 430 is dependable and tremendously accurate.

The Viper 430 is a faster, slimmer and more accurate version of TenPoint’s wildly popular Viper S400. As the numbering implies, it delivers arrow speeds of 430 fps. It’s just 6.5 inches wide when ready to fire and weighs 7.5 pounds. Standard features include the S1 Trigger system and Scope Struts, capped by a RangeMaster 100 scope with aimpoints out to 100 yards. Plus, a new extended dovetail allows more scope adjustments, heavier scope options, and delivers the strength of a full-length rail without the extra weight. MSRPs run $1,749 to $1,849.

Proven Accessories

Full Draw offers a variety of crossbow accessories. “All the crossbows we sell come as package units, so they come with essentials like a scope, quiver, etc.,” Lines said. “We recommend customers purchase a package at the level of the crossbow they’re getting. We also explain that they’ll need a high-quality target capable of handling arrows from a crossbow, which typical archery targets can’t do. We also sell lots of shooting rests, particularly tripods and monopods. Illuminated nocks are another must in my book, and we sell plenty of those.

“A lighted nock offers multiple benefits. It serves as a tracer to help shooters visually follow the flight of a fast-moving arrow to assess point of impact with the target — something that’s tough to do with an arrow launched from a crossbow, especially in low-light conditions. A lighted nock is also a huge aid in arrow recovery. When shot on a horizontal plane, as is common with many crossbow scenarios, the arrow can travel a long way, often much farther than you’d think. The illumination improves your odds of locating it and accessing critical clues on shot placement such as blood or hair.”

He adds that crossbows typically have brand-specific nocking systems. “They’re not universal, so if you buy a TenPoint crossbow and run down to the local farm and fleet to stock up on bolts, it will have a detrimental effect on shooting performance and the crossbow itself. Which is why it’s important for retailers to stock accessories made for the crossbows they sell.” 

Crossbow-specific broadheads are another strong category Lines advises fellow retailers to pursue. Sellers can explain key options and considerations, such as the differences between a fixed or mechanical design. In a nutshell, a fixed blade often yields a smaller exit hole than its mechanical counterparts, but is more durable and likely to pass entirely through the target animal.

Manufacturing partners can provide decision-making advice in this and other categories. For example, TenPoint offers content in its online library such as tips for choosing the best crossbow broadhead. It includes guidance on following crossbow makers’ recommendations, purchasing broadheads rated for crossbow use, advice on aerodynamics, wound-channel surface area and penetration, and more. Such content is great for educating retail staff on helpful talking points. It also makes good fodder for social media and website blog posts that help position your shop as a trusted source of technical information.

It’s worth noting that Full Draw also drives foot traffic with indoor and outdoor archery ranges plus a TechnoHUNT system and shooting leagues.

Willy Lines of Full Draw Outfitters recommends that fellow retailers add crossbow-capable targets to their mix.
Willy Lines of Full Draw Outfitters recommends that fellow retailers add crossbow-capable targets to their mix.

Final Thoughts

The blend of products, service, knowledgeable staff and opportunities for customers to hone and test their shooting skills has proven to be a winning combination for Full Draw Outdoors. On a recent weeknight when I stopped by to shoot a few photos for this story, the parking lot was literally flush with vehicles. Likewise, the store was a hub of activity as customers shopped for new gear or had their equipment serviced, aspiring bowhunters were given advice on product selection and shooting form, and ranges echoed with the happy voices of archers engaged in friendly competition. If you’re in the archery business and that doesn’t warm your heart, you might consider checking your pulse.


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