I need some advice from those who have hunted more with crossbows than I have: How do you hike with it? Uncocked and unloaded? Cocked and unloaded? Cocked and loaded?

Those sound like pretty elementary questions, but consider what I’m doing this week: I’m hunting elk in Wyoming’s backcountry. That means a lot of hiking, a lot of dark-timber stalking and a lot of chances to walk up on bulls and have only split seconds to shoot.

I’ve been in that situation plenty of times behind my compound, and I’ve become pretty adept at turning an opportunity into a shot. I nock an arrow when I think I have a play, clip in my release and am ready to draw the bowstring.

But it’s different with a crossbow. Cocking one requires quite a bit of movement, and compared to a compound they’re loud. On the other hand, the TenPoint I’m hunting with is extremely safe and has three mechanisms to prevent it from dry firing, so theoretically it should be plenty safe to carry while cocked.

I’ve used crossbows to hunt whitetails from a treestand, but that’s a whole different game. In that situation, I can cock and load the crossbow while I wait for a buck. But I’m not walking, not stepping over boulders and logs, worried about sticking myself with a broadhead or about my crossbow going off literally half-cocked.

Here’s my inclination for elk hunting with a crossbow. I expect I’ll cock the string long before I get into elk. Then all I have to do prior to the shot is slide a bolt on the shelf, slip off the safety and aim–all things I can do with an economy of motion and noise.

But is it dangerous to walk around with a cocked crossbow? What would you do? I’d like to hear from those of you with first-hand experience still-hunting with a crossbow. Chime in so we can all learn together.

Photo by: TenPoint