The world of hunting, more specifically whitetail hunting, is experiencing a trend in the decline of numbers of people heading out into the fields all across the United States. This is one of the main reasons why it is important to introduce the younger generation to this sport. There is a group within the whitetail hunting ranks however which are experiencing a growth spurt in every corner of the country. The incorporation of crossbows into the archery season is allowing for older hunters to remain in the fields longer. Despite this fact, crossbow hunters are growing in all age groups and genders. If you are considering the purchase of a new crossbow for hunting whitetails and joining these ever growing numbers, your first order of business is purchasing the best crossbow for your style of hunting. The optimum way to do this is to head out to a large sporting goods store. Examine and touch every single crossbow which you lay eyes on. Take your time and narrow your choices down to your top three or four picks. Find a salesperson who can answer all of your questions about the different characteristics that you consider to be paramount in making your decision. If the store you are at offers the option of a shooting range; take advantage of it. Put several bolts through the crossbow; get a true feel for how each and everyone one of your final choices handles. Your next order of business is to take some time and do research on the internet. Visit various crossbow forums. You will find that there are avid crossbow hunters who are more than willing to share their opinions and experiences with you about crossbows in general as well as the specific one you may be considering. Ask the questions which are most important to you; get the honest answers; make the best decision. Two of these forums can be found at the following web addresses: www.huntingnet.com/forum/crossbows-76 and www.bowhunting.com. However, no matter how much information you obtain before your purchase; once you settle on the right one for you, read the owner's manual completely. Another consideration when deciding to purchase and use a crossbow is the fact that crossbows have a significantly higher draw weight than vertical bows. For a hunter who has a disability, cocking a crossbow could be impossible. If this is the case there are tools available to help. You could use a cocking rope which can reduce the draw weight by up to 50 percent. You could also use a crank- cocking device. This attaches to your crossbow and operates much like a winch. The need for a high draw weight is essential because a crossbow has a shorter power stroke than a compound bow. The power stroke is the distance that the bowstring travels to push the arrow toward the target. Because of this shorter power stroke, the kinetic energy built up in the limbs is much less versus the buildup in vertical bows. Due to this fact, even with the higher draw weight, the arrow leaving the crossbow will always drop off faster than an arrow leaving a vertical compound bow. Another difference is the fact that the arrow used with a crossbow needs to be much heavier. Most crossbow arrows are 400+ grains. This is necessary for the arrow to withstand the initial energy transfer. Be sure that you follow the manufacturers instructions to the letter. If you don't, you risk injury to yourself and damage to your crossbow. Also, most manufacturers do not recommend taking a shot at a target which is over 40 yards away. This is due to the rapid loss of arrow speed and the fact that the higher draw weight makes the crossbow considerably louder than its vertical compound bow counterparts. Keeping your shots within 40 yards also helps to prevent a buck from "jumping your string." Finally, it should be noted that most crossbows are heavier overall than vertical bows. Though manufacturers are continually working to lighten the overall weight, currently this is not the case. So, there are a number of items on the market which are constructed specifically to help the hunter steady the crossbow when preparing for a shot. There is the "KneePod." It is lightweight and easy to use and you can get more information about it at www.crossbow.com/products/39. Another item is "Steddy Eddy." This helps the crossbow hunter just like shooting sticks help the rifle hunter. You can get more information at www.cabelas.com/fryprod-0/product--Steddy-Eddy--745225.uts.shtml. Maintenance and safety concerns are mostly the same as you have with vertical compound bows. The only additional safety concern with crossbows is making sure that your fingers remain below the barrel. Failing to do so will mean the loss of your fingertips. For more safety information you can check out the National Bowhunter Education Foundation website at www.horizontal-bowhunter.com. Crossbow hunting whitetail deer can be a challenging experience. Choosing the right crossbow for you will also make this experience a fun one.