The Sporting Crossbow
Fig. 7 - How a Crossbowman should approach animals
by means of a cart concealed with foliage.
Though the Sporting Crossbow, as was the case
with the crossbow employed in warfare, never found
as much favour in England as it did on the Continent, it was in limited
use among the nobles and gentry of the kingdom for killing deer, the extreme
accuracy of the weapon at a short range, and the heavy bolt it threw, well
adapting it for the chase. The crossbow, moreover,
could be used by the hunter as he crouched behind trees or rocks, or amid
the dense cover that formerly compassed the haunts of deer, in places where
the string of a longbow could not be fully drawn for want of space, and
when the act of doing so, were it possible, would probably alarm and drive
away the animal for which the hunter was lying in ambush. The hunter could
carry his crossbow ready bent, and then discharge
it from any position, even when lying on the ground, while the archer with
a longbow could not shoot with effect from a stooping or recumbent attitude.1
The crossbow was also noiseless as well as
powerful and accurate, and for this reason it survived - as a common weapon
of chase - the first serious introduction of the handgun for over a century
and a half - 1470-1630.
1 I find that the thick steel bow of the ancient
military, or sporting crossbow, like the spring of a gun-lock, does not'
tire ' - i.e., lose any of its power - even though it be kept bent for
two or three hours at a time.
A heavy steel bow was slightly bent in proportion to its
length, and differed in this respect from the much lighter bow of a modern
sporting crossbow. The latter is always liable to take a slight 'set,'
or permanent bend, if kept in a strained condition for more than about
> Chapter 2 > Sporting Crossbow > p.11