The best way to prepare yourself for anything is to practice. If you can make something part of your routine, you’ll naturally become better at it. This applies to fishing, golf, basketball, just about anything including hunting with a crossbow. Target shooting is probably the most effective way to get comfortable with your crossbow.
After your crossbow is sighted in, start shooting at 20 yards. This is a range that most hunting shots occur and also a distance that most people can shoot pretty effectively. Once your consistently accurate at 20 yards, start pushing your limits on the range. Shoot at 30, 40, and even 50 yards. This will show you what your limits are. Another good exercise is to move around and try to guess what range the target is at. If you have a range finder, double check before shooting. This will make you a better shot and improve your skills at judging distances.
Once you feel good about your skills on the range, try to simulate hunting situations. If you plan on hunting from a stand, set up a stand in your backyard or somewhere else you can shoot. Get comfortable shooting your crossbow from an elevated platform with a safety harness on. Better yet, put on clothes that are similar to what you’ll be wearing during the hunt. I don’t like to sweat in my hunting clothes in the summer but I will slide on a hoodie or another jacket to get a feel for where my crossbow will be during the season.
Don’t just put the target in one place. Shoot from the left, right, front, and back of your treestand setup. This way you’ll know where your feet and body need to be when the shot situation is real. A 3D target can also be a big help. Deer don’t have bullseyes painted on the side of them. Getting used to putting the arrow in the vitals of a deer can really pay off during the season.
The best way to avoid missing or putting a bad shot on an animal during the season is to thoroughly prepare yourself and your crossbow through consistent and realistic practice. Good luck this season!