Three of my best-scoring whitetail deer were taken with a crossbow during a firearms season. In deer camps where every hunter had a 200-500 yard rifle, how can a crossbow compete? First, state regulation can be “picky” about crossbows, yet most reduce or eliminate restrictions when everyone else is carrying a rifle. Secondly, the archery tag allowed me to take a second deer. Archery success may sound nearly impossible, yet here’s how to succeed.
This great deer was taken behind camp where no one thought to hunt.
The above 8-point was taken in the last hour of daylight on the last day in camp. While my rifle-toting buddies searched for vast visibility and long-range shooting, I searched for thick cover, the kinds of places bucks seek when pressured. This buck passed by at 20 yards, searching for a doe and an arrow through the boiler room anchored it.
A local muzzleloading season didn’t require orange and this buck fell to an instant arrow.
Deer drives are used frequently in firearm seasons. Our gang often pushed deer into thick cover where they seemed to vanish. I chose to hide in the middle of a dense cedar bottom and tackle these “ghost bucks” at close range. First try, first success. The buck attempted to sneak away, and at such close quarters, the suspense was heart-pounding. It entered a tiny opening and saw my figure sitting against a small tree, but the arrow caught it before it could whirl and run. Since then, I have taken three bucks in four days of hunting in firearms season.
Prepare for the Cold
Patience is a prerequisite for crossbow hunting in firearms seasons. Many rifle hunters use box blinds or protected stands where they maximize visibility in search of moving deer and are partially protected from the elements. Crossbow hunters want just the opposite. You want deer moving naturally where they move cautiously and respond to grunts and rattling. Make sure you have a warm cushion to sit on and a backpack filled with extra insulation and hot coffee, whatever you need to stay put and engaged.
You may be able to bow hunt in areas where guns can’t go.
As the pumpkin army invades the deer woods, wily bucks head for small patches of thick cover, often in areas where rifle hunting is not allowed. Ironically, look for “Deer Crossing” signs in urban and suburban areas which indicate abundant deer numbers. Even small tracts of land with “No Hunting” signs have potential. Many residents with small properties don’t want guns cracking near their homes, yet welcome a means of reducing deer damage. Look for these out-of-the-way places and you may have a honey-hole for life.