February 15, 2022
Whenever it’s whitetail season, bowhunters hit the woods and fields in droves, hoping for a chance to snag some protein and possibly score a trophy.
Some carry all traditional archery gear, while others prefer more modern devices such as compounds and crossbows. Most archery rules and limitations apply to all three, but there are a few differences, and that’s where the crossbow really shines.
First, let’s set the record straight. A crossbow is made up of strings, cables, limbs and a riser, and it does not require gunpowder. So it’s a bow – period! However, it offers the distinct advantage of holding the fully drawn bowstring in place, eliminating the need to shoot and move when the game is at hand. In some ways, this is a game-changer.
Without going into too much detail, a deer’s vision is good but not great. Deer see colors in the blue-violet end of the visible spectrum very well and those in the red-orange range less well. The simple solution to help offset this is to wear good camouflage clothing. A deer’s visual acuity is best on a horizontal plane directly in front of it and to the sides. Although their field of vision is wider than ours – because their eyes are to the side of their head rather than facing directly forward – their peripheral vision isn’t as clear. In short, if you’re not right in front of them, they might not see you unless you’re moving around.
With a crossbow, you don’t need to move around as much as with other bows, which reduces or eliminates the need to seek an elevated perch to avoid detection. Therefore, floor blinds offer an alternative. And, while you can hunt at eye level without being seen, it’s also worth noting that you’re still engaged in a specific location, which severely restricts mobility. Ditch the blind and your options increase dramatically.
You can always split the difference by adding a little natural cover to improve your concealment, which is why it’s a good idea to have a set of ratcheting wire cutters in your backpack. A ghillie suit will also go a long way in breaking your human form, and you don’t have to worry about loose fabric tangling in your bowstring.
All this opens up a whole field of possibilities. Rather than creeping into your tree well before dawn to wait for daylight and deer, you can wait and keep hunting, a method made much easier by the narrower, more compact crossbows that now dominate the market. .
You might, of course, spot deer on the way. It’s not easy, but I’ve killed my share of ground whitetail deer with compound, and the crossbow makes that feat easier.
Since you’re still hunting, you might find a perfect ambush spot along the way. Rather than wasting valuable hunting time waiting until noon to hike, take a stand, let things calm down, and come back later to hunt it, you can just duck down and start hunting right then and there. . This means you can scout and hunt at the same time, which can save you valuable time when exploring new terrain.
See if this sounds familiar: you explore a new area, find a potential honey hole, and set up a stand. The fateful day arrives, and to your chagrin, you discover that the deer are traveling just out of reach. It’s too late to move unless you have a climber, and even that will cause a bit of a commotion at the worst possible time. However, when hunting on the ground with a crossbow, you can simply stand up and move.
It also eliminates the need to search for trees. We all found a hotspot that would be ideal, if there was only one climbing tree. With a crossbow, you can just set up against a fence post, a sapling, or even a brush pile. Wear a turkey vest with a rigid seat frame and you don’t even need it – you can lie down comfortably even in a patch of CRP grass.
Advantage of public lands
Crossbows are often a better option for hunting on public land. Without the need for a fixed or climbing mount, you have more options for installation locations and you can get away from roads and crowds.
A shooting stick is always a good idea to provide stable rest. The telescopic type can be used fully extended while hunting or collapsed when sitting on the ground. In the latter case, you can often find what you need on the spot in the form of a stump, a stone, a branch or even a stick. Situations will dictate your setup, but you usually have plenty of options.
In addition to the aforementioned fence post, you can prop yourself up on a pivot or other farm equipment, huddle against the branches or roots of a fallen tree, or crouch behind a stone wall. You can even use a layout blind in open field situations.
The list of benefits of ground hunting is long. You’ll still need a rangefinder, but you won’t have to worry about compensating for steep downward angles. It also means a better chance of completely passing side fires to the Boiler Room. No more long follow-up work on one-lung shots.
You may even find hunting on the ground a bit more exciting and challenging than hunting in the trees. Watching a deer stroll past from a raised perch feels a little less intimate. At eye level, it’s a different story. The slightest movement, even breathing, can betray you. Odor control is even more important here, as is attention to wind direction.
If you hunt from a tree like most bowhunters do, change it up a bit next year. Get down, move and change the game.
Tip of the month
Always adapt to your environment. Any camouflage that breaks up the human form will work, but some patterns are better than others in certain conditions. Rather than an open, branching pattern designed for the tree hunter, you may prefer a grass or sage dominated pattern, or a general purpose pattern such as Realtree Excape (shown in photo) .