Crossbows: Extending the SeasonPosted on: June 12, 2018 By: FHMD
Well, now that spring turkey season is over here in Maryland, it’s time for us hunters to contemplate what we’ll do with all this free time on our hands. Most hunters, at least those I’m acquainted with, will tell you it’s only a few months before the opening of bow season! I’m referring to the elusive whitetail deer. For the majority, this dictates that it’s time to get your bow ready with a visit to your favorite shop for a tune-up, if needed, and to check out the new gear for 2018 – after all that’s what we do…right? Whethecr using a compound bow, a traditional recurve or a crossbow, bow hunting is the best way to extend one’s hunting season and it’s used in many species of game, both large and small. You can check the archery regulations for each hunting season/game in the Maryland Guide to Hunting and Trapping.
I have a Barnett Raptor crossbow — nothing fancy, but it is compact, light-weight, quite easy to maneuver over various terrains and has served me very well over the last four years. I’ve been fortunate to harvest quite a few whitetails, both from the ground and from tree stands.
Hunting with a crossbow, like all disciplines of hunting, requires preparation in executing the hunt. You must practice shooting, and not just from one position. If you’re hunting from a tree stand, then you should practice from there, or, at the very least, from an elevated platform. You’d be surprised how the bolt/arrow travels and impacts your target from various heights/positions. In addition, when changing your target tips to your hunting broad-heads, they will and do fly differently so it is very important to practice with both before heading afield.
Last October, I took my first deer of the season with my crossbow from a tree stand I’ve hunted from many times, but only with a firearm. Though I was confident in my shot, there was a barrier that presented itself that I was not ready for. I was fortunate enough to remedy the lack of preparation on my part. This is what transpired…
“October 3, 2017” — It was a little bit after 5:15 when I heard something coming towards me. There, just below the north ridge, I saw two bucks headed in my direction. I could see their antlers glistening in the low western sun. One stayed close to the ridge top, while the other continued directly over and towards me. At 30 yards, the 6-point buck stopped. My heart racing, I reached for my crossbow to position myself for where I thought he would continue. He stopped probably within 15 feet of me and I couldn’t get a shot because the stand I was in had a safety rail and my bow would have hit it. I had to wait for the buck to get closer… almost directly underneath me and, it was at that point, he leaned around to look behind. This gave me the opportunity to maneuver around the rail. I stood, readied myself and he started to walk again. I let out a bleat, he stopped and I took my shot. I was fortunate to make a good shot and take home a very fine buck.
Preparation involves all aspects of the hunt, and hunting with a crossbow can create obstacles for which we aren’t prepared — another lesson learned! I look forward to a successful year of crossbow hunting — hopefully with fewer surprises. I’d encourage anyone who is interested in extending their hunting season to make a visit to your local archery shop. Most are equipped with inside shooting ranges so you can try several bows while learning from the experts. It’s always a good idea to try various brands and styles as they do shoot differently; some are quieter than others, and there are many options for bells and whistles that can be added to accommodate your individual needs.
Our beautiful state offers an abundance of archery hunting opportunities. The Public Hunting Lands section of the Maryland Guide to Hunting and Trapping lists every locale in the state, along with contact information. If you’ve ever thought about crossbow hunting, there’s no better time than the present. Opening day of whitetail season is less than 100 days out. You will have ample time to fine-tune your technique with whatever bow you decide on. Happy crossbow scouting!
This post was written by Ann Marie Foster
Images courtesy of the author and Wikimedia Commons