An Outdoorsman’s Journal
Hello friends, This week’s column will come out just before Wisconsin’s deer gun season opens and my guess is that it will start a few conversations at deer camps throughout the state.
Until this fall, I have never given a moment’s thought to using a crossbow to hunt white-tailed deer. This past October, I had something happen on the final day of an eight-day bow hunt that has me doing some thinking.
I was in a tree on a remote canoe-hunting and camping trip. It was 22 degrees, and a good buck offered me a 12-yard broadside shot. I had been in the tree for about an hour and a half and thought I was totally fine. I was just about halfway back on my draw at a buck that had no idea of what was happening when something in my shoulder locked up and for maybe five seconds I could not pull my bow back any further. The buck did not figure out what was happening but realized something was wrong and casually left the area.
I am 58 years old and I can take pain, cold and fatigue. Not much scares me and I did not miss a morning or afternoon in a tree on that adventure. That night I was cooking my dinner in my tent and I was reading Midwest Game and Fish, which is an excellent outdoor magazine. I just happened to read that during the 2018 hunting season, crossbow hunters in Wisconsin harvested 46,750 white-tailed deer while vertical bow hunters took 40,055.
The job I have as an outdoor writer in the newspaper industry has me all over Wisconsin on a weekly basis, generally living out of a tent and chasing just about anything that flies, swims or runs.
I was never comfortable shooting over 28 yards at a deer with my bow while on a platform 15 feet up in a tree. Now for the first time in my life I am starting to think that at least in the cold season I may take up hunting deer with a crossbow.
I have noticed both young and older hunters are taking on an energy for hunting, or, as in the case of many of the guys and gals over 50, they are hunting deeper into life.
Again, I want to stress I had given owning and hunting with a crossbow zero thought until that experience with the buck. But now I think about all of the young kids who cannot pull back a vertical bow. I think of all the folks with some form of health issue who cannot pull back a vertical bow. I think about hunting in November and December and how many more opportunities a hunter would have to hit the woods.
As long as you can only harvest one buck whether it is with a vertical bow or crossbow, I think in a time of declining outdoorsmen and women in the woods, making it legal to hunt deer with a crossbow is good for just about everyone.
Playing the devil’s advocate, I have been having this discussion with plenty of hunters who have made the switch and some of them tell me the thrill is gone.
For myself, I have eaten venison at least twice a week for the last 58 years and I love it. My game has always been making it hard on myself whether it is living out of a canoe, sleeping on the ice or working with an empty wallet.
If I make the switch, I will keep playing hardball with myself and have a blast with the crossbow.
Enjoy your deer camp and try to be open minded.