Outdoor Journal

Crossbow bags turkey, not deer

Thursday, November 1, 2012
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Last year, on opening day of the regular firearms big-game season in the Northern Zone, I sat in a tree stand in western Washington County with my TenPoint.

I knew the odds were against me because there’s no way a crossbow will compete with any firearm, but that’s the way the crossbow regul­ation was passed. The exact wording is: “Crossbows may only be used during the early bear season, regular firearms seasons and late muzzleloader seasons.”

In spite of what the anti-crossbow group wants you to believe about the similarities of the crossbow with a firearm, it will not, and should not, be shot at a deer 60-70 yards away. That’s why I didn’t shoot that beautiful six-point North Country deer standing broadside at 67 yards from me last year. I sat there and watched him for about 20 minutes feeding, then he disappeared over a ridge. I wonder what might have happened if I was able to hunt that buck a month prior with my crossbow during the bowhunting season, which is really the season where the crossbow belongs.

This year, I decided to again hunt with a crossbow, not in New York, but in Pennsylvania, with my good friend Jerry Wilson. Jerry, who lives in Bangor, is the owner of Wilson Game Calls, which again played an important part in our hunt. You might remember some of my past deer and turkey hunting columns in which I credited my successes to Wilson calls.

I arrived at midday Sunday, and we planned to begin our hunt the next morning. Pennsylvania doesn’t allow hunting on Sundays, but it does allow the use of crossbows during the bowhunting season. After unpacking, we headed to Wal-Mart so I could get my hunting license, which conveniently included both spring and fall turkey tags. While we were there, Jerry asked me what I used as an attractant, and my recommendation was Hunter Specialties Primetime Dominant Buck Urine. The next morning, he saw how well it really works.

Well before sunup the next day, we were both settled into our tree stands on a small, heavily wooded piece of property that Jerry leases, and there were plenty of acorns on the ground. As the sun began to rise, I scanned the ground and out about 30 yards, I saw the scrape Jerry told me about.

It was about 7:40 a.m. when I felt the vibration of the iPhone in my pocket, and as I pulled it out, it slipped from my hand and fell on the ground, but not before it hit two large branches, then bounced off the only rock within 50 yards of the stand, right next to the ladder. As quietly as I could, I climbed down and back up into the stand. This was the third or fourth time I’d dropped it, but this was the worst one. Fortunately, it was OK, and it had a very good short message and photo from Jerry: “Got an eight-pointer sit tight.”

Jerry was in a similar stand on the other side of the leased area, and it was about 20 or 30 minutes later when he picked me up, and we headed back to where his deer lay. It was definitely a nice buck and had to weigh about 120 pounds dressed. And the tale of the hunt Jerry told me was very impressive.

On his way into the stand, Jerry decided to set out a scent line with the Primetime, using scent pads on his boots. He said in the dark, his trip to the stand was not a straight line, but he still was able to get into his stand before daylight and set up his camera on a new stand he had designed. He saw the deer around 7 a.m. moving about a hundred yards out, and it had its nose to the ground and continued on the same route Jerry had taken to the stand.

Unfortunately, Jerry did not get a chance to shoulder his crossbow because the deer looked up at him several times, but it kept coming. At one point, the buck was less than five yards from the stand where Jerry also had hung a scented container on a branch. Finally, the buck turned, allowing him to ready his crossbow, but there were too many trees between him and the deer for a clear shot. I know the feeling you get when you think you’re not going to get the shot. But fortunately, the buck needed one more sniff of the Primetime — that was his mistake. As it walked back toward the stand, Jerry “woofed,” the deer stopped, and the bolt (arrow) delivered a perfect pass-through of the vitals.

That afternoon, when we got back to the house and played the video of his hunt, it was like something on TV. Every moment was captured on film from the time he spotted the buck until his arrow passed through the deer. Jerry plans to put the video on his new website at wilsongamecalls.net.

That afternoon about 3, Jerry took me back to where he had shot his deer that morning, because he knew from trail cam photos, there were more deer in that area. Unfortunately, we ran into one of them on our way into the stand. We were only about 70 yards away when Jerry stopped and whispered, “Deer. A buck.” When it turned to look at us, we could see three points on one side, which made it legal to shoot. In Pennsylvania, a buck must have three points on one antler at least one inch long to be legal. It was legal, but too far for a good shot.

It was a staring match for about 10 minutes. Finally, he walked off, and when he was out of sight, I climbed into the stand, hoping that he or one of the other bucks on the property would come in, but they never did.

Several days, later, I returned with the TenPoint to my original stand and was buckled in about 45 minutes before legal shooting time. I’m not sure, but shortly after I got there, I could see the outline of two deer, but it was too dark to see if they had antlers. Unfortunately, by three hours later, nothing appeared. It was about time to meet Jerry for breakfast and make plans for our afternoon turkey hunt.

I had just unloaded the TenPoint and started to lower it on a rope when I saw movement to my left and lots of it — turkeys! It was a big flock, and they were feeding my way. Could this be my first crossbow turkey?

The flock split, with some going behind me and some in front. I knew if I moved to shoot behind me, they would spook, so I had to wait for those on my left. They were about 100 yards out, but two of them turned toward me and at what turned out to be 38 steps, I squeezed the trigger and heard the bolt hit. I never noticed the three birds right under my stand until after I’d shot. I think I was actually happier taking this turkey than if I had shot a deer. It was quite a thrill taking my first crossbow turkey. I only wished it could have happened in New York.

MUST HAVE

Many of today’s outdoorsmen are using their cell phones for communicating on the water and in the woods and these expensive phones need to be protected. When I dropped mine on this hunt, it wasn’t the first time I’ve done it. Earlier this season, while testing out my ATV in a macadam parking lot, it slipped out of my pocket, bouncing several times on the hard surface. That same day, it fell 15 feet while I was putting up a ladder stand, and then again in Pennsylvania. For­tunately, my son told me about the LifeProof, a protective case, when I purchased the phone.

Built to protect against everyday hazards that include drops, water and dust, it’s designed to military specifications. It protects against a high degree of shock, is impact protection-tested to military specif­ications of a 6.6-foot drop on all surfaces and is fully sealed to guard against small dust particles. The lenses are coated optical glass that give crystal-clear photo and video quality. No need to worry about the rain or snow because the LifeProof can be taken underwater up to two meters (6.6), and every case is water-tested before being released.

It’s ultra-slim and only adds a sixteenth-inch when measured from the center of the phone. It weighs just one ounce, has a combination of materials that won’t stick to your pocket and is compatible with all iPhone 4 and 4s models. The company also has protective cases for iPods and iPads.

Waterfowl hunters, fishermen and/or boaters might want to add the LifeProof LifeJacket. It lets you take your iPhone with you on the lake/river or even in pools because it offers enough buoyancy to keep the phone afloat, should it be dropped. The lifeJacket also enhances the shock protection. The LifeProof iPhone case sells for $79.99, and the LifeJacket is $39.99 (www.lifeproof.com).

 

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