Hunting: Crossbow adds thrill to opening day

To say I was a bit excited last Friday, the day before the opening of the deer season in our Norther

To say I was a bit excited last Friday, the day before the opening of the deer season in our Northern Zone, would be quite an understatement.

Normally, I’m anxious on this day — and all opening days, for that matter — but this would be the first time that any hunter could legally hunt whitetails with a crossbow, if they chose. Obviously, most wouldn’t, due to the superiority of a gun, ballistically, to a crossbow, but for me, it was something I really wanted to do.

Well before daylight, my TenPoint crossbow and I were sitting comfortably, 16 feet above the ground in a tree stand overlooking the edge of a Washington County swamp. This was the same stand I sat in opening day of the regular bow season, and from the trail cam photos the landowner showed me, I knew it definitely had the potential of producing some good shooting opportunities.

As I sat there watching the sun come up, I heard a shot echo in the distance and thought, this was the first time since I began my hunting career over four decades ago that I was carrying something other than a .30-06 on opening day of the gun season in New York state. I was well aware that the odds of me getting a buck in woods filled with hunters carrying firearms were slim. But if I wanted to crossbow hunt — which I did — I had to abide by the current regulations that stated crossbows could only be used during the firearms seasons.

So my 320 feet-per-second bolt (arrow) was competing against those more than 150-grain bullets that leave the muzzle at well over 2,000 feet per second. I guess I would just have to be a lot sneak­ier, and very lucky. Did I mention I made sure I was wearing my hunter orange coat and hat?

My plans were to sit for three hours, then sneak-and-peek around the other areas recommended by the landowner. It was a good plan, but it never happened.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the red squirrel population there was very high, and I thought about taking a shot at one of them before I left, but then realized I couldn’t. Even though they’re not protected and can be shot at any time, the regulations say crossbows can only be used for big game — deer and bear.

I made some soft doe and fawn bleats and an occasional low-pitched grunt, starting about 8 a.m., but the only response I got was a foolish hunter in dark clothing carrying a rifle. I can only assume he was coming to my calls because he stopped abruptly when I whistled loudly at him. He then turned and disappeared back the way he came.

My next visitors were a healthy looking pair of grouse — in season — and they walked within 15 yards of my stand. They never do that when I have my shotgun. I did however put the green dot of the TenPoint scope on them.

At 9, my daydreaming about being one of the first in New York to harvest a whitetail buck with a crossbow was interrupted by a rustling of leaves off to my left in the swamp. Perhaps this was one of the bucks I’d seen in the trail cam photo, heading up to the apple trees nearby to feed. I was ready, crossbow in hand with the green dots illuminated, but the rustling stopped. Assuming the deer had laid down, I tried a few soft calls, but nothing moved. All I could do is sit back and wait.

I don’t know if he came out of the swamp or down the hill across from my tree stand, but there was a deer looking in my direction and I could see horns. And when I looked through the binoculars, there were five very distinctive points on his head. I slowly shouldered the TenPoint and rested the forearm on the shooting rail. I could feel the adrenaline flowing as I looked through the scope and could see his antlers, face and chest and thought, “Don’t stop now, keep coming.”

After a minute or two, he turned broadside in a perfect “shoot me if you can” position, but unfortunately, he was about 100 yards away. And contrary to what you may have heard, a crossbow is not a 100-yard firearm; in fact, my crossbow sights are set in increments of 10-50 yards.

For the next 10-15 minutes, I watched him through the scope, hoping he would come my way. I even tried a few soft calls which did get his attention, but he didn’t come in. Finally, he turned to his left and slowly headed up the hill and disappeared into the woods. Fortunately, I did not hear a gun shot in that direction, so I assumed he was still alive and might return, but he never did.

For the next several hours, I sat in the stand thinking about that buck and what would’ve happened if I was carrying my rifle, but in all honesty, I wasn’t disappointed. I got to see an Adirondack buck in the woods, and that, in itself, is an accomplishment. My goal this deer season is to shoot a whitetail in New York with the TenPoint, and I still have plenty of time to do it. On Nov. 19, the opening of deer hunting in the Southern Zone, I’ll be in an Allegany tree stand with the TenPoint, hoping a whitetail will make a mistake.


If you’ve already shot your deer or bear this season and want to share it with other hunters in the Buck Tales column, email me all the details of your hunt. Be sure to include the city you live in, where you hunted, what you shot, what you shot it with, how you were hunting (tree stand, blind, deer drive, stillhunting, etc.) and anything else you think would be interesting. Send it to me at [email protected]

Categories: Sports

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