I packed up my truck and drove to my buddy’s farm for what was to be my last archery hunt of the season. We gathered up all of our gear and made the uphill climb to a food plot that was located on the backside of a hay field, close to a thick bedding area that several groups of does call home. The ground blind and camera equipment were set up to cover the two trails that the deer were utilizing to enter this winter food source. After everything was ready to go, and some brassica stubble ranged, we settled in for the cold, long wait.
We talked about his young son’s interest in hunting and the successes that they have already shared together, thanks to crossbows and youth hunting programs. With the field still empty and the only sound being that of the stiff January breeze hitting the sides of the blind, our con- versation turned to the variety of crossbows that we have available to us today. With each passing year, more choices in bow designs and materials hit the shelves. Some cement themselves firmly into the future, while others fade away into obscurity for many reasons.
Propped up into the corner of the blind was a bow that I have become extremely comfortable and confident with after spending an entire hunting season shooting and familiarizing myself with the new technology. I knew that if a shot presented itself, and I did my part, the outcome was going to be one filled with celebration and not dejection. Our conversation slowed as the afternoon wore on and the magic time neared. As I often find myself doing, I was reflecting on the experiences of the past hunting season when I felt a tap on my thigh.
“Deer,” my buddy whispered, as a lone doe fed out along the edge of the wood line. She stood like a statue at 25 yards and stared at the ground blind for several minutes be- fore turning and heading back along the same trail she entered from. Somewhat deject- ed, I knew that the evening was young. With the amount of sign that was present in the plot, I remained optimistic that more were coming. Not fifteen minutes later, several deer appeared from the bed- ding area and they wasted no time getting to the plot. Four fawns fed, without a care in the world, within 10 yards of the front of the blind. Wanting to shoot one more large doe for my freezer, I held my shot and scanned the tree line for movement. Two more does followed the others into the plot as I readied for the moment of truth. When the largest doe got done establishing her dominance over the others and settled down to feed, I settled the crosshairs on her chest at 20 yards and the Lumenok streaked to the point on her shoulder where I expected it to go. After a short trailing job, I tagged what would be my third and last deer of the season.
In my opinion, confidence is everything in the hunting world. That confidence allows one to stay a bit longer in the stand, shoot a tighter group, or maybe catch one more deer slipping through the timber that might have gone unnoticed. When your equipment becomes an extension of you, and you are completely confident in that equipment, the hunt is taken to the next level.
The one factor that I want to worry about the least when I am hunting is where that ar- row is going when it leaves the string. By late April, our spring turkey season starts to get ramped up and the open- er found me in my familiar haunts, but the gobblers were not cooperating as I struggled to adjust to the very early spring that we saw last year. Gobbling was almost nonexistent and I found myself searching out some new areas, trying to pattern some birds in unfamiliar territory. Luckily, I stum- bled upon two longbeards that were traveling together in a relatively consistent pattern. After a week of setting up on these birds and having them look but never commit, my luck finally changed.
The larger of the two broke from his regular routine and slowly worked in my direction. At twenty-two yards, it be- came apparent that he would not come any closer when he held his ground, staring at my jake decoy. I like broad- side shots on turkeys to break down their wings, but I knew that a well-placed shot at the base of the beard would also do the trick. The target is small but I knew that the crossbow was up to the task and I let the arrow fly. The gobbler whirled in a puff of feathers and I found the two-year-old 15 yards from where he dis- appeared over a rise. Perfect placement and a perfect result.
With the first kill of the season in the books, I set my sights on the upcoming fall archery season. Stands were set and my gear was prepped. The opening week of the archery season found me hunting out of state. Fifteen different bucks passed by my stands that week but none carried the headgear that I was looking for. On the drive home, I had the time to hatch a plan and decide on which stands I wanted to sit locally. Oaks were dropping back home and I knew the deer were hitting them hard.
The air was crisp that evening when I slowly made my way to one of my favorite early-sea- son stands in one of our local urban deer zones. This stand is like many I have in small woodlots overlooking a cluster of oaks. I had barely gotten all of my gear settled when the shapes of deer moving in my direction caught my attention. Two mature does stepped into the clear and began hitting the fallen acorns with a vengeance. After filming them for a bit, the closest one took an arrow, ran a short distance then paused to look back at the disruption to her evening routine. She collapsed on the spot and I was able to tag my first deer of the season.
Antlers were tough for me to locate back home. I saw plenty out of state but struggled to find any deer that carried them around home until late
October. Unfortunately, the week of Halloween saw the remnants of a hurricane spinning over the top of the north- east for an entire week. Hunting was tough until the storm eventually moved off, bringing high pressure that promised to bring increasing deer movement. Buck sightings ramped up immediately.
When I was greeted by a cold, calm morning when I awoke the second week of November, I knew the stand where I wanted to sit. High on a ridge, in a saddle that connects two long valleys, this stand always produces sightings when the bucks are cruising. Shortly after climbing in, I was not dis- appointed. Movement was steady all morning. The buck I was to eventually shoot caught me off guard when he made a large circle from where I saw him at first light, appearing directly be- hind me with his nose to the ground.
The shot was going to come at a distance I am very comfortable with in hunting situations. Having complete confidence in my crossbow’s ability to put the arrow where I wanted, I decided that if he stopped and did not know I was there, the arrow was going to fly. At the shot, I was able to trace the flight of the arrow as the Lumenok disappeared right into the sweet spot. After a brief dash, my second deer of the season was on the ground. The heart-shot buck fell within sight of the stand – a stand where I have shot three nice bucks, three years in a row. After close to forty years of bowhunting, I am keenly aware of how increasing the yardage magnifies any slight errors or imperfections with our equipment or the hunter. I just don’t enjoy or desire to head to the woods with any- thing less than complete confidence in my equipment. Once that factor is taken off the list, my skill as a woodsman and an archer is the sole determiner of my success. If I fail, I want it to lie at my feet. Today’s crossbows do everything that I demand of them while keep- ing my shots at normal bow- hunting distances. Most of us have a favorite rifle, handgun, or bow. It is most likely our favorite for how it handles, shoots, or carries. It feels like an extension of oneself when it is brought to bear against a target or a targeted species. It is a hunter’s or a shooter’s go-to choice when the hunt begins. In my opinion, confi- dence is everything when the hunt begins. Having that edge is important. I have found it and wish to never lose it. I hope that all of our readers have found their edge as well with their crossbow of choice. There is no reason these days to have to settle for less. Confidence is everything.