The first day of deer season is only bested by the first Husker game day every year, so needless to say, it’s pretty damn important. If you, for whatever reason, aren’t a Husker fan, that’s okay; we will find mutual understanding through deer hunting instead.
Crossbow hunting has become increasingly popular throughout the past 10 years, and many more hunters are buying a crossbow after years of rifle or compound bow hunting. Crossbow hunting is also a great sport because it often transcends rifle and archery season, being legal in many states.
I don’t discriminate. I think all weapons are cool and have their place. However, if you are going to be hunting with a crossbow, there are several tips you must know to maximize your hunt and create the best odds possible of having a successful deer hunt. Crossbow hunting is challenging and rewarding, and the better you understand the little things, the better you will perform the bigger things.
Tips for a Successful Deer Hunt With Your Crossbow
1. Use Food Sources to Your Advantage
Deer love to eat! Deer are herbivores, meaning they love to eat plants and fruits like apples, blueberries, nuts, alfalfa, corn, acorns, and much more. Use that to your advantage when crossbow hunting. Plan out your hunt weeks before embarking on it by noting all the areas where natural food sources are, or are likely, during the hunting season.
Being close to natural food sources will increase your chances of getting a nice broadside shot. Check your state laws, but if your state allows it, go ahead and bait. I know that in many states, baiting deer is legal as long as you cease operations within a certain number of days before the beginning of hunting season. If it isn’t legal in your state, don’t do it.
2. Take Your Shot Within 50 Yards
Crossbows were not designed to be shot accurately past 80 yards. Most crossbows’ accuracy drops off significantly after around the 40 or 50-yard range, meaning patience is key with crossbow hunting – much more than rifle hunting. Half of the hunt is being able to sneak up on deer very close to take clean shots without issue.
There are a lot of crossbow hunters out there that will say you should take your shot, if possible, within 35 yards. This is good practice, and by all means, if you can take a shot closer, do it. However, the truth is, if your scope is calibrated right and you understand arrow drop, you can make an accurate shot at 50 yards with most crossbows on the market.
Depending on the amount of kinetic energy your crossbow produces, taking longer, more accurate shots may become possible. Kinetic energy is simply the momentum that an arrow carries coupled with the velocity of the arrow. So, if your arrow travels with more kinetic energy, it will travel straight longer and, thus, be more accurate out to a further distance. Generally, however, this ends around the 50-yard range, hence why you should take a shot whenever possible, within 50 yards.
3. Use Scent Field Spray & Soap
Because crossbow hunting requires being upfront and personal with deer, deer quickly pick up on the human scent. The wind blows odors all over the place, so being scent-free is very important before going out in the woods if you want to increase the odds of seeing deer and ultimately taking clean shots at them.
Deer have a very keen sense of smell and can pick up on scents and smells from a long distance – even smells humans can’t smell on themselves. Using field spray and clothing scent remover is a cheap way to remove all the odors that deer are prone to smell in the woods.
It’s important to note that everything from skin to hair to clothing and socks emits an odor that will scare away deer and other wildlife. To eliminate all of those things at once, rather than just buying a soap bar that is supposed to eliminate odors, I recommend looking at getting either Wildlife Research Gold Scent Killer or you can go for Dead Down Wind Grand Slam Kit. I have used both in the past, and they are as good as it gets for removing scents. They should last you several hunting seasons too.
Whether you are hunting from a treestand or blind, or simply walking on foot through a hunting ground, one of the most critical factors to increasing your chances of seeing deer is not hunting without an odor replant.
4. Use the Straightest Bolt
It might seem a bit strange since all arrows and bolts appear to be straight, but the straightness of your bolt does matter when it comes to accuracy – which of course, increases your chances of getting a clean vitals shot if you are shooting from a distance.
The straighter the bolt, the farther it will travel, with the least amount of trajectory change. Because of this, investing in solid, well-made carbon bolts that are machine measured for straightness is one of the least expensive ways to increase your shot accuracy.
There are a lot of pretty good bolts on the market right now, all specifically designed for crossbow use. Still, only a handful of super-awesome, amazingly straight arrows out there will give you the best shots your crossbow can make. If you want to maximize your hunt, never use an arrow that exceeds .004″ in straightness. I know they exist, but don’t do it. The lower the number, the straighter an arrow is. So, a .006″ arrow is not as straight as a .0025″ arrow.
Two of the straightest arrows specifically designed for crossbow use are the TenPoint Pro Elite Carbon Arrow, with a measured straightness of .003″, and the Carbon Express Carbon Bolt, with a measured straightness of .0025″. Both are amazing arrows and are very well-received in the crossbow community, but if you are looking for the slight edge, the BuffTuff is a tiny bit straighter (and it comes in camo, which is cool).
5. Use a Broadhead with a Large Cutting Diameter
A few things factor into whether an arrow that punctures a deer will actually kill it before it has time to run off. Location of shot and blood trail. The larger the blood trail, the more likely the deer will bleed out quickly. This is what you want for a few reasons. First, it prevents the deer from suffering for a long period. Second, it makes it easier to track the deer and kill it before it can run away too far.
When it comes to crossbow hunting for deer, having a large cutting diameter broadhead is key if you want to produce sizable impact holes in the deer. I recommended buying broadheads with at least a 1 1/16″ cutting diameter to ensure a solid hole is left. If you want to ensure you are leaving a nice hole, check out one of my favorite mechanical broadheads in the Grim Reaper Razor Tip Broadhead.
It has a massive 3″ cutting diameter and is specifically designed for deer, coming with super thick 440 SS blades and aircraft-grade aluminum ferrules.
6. Invest in a High-Quality Scope
You probably won’t believe yourself until you try how much better it feels to shoot a crossbow with a great scope, but trust me, if you have never used a Tact Zone scope – it is awesome. Most crossbows come equipped with factory scopes.
Some are bad, and some are great. Suppose you are buying a crossbow for under $400. In that case, you can improve your accuracy and distance by at least 25% by purchasing a relatively high-end but affordable scope for your crossbow and tossing the factory scope.
You don’t need to invest more than $200 for a very nice, quality scope that is illuminated and capable of zoning in on animals to at least 60 yards out. The Nikon 8461 Bolt XR Crossbow Scope and the Excalibur Tact-Zone Scope are very capable crossbow scopes that make the perfect upgrade for almost any crossbow if you are looking to make that upgrade for a modest amount of coin.
7. Try Not to Hunt in Windy or Rainy Conditions
When hunting with any bow, wind and rain are not your friends. You certainly can do it, and it makes a hunt more fun when there is some wind, but you should know that your accuracy and arrow velocity certainly will suffer as a result of either.
When you are hunting in windy conditions – and to define the word “windy,” let’s say wind exceeding 5 miles per hour – make sure to do a few things.
- First, use a mechanical broadhead instead of a fixed blade broadhead. This will give less resistance to the wind and less surface area for the wind to screw up the shot.
- Second, and just as important, try to take shots from the cover instead of out in the open. Wind doesn’t just affect an arrow mid-flight; it affects the body of the hunter and the actual crossbow before it is fired.
Suppose higher winds are shooting across the surface of a bow and its bowstring just before squeezing that trigger. In that case, you better believe your balance isn’t going to be as solid as it would be without that wind gust – and as a result, your arrow’s trajectory isn’t going to be as solid.
8. Pay Special Attention to Where the Entry and Exit Holes
A bow is not a rifle. With a rifle, a bullet can enter the shoulder area, completely smash the bones, and cause massive destruction in a deer. On the other hand, an arrow must pass through vital organs to give the best chance of actually killing a deer.
The cleanest shot in crossbow hunting is the broadside shot when the deer is slightly quartering away. This is the best shot to take because full exposure to the lungs and vitals is present, while the shoulder is less likely to be hit because it is quartering away. To ensure proper vitals puncture, the idea is to hit both lungs, not just one, and aim your shot so that it passes through the same area on both sides of the deer if possible.
This is impossible when hunting from a treestand, but when on foot, lining up your shot as even as possible to puncture both of those lungs is going to give you the best chance of killing that deer.
We have reached the end of this post.
Hopefully, you will learn some useful tips for your next deer hunt. Please leave a comment below if you have any other helpful tips.