Crossbow Buck by Steven Mitchell
It all started in January of 2006 in southern Ontario, Canada when I began scouting a new hunting area of 200 plus acres of public land. This area has the ideal habitat for deer to thrive in with lots of dense cover, hardwoods, cedars, hemlocks, pine reforestation areas, oak flats, swamps, wild apple orchards, creeks and ponds. It was easy to map out the deer travel patterns with a foot of snow on the ground and the hiking was made easier with new logging roads. This public land tract was bordered by agriculture of corn, soya bean, wheat, grain and hay. I made special note a of deer funnel on the inside corner of an apple orchard leading to a wheat field.
I continued to pattern deer right up to turkey season and also had my first trail camera setup. By the first weekend in June I had three tree stands in place. Throughout the summer I would move my trail cam around to different spots and got some nice pics of does and fawns but no bucks. By July I was cruising the back roads bordering the hunting area. The summer evenings where warm and it was the perfect time to glass the fields for bucks.On July 11 at 8:30pm, I observed two bucks in full velvet feeding in a wheat field with two does and and two fawns. This field was a mile west of my hunting area. The next evening at 9:00pm, I observed the same two bucks feeding in the same field. The one buck had a noticeable larger, wider rack with about 8 to 10 points.
On July 23 I observed these same two bucks yet again feeding in a soya bean field bordering the west side of my hunting area. Both bucks had shed their velvet and where sporting hard antler with 8 and 10 points at least. Now I knew for sure what I was hunting for and plans where falling into place as I had previously hung a tree stand about 500 yards east of where I had viewed these bucks.
The first two days of my 2006 deer hunting week where rather warm (mid 70’s) with no deer sightings at stand number one. This tree stand was located about 200 yards from a large pond, near a well travelled trail that the deer used year round to move from bedding to feeding areas. Stand number two was located in the deep woods cedars near a transition zone leading to the soya bean field where I had seen the two big bucks. Stand three was setup about 50 yards in from the inside corner of a wild apple orchard and 50 yards from a string of large oak trees. It had been a very good year for both of these mast crops which deer love over all other foods.
Going into stand two on Tuesday morning, I spooked a doe and her two fawns and later while on stand had two coyotes come through but no shot opportunity. Later that evening, just after I had climbed down, two fawns came down the trail and almost ran me over. Good times!
The next morning a cold front came through with thunderstorms and lightning so I didn’t hunt. The weather cleared overnight with a temperature low of 32F which would get the bucks up and moving. Thursday morning was sunny, clear skies, cool light winds from the N/E and temps of 35-40F when I setup at stand one for a four hour sit. No deer sightings.
After lunch I moved south to stand number three (the inside corner funnel). The stand was 18ft up and it had good conifer cover to breakup my outline. By 4:00pm, I was all settled in and ready to hunt with my crossbow. All was quiet until 6:15pm when I spotted two does coming in behind me to my right. With a doe tag in my pocket, I got ready ready to shoot with the crossbow. They were about 35 yards out with a lot of trees and branches in the way so I remained still and watched them circle around in front of me along a field edge. The first doe continued past me through cover, still not presenting a shot. The other doe stopped, looked straight at me and I’m thinking she is going to pick me off. Then suddenly she bolts and runs towards a large oak tree to my left. I’m thinking the game is over so I grab the grunt call and sound off a couple of short grunts.
The two does where running around in circles, 50 yards out in front of me. Then I hear a rubbing tree sound behind me to my left. I looked over and I saw what had gotten the does all excited. A large antlered buck was slowly approaching right on the trail I setup off of. He stopped to rub another tree and I just could not believe this buck was in the rut already. My back and left side where concealed with conifer branches and the wind was in my favor.
As the buck walked into my shooting lane, I called out a “mee” to stop him. The buck froze in his tracks as I carefully aimed and put the cross hairs on a brown spot behind his right shoulder and squeezed off a shot from 10 yards. The buck did the donkey kick and then took off out of sight. I was now experiencing one heck of an adrenaline rush, as my chest was just a thumping. A few seconds later I heard a crash in the direction he had ran so I figured he was down. A total of four does had come by me and scattered off in different directions. I waited a 1/2 hour before climbing down as I thought things over and settled down.
I had seen deer do that kick when shot on hunting videos, indicating a good hit in the vitals. I found my arrow right away, stuck about an inch in the ground. It was fully intact, a complete pass through covered with bright red blood. It was a really good blood trail to start with. You had the main trail as well as blood on saplings waste high on both sides. I marked the trail and followed it for 50 yards. It was getting too dark to continue so I backed out and headed home.
After a sleepless night thinking about this brute and worrying about the coyotes getting him, I resumed the search at first light. I found him a mere 30 yards from where I had stopped looking. It was an added relief to see that the coyotes had not got to him yet as I reflected on my good fortune. His rack was chocolate brown and very symmetrical. After tagging and dressing him out, I began the three hour drag out of this great trophy back to the trailer. When I got the buck back home we estimated a field dressed weight of approximately 250 pounds. I ended up with 161 pounds of meat from the butcher.
I owed my success to many hours spent in the bush, scouting and patterning deer. Reading up on all I could about deer hunting strategies and learning from the videos. The crossbow got me into hunting this archery only area, so it was extra special to harvest this great buck with the Excalibur.