This weapon of choice is a great option for many deer hunters
Several does passed through the hardwood bottom as the hunter waited patiently for his opportunity. Does were not on the agenda for Allen Shortridge on this day, so he scanned the hollow in front of him for any sign of a buck trailing the does.
“Crack, tick, tick, tick,” sounded the footfalls of an unseen deer walking slowly down the same trail the does had passed through.
Suddenly the deer gave itself away by bellowing a guttural grunt followed up by several short grunts as a warning to any other buck and a come-hither message to the does he was trailing.
Shortridge stared intently into the hollow from where the buck was walking. He finally spotted the tips of antlers as the buck burst out of the thicket and passed within range. The 78-year-old hunter put the crosshairs of the crossbow on the bucks’ vitals and squeezed off a shot.
The crossbow bolt whacked the buck right behind the shoulder. It jumped high, spun around and disappeared into the hollow from whence he had come. Shortridge knew he’d made a good shot, but couldn’t be sure until he found the blood trail, which was indicative of a good shot and easy to follow.
The veteran hunter of many deer seasons found the buck dead a short distance away. It was the culmination of a dream to harvest a buck with his crossbow in his later years. The avid hunter had accomplished that at an age when many hunters have already put down their bows.
“I shot the 9-point buck with my Ravin Crossbow,” said Allen Shortridge. “I’m a lifelong bowhunter but the Ravin gave me an opportunity to hunt deer during bow season in my older years and still have the knowledge that I could make swift, clean, killing shots. I still want a 25 to 35 yard shot, but if I misjudge my distance the speed and power of this bow gives me a little extra room for error.”
Blending in with the blind
Shortridge has hunted with a recurve and killed deer and shot competitively. He’s routinely shot disks out of the air and performed other tricks with his recurve at many exhibitions. During his younger years, he also hunted from tree stands with great success. Due to his age these days, he’s no longer climbing trees but prefers to take the safe and effective way with the help of ground blinds.
“The new style crossbows allow me and other older hunters the opportunity to keep hunting from blinds or shoot houses,” Shortridge said. “The new style bow is really blazing fast and easy to use in portable blinds or shoot houses. It’s unbelievable what it will do, it’s one of the most devastating weapons I’ve ever had besides a rifle.”
Shortridge likes to put his blind up in a place well before the season starts and he likes to blend it in with natural cover and live trees so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Delta bucks are pretty wild and they’re not like those bucks from out west or in the Midwest. If you can get within bow range of a buck in this region, then you’ve really done something.
Though Shortridge is not a trophy hunter per se, he still likes to shoot the biggest deer around his house and that means harvesting what’s available. He still processes the whole deer and utilizes the venison for sausage, burger, steaks and he prepares it just about any way you would use regular meat.
Early season pattern
During the early season Shortridge likes to find trails between bedding and feeding areas. In fact, his best spot is a hollow that has a stream running through the bottom, right in the middle of the hardwood strip, making it a funnel for deer, both does and bucks. As the does come through from their bedding area, they travel through the funnel and right by Shortridge’s blind on their way to their feeding grounds. Occasionally they browse on acorns near his stand briefly on their way to the main feeding area.
Once the does and bucks get on this early season pattern, they are very easy to predict and they will travel the same routes with little variation unless they are spooked during the trip or until the food source dries up. By that time, you’ll need to change hunting locations and see what pattern, if any, that they may be on.
However, the best pattern for big bucks is during that late summer, early fall feed pattern that many of the bucks utilize. Sometimes Shortridge has bachelor groups of bucks come through during the early fall. If that is the case, they are usually thinking about the food and not females, so they do the same things every day. They rarely change their habits.
“I like to get my meat during the early season before the rut starts,” said Shortridge. “That’s a good time to get some does out of the way and into my freezer. After the rut begins, I don’t want to shoot any does, as I liked to leave them for bait. Find the does and you’ll find the bucks during the late season run. But this time of year it’s meat first and horns later.”
While Shortridge does have some areas that are good for harvesting does for meat, he has other places where he only shoots horns. If you are after legal bucks, then it’s okay to harvest does and young bucks, or any buck that may come by your stand during the early season.
Weekly camera scouting
One caveat to the early season doe harvest is the exception to the rule. If the rack bucks start moving toward the feed and Shortridge gets them on camera walking by his blind, then he’s going to let the does go and wait on the Sad Daddy to come strolling by.
The key to harvesting the best bucks on your hunting lease during the early season is to keep human intrusion down to a bare minimum. Don’t expect to go into the woods every few days to check your game camera or you’ll put those older mature bucks on notice that you’ve been there. Just like you know when someone has been in your bedroom and moved things around, the mature bucks are all the wiser and many will vacate the premises when they even get a whiff of human scent. They are that wary and that’s how they live to be old.
By utilizing those cameras and monitoring the buck activity, hunters can pick their prime times to go hunting and time is a valuable commodity since most of us don’t have much time off outside work.
Parker Temple, of Meridian, has solved the human intrusion and scent problem by utilizing game cameras that send photos to an app on his phone. By using the cell phone cams and staying out of the woods he leaves the area free of human scent and just as importantly, he can tell when the bucks start coming by his stand during the daylight hours.
During one early bow season he was getting pictures of some good bucks at night. Then one day his phone dinged, and he saw the bucks moving and feeding during the daylight hours, so he changed his mind on where he was going to go and moved that stand site to the top of the list.
“When I saw the bucks moving during the day, I made plans to be off the next day and went to the woods,” said Temple. “I didn’t have to wait long before that trophy buck came in to feed with plenty of daylight available and he gave me a good shot.”
Temple sealed the deal and harvested a really good deer, but he wouldn’t have done it without his trail camera taking the picture and sending it to his phone. While Temple enjoyed harvesting several bucks with the crossbow, he still likes to harvest them with a compound bow and that’s what he’s using today. It’s just personal preference to him now and he just likes a little more challenge.
Imagine the possibilities
Instead of hanging up his recurve bow and quitting bow season a few years ago, Shortridge bought the crossbow. It allowed him to expand his time in the woods and he’s made a trip to Canada and harvested two bears with his crossbow as well as turkeys, raccoons and deer.
“If you can’t move around a lot any more, then hunting with a crossbow is a deadly alternative that might just give you the edge you need to keep on harvesting bucks,” Shortridge said. “All you need to go with the Ravin is a few bolts and Rage broadheads and you’ll be in business!”
Spend a little time with your crossbow and you’ll be ready when the moment of truth comes, and you just might harvest the buck of your lifetime during the early bow season. Carpe Diem!