The Crossbow Deer

By: Kenny Presnell

Hunting trips being what they are, this one as many before, just didn’t seem to be coming together. It was already ten o’clock in the evening before we got to camp. By the time everything was unloaded and put away, it was even later.

But since the plan was to hunt the next morning from a ladder stand that had been in place for a few months, I needed to check my camera.

So I grabbed my green headlamp and sprayed down with scent killer and melded into the forest, guided only by the green glow of the headlamp. When I arrived at the camera, all was quiet. Sometimes in the past, I would spook the animals of the forest as I approached. But not this time. I quickly changed out the camera card, backed out of the area, and made my way back to the camp to read my card.

The excitement built as it always did for my wife Brenda and me. Each week we eagerly anticipate the pictures we get from our game camera, and that night was no exception.

I loaded the pictures onto the computer, settled in and formulated my game plan. Because you see, history, be it long term or recent, plays a role in my strategy. Over time I have noticed that the moon has a definite impact on when the deer feed and pass by my camera. That’s why I always perform a “week in review.” With the new moon starting on the 5th of November, I already knew my chances of a daytime sighting were increased. I applied this knowledge to the week’s pictures, and I was able to determine that a solid contingent would pass back and forth in front of my camera during the night and be gone by about 4:30 a.m. Nothing steady after that, only random sightings different days of the week throughout the morning and afternoon.

I decided that a morning hunt would not be my strong suit. But there’s always a chance. Then in the afternoon it picks up starting at about 4:30 until dark every day. So I knew the morning would be iffy, but I had to be there in the afternoons. That was my prime time.

The morning of November 6th, 2010, with the help of my dutiful wife Brenda, I got up, drink coffee and warmed up apple tarts to tide me over until later. So with a kiss and a hug, I then departed to my perch for a shift in the trees.

That morning seemed to follow the normal chain of events. Get in the stand, get situated, get quiet, and sit there and count cat birds and cardinals, squirrels and dove. You can’t relax because all of these animals make so much noise that you may not hear a deer as it approaches. But on the other hand, since most of these animals are the prey for foxes, owls, hawks, coyotes, and bobcats, they just can’t seem to sit still so at any moment when they run off, it could signal the approach of a deer – or not. I’ve seen them sound the alarm by barking and running up a nearby tree for no apparent reason. Which in turn scatters the dove and other birds who are not as quick to return as the squirrels which only moments before scattered and are now back peacefully feeding.

On other occasions, I’ve seen deer walk up and join the squirrels as they feed on acorns. But on this particular morning every time the animals scattered, no deer would emerge, and the other animals would quickly return back to feeding.

So I sat and waited and hoped. The daytime pattern, though sporadic as indicated by my camera photos, showed that on any given day at any given time, a deer could emerge – just nothing consistent. By 11:30 a.m., I headed back to camp for a much appreciated brunch of bacon, hash browns, and eggs lovingly prepared by my wife Brenda.

By the conclusion of brunch, the rest of the day’s plans were laid. Brenda and I went for a ride through the forest not only to see if any other hunters had had any luck, but to check the roads that the forest service maintains as well as to scout for more deer. As luck would have it as we rounded a curve in the road, Brenda calls out, “There’s a deer – and it’s a buck!” But because of the curve in the road, I could not see the deer. So I eased the truck on around the curve until I could see the deer.

This is where it gets hairy. The rules state, “Taking or herding wildlife from any motorized vehicle, aircraft or boat, which is under power is prohibited until power, and movement from that power, has ceased.”

So to stay legal, I placed the truck in park and shut off the engine. At this point, the deer was still in the road. I opened the door quietly and stepped out to range the deer. Hunting with a crossbow is not like hunting with a rifle. Because of the arc of the bolt, the range is very important for accurate shot placement. The buck turned out to be a cow-horn spike about 8 inches long on each side with a nice forward curve, at 60 yards. Sixty yards is the max range that I am comfortable with as I can shoot consistent two-inch groups. Now I had to put down the range finder, took out my crossbow, loaded a bolt, aimed, and removed the safety. At which point, the deer ran out of the road. As Brenda plotted his location in our book to record the sighting, I unloaded and put my crossbow away.

For the rest of our scouting that afternoon, we marked the locations of a few more deer and some turkeys before we returned to camp; and I tended to some chores.

After my tasks were completed, I prepared for the evening hunt. All set and ready to go, I kissed the wife good-bye and headed for my tree. I settled in and checked the wind. It seemed like it wasn’t gonna matter anyway. Because on this particular afternoon, the wind was blowing and swirling in different directions from moment to moment. Not being one to give up, I stayed on stand and watched the squirrels and birds as the sun set below the treetops. By 6:15 p.m., which is the end of legal shooting hours on this day, I decided it was too late to shoot and started to get down out of my stand. At that moment, I could hear the deer approaching through the palmettos. Decisions, decisions. Should I stay and wait for the deer to come into view and risk spooking them. Or leave now and hope not to disturb them while they’re still in the bushes. I decided to get down, ease out of the area, and return to camp before the deer came into view. (Note: This proved to be a good decision. The next day after viewing the camera card, the deer were in the pictures at 7:30 p.m. and returned on and off undisturbed throughout the night.)

Being as the next day was Sunday, I delayed my hunt. I don’t like to push it and hunt Sunday mornings before church because minutes count when it’s a 55 mile drive to Old Mt. Pleasant. So on Sunday morning, Brenda and I got up and had breakfast before heading out to Sunday school and church. After worshiping the Lord and returning to camp, I prepared for my evening hunt. On this particular occasion, I wore additional clothing due to the cold front that was passing through. I sprayed each layer of clothing with scent killer as I put them on and grabbed an extra pair of gloves warmer than the ones I had been wearing. Thus prepared, I headed for my tree.

As I settled in to position, I put on my face mask and chose the warmer gloves. After a few minutes I realized that it was not cold enough for the warm gloves, so I took them off and looked at my watch as I put on my other hunting gloves it was 4:15 p.m.

As usual, the squirrels and dove were feeding. But on this particular occasion, there was a new animal to watch. It was a young of the year, marsh rabbit that I had not previously seen while sitting on stand.

Then at the sound of dry palmettos being brushed aside, the rabbit, squirrels, and birds scattered. So I picked up my crossbow and prepared to wait and see what made the noise. Within moments, I saw a deer standing behind a tree. As it slowly walked out, I could tell it was a doe. Being selective, I waited for her to turn so I could tell if she was dry or not. As she came out and turned, I was able to tell through my binoculars that she was dry.

I waited for the angle that would damage the least meat while still providing a good shot. As she stood there quartering to me, I decided to place my shot between the shoulder and brisket down through the heart-lung and out through the ribs. At the release as the arrow sped through the air and hit its mark, it did in deed pass through the heart and lungs as was evidenced by the deer dropping in her tracks and expiring quickly. The Schwacker did its job well. As it exited the far side not only did it break three ribs, but the hole was so large that a chunk of lung was hanging out her side.

Since it went so quickly and there was no need to do any tracking, I packed up and got down out of my stand and returned to camp. Upon returning to camp I announced my success and prepared for the cleaning chore ahead. After all the preparations were complete, I retrieved the deer and hung her for cleaning

As you can see in the accompanying photo, my Horton Vision 175 in conjunction with a Horton Bone Collector Carbon Bolt tipped with a 125 grain Schwacker broadhead, did its job well as evidenced by the lung still exposed in the photo.

Well, y’all pretty much know what happens from here. The meat is removed and cooled in preparation for a final trimming of all white skin and anything else that you don’t wanna eat.

By the time you read this story, Brenda and I will have already eaten our first meal of the season of fresh back strap wrapped in bacon. Minus the remaining back strap and tender loins, the remaining meat was sent for processing into hamburger and sausage.

But the success of this clean kill does not end the hunting season for us as one deer does not fill the freezer with enough meat for a year.

Until next time, good hunting . . . . Kenny

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