LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015
As a Minnesota resident our sister-state of Wisconsin is one of my favorite states to chase whitetail deer in. First of all, it is close and secondly it is so very much like home. And finally, in 2014 Wisconsin became the 25th state to allow crossbow hunting for all who chose to use one during the entire archery season.
I happen to know a lot about the struggle to get crossbows legalized in Wisconsin as I played an active role in achieving that objective. It was a long and volatile struggle, one that in the end, was won by the majority of the WI bowhunters who wanted to be able to hunt with this misconstrued hunting option.
At year’s end we will see from the carefully documented data just how much, if any, damage that was predicted by the anti-crossbow camp has been done to the hunting opportunity in Wisconsin. If it is akin to the other 24 states that have gone on before WI in allowing the crossbow to be used during the entire bowhunting season, the results will be nothing but positive. More licenses sold, more hunters into the woods and hopefully a few more deer taken from the field to assist in the management program of the WI DNR.
My crossbow hunt took place in Buffalo County at Canada Ridge Farm, which is owned and operated by Paul Jagielski, a fellow crossbow patriot. Paul and I have become trusted friends because of our work on crossbow legalization as well as hosting disabled hunters from the United Foundation For Disabled Archers (UFFDA) at Paul’s farm for the past six years.
Buffalo County is a whitetail hunters dream with corn and bean fields on the plateaus and deep hardwood covered coulees that descent down to the next level.
Paul has a classic sliver of Buffalo County, complete with corn and bean fields atop plateaus, which give way to deep coulee’s the descend sharply into the next tier of flatlands. It’s a beautiful chunk of real estate covered with mineral-rich soil that aids in the growth of the world renown and very exceptional headgear that Buffalo County bucks are famous for. As most readers undoubtedly know, more Boone and Crockett bucks are taken in Buffalo County than in any other county in North America. The fact that most all of the hunters in this magical land practice Quality Deer Management is the final factor that creates such a fertile whitetail hunting ground.
Our hunt began the third full week of October which is obviously not the peak of the first rut, but the chasing had begun. Scrapes and rubs were appearing anew each night and the bucks were prowling the edges of the fields and the depths of the coulee’s in search of does that were showing signs of first estrus.
The stand that I chose was a 15′ double ladder stand about fifty yards down into one of the coulees, near a flat area that the deer used as a connecting trail. When it was wet, there was an area that had been designed by Paul where water accumulated into a little pond providing an additional attraction. The remains of an old salt lick in the form of a well polished stump rested just a few yards for the pond sweetening the deal for the whitetails that wandered past the stand.
The first day was uneventful. I saw black & gray squirrels, turkey’s and an assortment of other forest creatures, but the only deer I saw were ghosting through the brush well out of the range of my crossbow. The only shooting that was done that day was done with my camera as it captured the things that I thought were worthy of a shot or two.
The next morning I headed for the same stand with a plan of sitting there until 11:00 a.m., but as the morning wore on a strong urge to close my eyes and rest my head had me bartering with myself. Finally, I reached an agreement in my head to tough it out 9:30 and then walk back to the farm where I would lie down and take a nap for an hour or so before lunch.
As I kept checking my watch, I caught movement up the slope from my position. A buck was moving parallel to the edge the field placing itself a bit higher than my eye level. Odd… I was supposed to be fifteen feet above the buck… but instead it was higher than I… the best laid plans…!
The buck moved behind a group of trees that concealed its entire body from my view and stopped there. I turned my body to adjust for the shot, brought the crossbow to my shoulder and waited. It seemed like a very, very long time before the buck moved from behind the trees and when it did, it took two steps and then stopped with its eyes locked upon me.
The stare-down began. At about 20 yards my 3.5 power scope was able to read the bucks eyes like a book. It bore a hole into the front lens of the scope, unblinking eyes alert, piercing and unmoving as I stared back trying to imitate the concentration and cool of my opponent. Steam, accented by the morning sun, flared from the buck’s nostrils as the only detectable movement was rise and fall of the buck’s rib cage caused by its breathing.
The buck stood by the X’s beyond the small tree making my innards squirm from its unblinking stare.
Then its eyes moved right and then left, all the time its head unmoving as if it was made of stone.
Once again the buck’s eyes locked onto my position for yet another long examination and I am very sure, careful consideration.
Then the eyes darted left and then right again returning to lock onto the strange thing that wasn’t there the last time the buck had passed this way.
Without indication, the buck made its decision… slowly it started to turn away from the thing that was causing its concern. When its side was fully exposed, my finger quickly dropped onto the trigger of my bow, applying quick pressure that caused it to shatter the quiet with its bark and then propelling the arrow into the rib cage of the turning buck.
It exploded into motion and bounded off with the bright red nock of the LumenArrow sticking out of the middle of its rib cage, informing me of the exact shot placement. Immediately, I knew that the buck was doomed and that its attempt to flee its fate was futile. The hapless creature disappeared from sight as it angled down towards the bottom of the coulee. Knowing the kind of terrain that was down there, I prayed that the shot was as good as I believed it to be.
Without hesitation, I began to pack my gear and descended to the ground. I carted my equipment to the top of the coulee and then headed back down with my crossbow to begin the tracking.
It was a classic blood trail. A dot here, three dots there, seven dots here and then it was in blasts that covered ground and brush as high as five feet. Within fifty yards the buck lay piled up lifeless, not too far down in the coulee and looking magnificent.
The blood trail was a classic going from a few drops to a deluge in a very short distance.
From this point on the hunt was over, but the work was clearly laid out before me. Gut, transport back to the farm and then skin and quarter this fine Buffalo County buck.
A special thanks goes out to the State of Wisconsin for making crossbows legal for everyone to use if they wish to; and to my friends, Paul & Sherry Jagielski, for sharing the bounty of their Canada Ridge Farm.
Until next time, please take care, be well and God bless you all.
Author with his buck taken with a crossbow in Buffalo County
HUNTER’S EQUIPMENT LIST
- CROSSBOW: TenPoint Shadow Ultra-Lite
- ARROWS: LumenArrows with Capture Nock
- BROADHEAD: Flying Arrow Archery “Toxic”
- OPTICS: Alpen Pro 8 x 42 Binoculars
- RANGEFINDER: Bushnell Yardage Pro
- FOOTGEAR: Kamik Technologies Coldcreek Boots
- CAMOUFLAGE: NaturalGear
- FANNYPACK: Badlands Monster Fanny
- GAME CALLS: Primos “The Great Big Can”; Mossback “Stretchback” Grunt Call
- TARGET: Rinehart 18 to 1