Death In The Long Grass

More and more states are allowing hunters of any age and physical ability to carry crossbows during the regular archery season. Here’s what you need to know to be successful.

For the first time in its history, any archer of legal hunting age in Wisconsin can use a crossbow. Click here for more details.

This past Sunday I took advantage of this change in Wisconsin’s laws and helped fill my freezer with an opening weekend adult doe. Was I in a treestand? No. Pop-up ground blind? No. Box blind? No.

My favorite technique for crossbow hunting whitetails is to sit butt on the ground in long grass (think CRP) near a green field and then ambush whitetails as they step out to feed in the late afternoon.

At 4 p.m. on September 14, I walked across a 4-acre food plot planted in clover and various brassicas. From the previous afternoon spent in a box blind on the western edge of the field, I noticed a good number of deer feeding along the east side of the food plot. The wind was straight out of the west, making it a poor idea to sit in the pop-up blind you see in the background in the photo above.

Rather than make noise hanging a treestand along the east side, or possibly spook deer by placing another pop-up blind along the edge, I simply stepped 8 feet back into the high grass/weeds bordering the field and prepared my ambush.

Here’s the sequence. I first found a flat spot to place my stadium seat. Specifically, I like the EZ Chair from Sportsman’s Outdoor Products (SOP). This lightweight and fully adjustable chair keeps my butt dry, provides back support and is totally silent. The stadium seat allows me to hunt exactly where I want; I don’t have to worry about leaning against a tree for back support.

While sitting in my EZ Chair, I place my tripod. I like the Vanguard Pro T40; it’s dull colored (black), adjusts quickly and quietly, and provides a super-stable shooting base for my crossbow. I set my crossbow in the tripod and check to make sure the tripod height is correct.

Next, I place my crossbow off to the side on the ground and then get up to clip brush. Don’t move the tripod. Here’s the key: If you clear too much grass and weeds, then the deer will notice the landscaping. With a hand pruner, I clip the grasses to the height of the tripod head. My goal isn’t to be able to shoot a wide arc into the field. Instead, I want to have a narrow “cone of death.”

I clip grasses, weeds and twigs nearby the tripod head, and any between the tripod head and the edge of the field. While every situation is different, as a general rule you need to trim 3-6 feet of width in front of the tripod head. This will enable you to cover about 10 yards of field width out at the distance you expect to shoot a deer (range of 15-30 yards).

After trimming, sit back down in the chair, place your crossbow on the tripod and test out whether you need to make any additional cuts.

Because the cover is minimal around you, deer will easily spot movement, so you can’t be turning your head fast or making noise. With the front of the crossbow resting on the tripod, I place the rear of the bow into my shoulder and it balances perfectly. I can keep my hands in my lap for texting my buddies, checking football scores or reading a book until a deer arrives.

Before settling in, be sure to use your rangefinder to check distances. I memorize areas that are 30 yards (my maximum range on deer-size game) and then put away the rangefinder. I won’t be using it with deer on the field because they’ll bust me.

Yesterday at 6:30 p.m. I had a doe and fawn show up from the south (my left in the photo above) instead of the north, which was the pattern the day before. Because I couldn’t move the tripod to the left without making noise, I simply had to wait and hope for the deer to feed into my “cone of death.” And after an hour, that’s just what they did. From a range of only 15 yards, I sent the broadhead on its way and the doe ran only 25 yards before dying on the field edge. I love it when a plan comes together!

P.S. The crossbow in my photo from September 14 is a Carbon Express , and my broadhead of choice on this rig is the four-blade 100-grain Magnus Stinger Buzzcut. Keep in mind, however, that many times a heavier broadhead provides best accuracy with a crossbow, so you might want to experiment with the 125-grain Magnus, too.

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