From the months of feeder maintenance, setting up a stand, and cutting shooting lanes to religiously checking the trail camera and extensive range time to make sure my broadheads hit their mark, this was the most calculated hunt I think I have ever conducted. I knew that deer would be there at first light on Opening Morning of Florida’s archery season, and sure enough, the time had come to collect.
I had not planned on the scope fogging up. This would be a whole lot more impressive if I were writing about a 10-point, but no, it was only a doe. For whatever reason, the bucks on our little lease disappeared over the summer. Perhaps they heard I acquired a crossbow.
I’ve taken a great deal of abuse from buddies about my new toy. Most feel it’s cheating, but I don’t really care.
Look, I’ve never been enchanted by the lyrical magic of archery that many enthusiasts claim they feel in their souls. Aspects of the sport are more challenging than gun hunting, without question, and therefore more satisfying for some, but I can’t say it does much for me. In 15 years of bowhunting, I’ve learned how to set-up on deer with more accuracy and employed that to all styles of hunting. I’ve enjoyed the extra time in the woods. We’ve hadgood times and bad, but that’s what I’ve taken away from it. And besides, as the saying goes, the dyer’s hands are stained by the elements from which he works – I’ll ditch anything with a string when I can get a centerfire in my grasp.
This is not to say, however, I do not appreciate esoteric challenges. Shy of using a flintlock or bolt-action handgun, I’ve harvested deer with just about every legal hunting implement out there, and the desire to knock one off with a bolt was appealing. And with being a faithful reporter in the world of hunting, the use of crossbows has increased over the last several years, and I just wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
So after months of not-so-subtle hints of e-mails with various models and prices, my wife and mother gifted me a PSE Reaper combo package complete with 4 cheap bolts and a scope with 5 reticles for my birthday in August. On the money side, it’s towards the more-affordable. You can easily drop more cash on a fancier model but for what may be a passing fancy, this just didn’t seem prudent – and who’s to argue with such a rig as a present. Saints, my family.
Truth be told, my first impressions were not great, though I am a fan of PSE products. What I had thought would be a slam-dunk proposition turned into challenges of its own. One, the thing is heavy and fairly unwieldy in a stand. When you pull the trigger it sounds like a hammer hitting a trailer hitch. The trigger itself you almost need to use the cocking device on which doesn’t breed accuracy. And that scope…even jacked up as high as I could crank it, the 15 and 25 yard reticles were pushing the bolts into the dirt. You don’t have to stand and draw, which is essentially the biggest advantage, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t get the bolt to hit in the right place or the deer jumps the string.
After quickly tearing the fletchings off the factory bolts during practice, I purchased a 6-pack of Laser II Gold Tips, screwed in 100-grain Rage mechanical broadheads, and sighted them in. I need to research how to dampen the noise and a new scope is in order, but by employing the bottom three reticles and applying a little Kentucky windage to the top two, I was consistently hitting the bull and felt confident enough to take it to the stand a couple Saturdays ago.
The doe, though, wasn’t real impressed with my movement as I frantically tried to wipe the steam out of the scope, which, by the way, isn’t ideal for low-light situations, either. Say what you will about crossbows, but there are still range limitations at play and dithering around within 30 yards of game is usually a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, I rubbed the scope clean, and the second she stopped high-stepping around the feeder ready to blow off to points unknown, she turned broadside. I hit high which dropped her in her tracks. Having lost game before on high shots, I slid down the rails of the stand like a firefighter, re-cocked the PSE and immediately put an insurance bolt in her. Fresh venison in the freezer on the initial day of hunting season. In 20 years of chasing deer, I believe that’s the first time I’ve accomplished that.
As I said, there are still issues to be corrected, but it’s great to be off to a fast start and beat the skunk. I’m not totally over the standard bow – mostly because many WMA’s and jealous friends with property won’t allow crossbows. But the PSE is a fun new toy for at least this season. I do have a feeling it’ll be a productive relationship.