Is It Time for a Crossbow? | Stan Chiras
Is It Time for a Crossbow?
Bowhunting: I’ll Quit When I’m Dead!
By Stan Chiras
When I was younger, I remember thinking that I’d simply start hunting whitetails from a stick-built ground blind when I got older. Commercial blinds nor treestands were invented at the time. Assuming — correctly — I wouldn’t be able to draw my recurve any longer, I also thought I’d buy an old Winchester .30-30 and shoot using iron sights. Because crossbows weren’t on the market yet either, they weren’t an option.
The bowhunting addiction has enveloped me for close to 65 years. From the day I shot my first chipmunk to today, high atop an Arizona mountainside glassing for Coues deer, I am still filled with just as much excitement and anticipation as to when I was a lanky youngster, clutching a Sears’ longbow with a bunch of fiberglass arrows protruding from my hip pocket.
It would be years before this lad got a real bow capable of shooting arrows tipped with Bear Razorheads. Still, times haven’t changed much in these now old eyes. Deer still give me the slip; the wind blows cold in late autumn and getting up early remains a pain in the rear. Yet, the bowhunting lifestyle is not easily given up. I’m in my seventies now. For some reason, bowhunting seems more important, more rewarding, and even more intriguing than ever. Perhaps it’s because it has become clearly evident that I won’t be doing this forever.
It’s time to quit whining about the aches and pains associated with getting old and get on with being an avid bowhunter. Like thousands of other older bowhunters, I look forward to each and every “next” season with more anticipation than ever before. An increasing number of us, older folks, are still chomping at the bit to get out there and sling some arrows!
As it relates to bowhunting, my main problem is drawing a bow with enough poundage to ethically take big game. Over the years, my bow-drawing shoulder has been involved in four accidents; twice the collarbone had been snapped and the old chassis has simply had enough.
Early on this fall, I grabbed my old Colorado Bighorn recurve and strung it up. It was a no go! At 69 pounds, there was no way on earth that I could draw my trusty old companion. So, I dug out an old forty-five-pound Red Wing Hunter recurve I had before the Bighorn. After a few shots, I decided I was going to become proficient with the old relic. I wasn’t so sure about hunting with it, but the joy of shooting traditional equipment means more to me now than ever before. After a few days, I became accurate at ten yards, so I moved out to twenty. Not sure why, but it was a bust. I was no longer accurate at that range and decided it was time to stop.
Enter the Crossbow
Until now, I had never been a fan of the crossbow. But necessity is the mother of invention (in this case, she’s the mother of solutions!). For me, crossbows don’t ignite the same kind of passion for shooting as does a hand-held bow. But they do fill a void for those in need.
The ATA show is a perfect place to shoot virtually every crossbow on the market, from cheapies to the industry’s three-thousand-dollar luxury liners. Last year, shoot them, I did. My first takeaway was their heavy weight and bulkiness. One, in particular, weighed so much that I just put it down and moved on. It was a tank, and I have no idea why a manufacturer would present it to the market.
My search for the perfect crossbow eventually led me to Jerry Goff at Hickory Creek Vertical Crossbows. Hickory Creek manufactures a vertically-configured crossbow, evolved from their Draw-Loc design of years past. At first glance, I was intrigued. I picked one up after learning about its overall design and in-field advantages.
The Hickory Creek Vertical In-Line Mini Crossbow is lightweight and compact. Moreover, it’s straightforward to operate. You’re able to cock the bow without a crank or rope cocker. That’s right, you can cock it by hand! I doubted I had that kind of strength left, but I was soon proven wrong. The string has a loop and uses conventional arrow nocks.
The most unique design advantage vertical crossbows have over horizontal crossbows lies in its overall design. The vertical crossbow enables the shooter to experience the feeling of shooting a bow and NOT a gun. I liked that a lot! Another remarkable feature of the vertical design is the ability to hang it from a bow-hanger, as you would a recurve or compound bow.
To the Field
This was a first, a crossbow on my wall. I wasn’t sure how my bows would accept their new stablemate, but they were ok with it, as it turned out. Next, it was time to hit the woods and see for myself what crossbow hunting was all about.
I had a doe tag to fill. I quickly and easily sighted-in the Hickory Creek crossbow at 20, 30, and 40 yards. What happened next would be a fantastic story. Shoot a doe? Oh, that should take a few hours at most. But it didn’t. I hunted over a week and saw not one doe! Two small bucks presented me with shots, but since small bucks someday become bigger bucks, I let them pass, unscathed.
Eventually, a hapless Kentucky doe presented me with a shot. She was passing by at what I estimated to be just under 30 yards. I made a small mouth grunt to stop her. She obliged, but turned, and was then quartering slightly toward me. That little move took away the broadside shot, so I had to aim a little behind the shoulder and risk a liver hit. I carefully squeezed the mini-bow’s extremely smooth trigger and fired.
I was about to experience my first frustration with a crossbow. The scope was a little foggy from the early morning mist and visibility, while acceptable, was not to my liking. I’m used to using pins and no glass and, as such, have always seen my arrow strike — one of the satisfactions of shooting a bow. This time I saw nothing. Shooting while using a scope takes away the joy of seeing the arrow in flight. That, to me, is a bummer.
The doe turned and ran up the hill a little way before charging back down. I was sure I had hit her but did not know where. She then plowed into a nearby fence, got up, cleared it, jumped a stream and ran across a small field, disappearing in an adjacent woodlot. She had traversed about two hundred yards, which was way too far to have been lung shot. The trouble was that I didn’t know where I had hit her. I assumed it was where I had aimed because the mini-bow was sighted-in, and I had squeezed the trigger smoothly.
The blood trail was copious from the point of impact, but it was not lung blood. The Musacchia NBS 4-blade had done its job. I decided it was best to give her a couple hours, just in case. Judging from the blood trail, I was sure it had been a pass-through, although I couldn’t find my arrow. After one hour, I continued the search. She had made it about 50 yards into the woods before collapsing. It was indeed a pass-through, and it appeared she had succumbed quickly from blood loss.
I felt good about my first crossbow kill. My accuracy was true, and the penetration was all I could ask for. I was now shooting a 150-pound “bow,” shooting 330 fps! It was a far cry from my 40-pound bow at Lord knows how many feet per second! At my age, I was now going to be able to continue hunting elk and moose.
So, I find myself at a crossroads. I don’t believe that crossbow hunters are not bowhunters. I can understand that someone might like crossbows more than bows, although not me. For me, crossbows have become a necessity. I accept that reality gladly for the privilege of continuing hunting well past my physical prime. My soul belongs in the autumn woods, and this beautiful little crossbow will keep me there. That is truly a Godsend!
Old Guy Bowhunting Gear
Hickory Creek Mini-Bow
- “Ready to Hunt”
- 3 Arrows
- 150# max (adjustable) draw weight
- Split Limbs
- 13″ Power Stroke
- Limited 5-year warranty
- MSRP: $750
- CONTACT: https://www.drawloc.com
Musacchia NBS 4-Blade Broadhead
- Trocar tip
- 416 stainless steel, hardened to 42 RC
- 1 1/8” wide
- 0.25″ thick 420 stainless steel razor blades
- Hard coat anodizing
- Internally locked blades
- MSRP: $33.96
- CONTACT: https://musacchiabroadhead.com