Crossbow for Big Game

Easy, Fun, Less Training Time

Beverly Ruhland of Wales, New York, enjoys hunting with her brand new crossbow, and she has enjoyed several big deer experiences during the last two weeks of early archery season – that’s when crossbow season opens in New York.  Forrest Fisher Photo
Beverly Ruhland of Wales, New York, enjoys hunting with her brand new crossbow, and she has enjoyed several big deer experiences during the last two weeks of early archery season – that’s when crossbow season opens in New York. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

It took 30 years of haggling with legislators and blocked laws in a confused legal system that New York is famous for, not to mention high taxes, but the good usually does win over time, and so it is in New York today.  Crossbow hunting is legal.

The New York State crossbow season (last two weeks of early archery season: Nov. 5 – 18, 2016) has brought many happy elderly hunters back to the woods and started new interest in hunting for many young others.  I recently received a note from a hunter in Wales, Beverly Ruhland, who shared the excitement of her first day with her new Barnett crossbow in the woods last weekend.

Watch Your Fingers

Ruhland says, “I went hunting today and it was so exciting! I was literally face to face with a big buck that had to be least an 8- or 10-pointer. I was too scared to count his points, but he was so big! I was walking the woods and saw him a short distance away.”

Continuing, Ruhland said, “I did take a shot with my new crossbow, but being so excited I didn’t pay much attention to the proper placement of my left hand. I pulled the trigger and the exiting string caught my thumb, sending the bolt awry. That stung my thumb! The big buck looked at me as I stood still and actually walked right toward me. I couldn’t believe it. He stopped about 5 yards away, stayed about 60 seconds staring right at me. I closed my eyes and thought maybe he was going to spear me with his antlers. Then, thank God, I opened my eyes and he turned to slowly walk away. I was scared and shaking so bad!”

Being a brave hunter, Ruhland admits, “My thumb was throbbing and still is.  I really thought the deer was going to attack me. My husband, Bob, a retired Lake Ontario charter captain and avid deer hunter, is still laughing at my story. Even though I missed, I saw 11 different deer that day while sitting in my ground blind. There was another smaller buck, but not close enough to get a shot at him or at any of the others.”

Ruhland is a daily church goer and says, “I’m hoping I can go out again tomorrow after morning mass. Maybe I’ll do better then.”  By the way, Bob Ruhland used his crossbow to harvest a big-body buck a few days before Beverly’s sore-thumb, big-deer encounter.

Strong Hunter Groups in New York

The New York deer and bear populations are a great recreational wildlife resource, economic resource too, for Empire State hunters.  The nearly 700,000 strong hunter group suggests that big game hunting is an important part of the American outdoor heritage for many folks.  The general population is thankful to hunters who provide a valuable public service by maintaining wildlife populations at levels that are compatible with public interest and natural resources, providing for safer travel on our roadways.

While hunting camps in New York State southern tier areas were only alive during the opening day of firearm season, coming in two weeks, now archery hunting with long bows, compound bows and crossbows has enticed hunters to camp weeks ahead of the historical gun season schedule.  Hunters now check their stands and assure safe shooting lanes in late summer, how times have changed, all for the good too.

Hunting Camp – Excitement is Ordinary

With every week-ending Friday night, there is extra excitement in the air.  Young archers and newcomers to the sport usually do not sleep well on the nights before the hunt, there are dreams of a deer opportunity after daylight. Wind-up alarm clocks begin to sound off around 5 a.m. as lights turn on across hilltops.

Hunters hop out of toasty sleeping bags, scurry across chilly cabin floors to a welcome pot of old-fashioned, percolated coffee – real coffee.  Light switches are flicked on and gas lanterns brighten.  Flashlights and candles too, offer pre-dawn light, depending on your hunting camp situation.

The grumbling low-frequency voice tones of elderly hunters sort of sound like those of a buck grunting his way through the morning woods in search of a doe.  This is the week predicted week of pre-rut in New York.  The recurring “thump” heard across the cabin usually means a new log has just been tossed into the wood stove.  The sounds of “camp flavor” are welcome and special, because somehow you feel assured that all is well here among your hunting family.

The wood stove and the extra dry air, the sound of humble morning chatter between coffee sipping, cabin laughter and jokes, side bets for biggest deer and the same bull-tales that smelly old men retell every year about this time, are all somehow a special deal for the many who have been there and will never miss an opportunity for a day at deer camp.  Deer camp offers those kinds of special times.  Hunting and deer camp is an unforgettable experience!

Toilet Tissue Advice

One thing to remember is that most folks usually eat too well when in deer camp, so when you head into the hunting forest, wood-side restrooms are easy to find, but comfortable dry leaves are not. Take a small roll of tissue or toilet paper with you in a re-sealable plastic bag. It’s good to be prepared! I keep my gutting knife in the same bag, that way all is dry too and I can’t forget the really important stuff!

Deer camp fun is still alive even 80-year-old hunters that seem to turn into youngsters.  Getting dressed often looks like a group wrestling match, with all hands on deck at once.  Everyone is working to reach their hunting stand by a half-hour before sunrise – in the dark, not everyone will make it there in time, but 30 minutes after sunrise works too.

Even during the firearm season, if you are hunting in close quarters to heavy brush and timber, the crossbow is a great way to consider hunting.  Crossbows during gun season, something to think about.