Updated: Feb 20, 2019
For this beginner it took five hunts over two years before he saw his first deer on a hunt.
Guiding a deer hunt on public land in the late season is a huge challenge. Once gun season opens, the hunting pressure reaches such a high pitch that deer often become completely nocturnal, and many go as far as entirely vacating the area for a while. This is especially true in New Jersey where the tradition of deer drives causes them to be repeatedly forced out of their sanctuaries. With no place they feel safe in their normal range, the deer have no choice but to travel.
Like many of my clients, this hunter was convinced that hunting with a firearm was the most likely means of success in the deer woods. Due to his work schedule though, we always found ourselves hunting late in the gun season. After two hunts without so much as seeing a deer, he was open to my calls to switch to the crossbow. By using archery equipment we would be able to hunt in areas where there are too many people for gun hunting, and the odds of seeing deer would go way up. So we met one afternoon for a lesson in crossbow shooting and planned a hunt in the suburbs.
The morning was extremely cold. At five degrees, we would not be able to stay in the stand very long. Luckily, this kind of weather also makes the deer get hungry, and before it was even sunrise we had a deer approaching. Slowly, cautiously, the deer fed his way towards us. For what seemed like forever he stayed facing us preventing an ethical shot. When he finally began to turn, I saw the client raise the crossbow to shoot. "Wait." I whispered. "Wait for him to turn a little more." And then without warning the bow snapped and I saw the bolt hit the deer right on the front leg.
The shot did not pass through. The deer was still quartering toward us, not yet at the correct angle for a shot. I was immediately concerned that this had all gone terribly wrong. A poorly hit deer in the suburbs is the last thing that any hunter or guide wants to be responsible for. Thankfully, the blades of the broad head had glanced off the leg and sliced through the very front of the deer's lungs, and within moments he collapsed within sight of the stand.