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9 Tips For Crossbow Hunting From BlindsWords by Jeff Johnston
Crossbow hunting enthusiasts are very familiar with ground blinds. But do you know where to put that quiver in the blind, or how to judge wind outside? We do.
1. GO LONG WITH CONFIDENCE
Other than being easier to master than compounds and traditional bows, a crossbow’s main advantage is that it’s more accurate. I can hear some dedicated compound-bow shooters objecting now, but it’s true. Crossbows often utilize magnified optics so the shooter can focus his aim much more acutely. The bow can also be rested so that it’s perfectly still. Finally, the release is not a complex act of skill and practice but rather a mere trigger pull.
All these things amount to an arrow that can be delivered with deadly precision to startling ranges. So when, setting up your ground blind, don’t water down the crossbow’s advantage by setting it up too close to where you expect the shot. I’m all for close shots — and for compound bows I prefer them 20 yards and in.
But with a crossbow, I’ll stretch that by 10 or 15 yards, so that if a deer comes in perfectly as expected, the animal will have a decreased chance of detecting me, and a 30-yard shot will still be easy. But I can always reach out to 60 yards or better if I must.
Just keep in mind that despite its speed and accuracy, a crossbow still has a rainbow-like trajectory at long range, so clear shooting lanes with the arrow’s maximum flight height in mind.
By placing the ground blind farther back from your target, you’ll likely spook less game.
2. REST EASY
Bring a great rest to the blind. While shooting sticks will work, a better option is an apparatus like Caldwell’s Deadshot that provides a rest point for both the forend and the buttstock of the crossbow so that it will not teeter; it also holds the crossbow in place so that it’s always ready to shoot with minimal movement on your part.
Rather than trying to grab the bow when you see the animal and then adjust the rest, set the bow on it, and line up the shot before shooting, simply slide into the crossbow’s stock, fine tune your aim, and shoot. You can also use rifle shooting sticks, like Primos Trigger Sticks, or a similar rest for the forend only. There’s always the option of a chair that has arm rests so you can rest your rear elbow on it to steady your aim that way.
3. MOVE MESH
Never shoot through mesh windows. I’m aware that some ground blind companies say you can shoot directly through the window mesh, and sometimes it works fine, especially with fixed-blade broadheads. But occasionally the mesh will cause your arrow to sail wide. And if you use mechanical broadheads, forget about it.
Many times the mesh will cause a blade to deploy prematurely, and if that happens you’ll be lucky to hit a moose standing 20 yards broadside. Anticipate where the animal will come from, and keep as many windows closed as possible to eliminate light entering the blind — but keep a couple of windows open with the mesh already down.
4. TAKE A SEAT
Bring a comfortable chair that’s an ideal height for shooting. Swiveling, adjustable-height chairs are ideal for crossbow shooting, but whatever you choose make sure it works for your specific ground blind prior to hunting.
It’s got to be high enough to shoot through the windows without straining, and it shouldn’t be so high that your head hits the ceiling while sitting. In essence, make sure it’s just the right height. You want as little movement as possible while you’re setting up for the shot. And once you get set up, you’ll shoot best if you’re sitting as solidly as possible to mitigate bow shake during the shot. Get a good, proper-fitting chair. You’ll be glad you did.
5. NOW YOU SEE IT
Make sure your arrow clears the window, regardless of what you see through the crossbow’s scope. Realize that the scope is mounted a couple of inches higher than the arrow, and so even if your view through the scope is clear as Canadian spring water, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your arrow won’t pierce the blind and deflect into oblivion.
So before shooting, rest the crossbow as you would in a real situation, then look down at the arrow in relation to the shooting port to make sure it will sail cleanly through it.
6. SHED A LITTLE LIGHT
Bring a flashlight to the blind. Ideally, ground blinds are very dark inside, and if they are not, they should be to maximize their effectiveness. But this means that you will not be able to see your crossbow and arrows well, even after the sun comes up.
And if you walked any distance to your blind, bad things are bound to have happened. So use your flashlight to check your crossbow as you set up for the hunt. A green or red light works best because it doesn’t alarm game and it doesn’t dilate your eyes.
Make sure your broadheads are tightened and in proper order, that the string is properly cocked, and that the scope is dialed to the correct magnification. Make sure there are no twigs wedged between the cams and string; check for any obstructions or pitfalls with the flashlight before loading the bow; and then make sure that the arrow is fully seated with the cock vane oriented correctly. Finally, make sure that the safety is on.
7. COCK IT OUTSIDE
Consider cocking the crossbow before entering the blind. Some hunters are taller than others, while other crossbow hunters are more flexible. If you are a hunter who needs to stand up tall to cock your crossbow, cock it before entering the blind. Then load an arrow after you sit down and get comfortable.
8. DITCH THE QUIVER
Consider removing your quiver and placing it in a familiar, easy-to-access spot. This way your arrows will stay out of the way, yet they’ll be easy to reach if you need to reload in a hurry.
The quiver is cumbersome and can snag the blind’s fabric and get in the way when you least expect it. Eliminate that risk. But don’t lean it, or anything, against the blind. Movement will transfer to the outside and could spook game.
9. WIND’S A FACTOR
While a crossbow is accurate to amazing distances when your scope is doped correctly and it’s calm outside, the wind affects a crossbow’s arrow to almost the same degree as a compound bow’s. Which is to say, arrow drift is measured in feet, not inches, in heavy wind.
The problem is, when hunkered in a ground blind, it’s often difficult to read the wind because you cannot feel it. To combat this, either learn to read the wind by visual cues such as swaying leaves, grass and limbs, or judge it before getting in your blind. And if you plan to shoot at a long distance, say 60 yards, consider placing a wind indicator, such as a small piece of yarn or flagging tape, downrange at the desired distance before the season starts.
Use it to tell if the wind is calm, lightly blowing or whipping like a Texas tornado. Then adjust your hold accordingly.
IT’S GOT YOU COVERED
Ground blinds are not just for women and children anymore. There are a number of scenarios when using a blind is the right way to hunt turkeys.
Consider this: Turkey hunters know that pasture birds — those at home in large fields — are some of the toughest to take. They shy from the field edges but will stay out in the field, and out of gun or bow range. “But, for some reason, a blind set up out in the field, as opposed to the woods, won’t spook them,” said Shane Simpson, a champion turkey caller. “You can double your effective range by setting up your blind in the field, about 40 yards from the edge.” That gives you another 40-yard reach out in the field and another 40 yards from you to the field edge.
A comfortable hunter is a better hunter. It used to be that ground blinds made especially for turkey hunting were smaller, shorter and a tight fit for more than one person. We’ve gotten away from that because saving a few pounds and reducing your profile a bit wasn’t worth it. Bigger blinds, like Primos’ Double Bull blinds, give you elbow room. You can put a chair where you need it, and you won’t be bumping into your rest or the walls of the blind, something which rarely puts animals at ease.
If you’ve got the birds patterned, then a ground blind is the way to go. You reduce the chance of being caught out in the open, and the birds suddenly show up while you are moving or even blinking. Turkeys’ eyesight is keen to say the least, and even the most seasoned hunters know it’s not easy to stay absolutely still for hours on end. A ground blind, in this case, hides any movement. You can film your hunt, use a vertical bow, check your Facebook feeds or even take a nap! You know you want to.
In the past, hunters thought ground blinds were for youth hunts only. But they are actually another tool in your quiver to get a gobbler within 40 yards of your muzzle or broadhead.
– John Geiger