John Phillips | October 22, 2012
My son Jacob O’Dell was 10-years old last season when he experienced his first deer hunt. Jacob is only 4-feet tall and weighs about 75 or 85 pounds, but he loves to shoot his bow and really wanted to go deer hunting. He’d already passed his hunter’s safety course. Jacob had a PSE Mini Burner that he loved to shoot. He was simply too small to pull more than 30 pounds. I knew allowing him to hunt with the Mini Burner was unethical, but he loves to shoot targets in the backyard with it. I decided to buy him a PSE Foxfire Crossbow that shoots about 330 feet per second, which is fast enough to take a deer, and probably any-other large game animal in North America. Jacob also got a Nikon Bolt XR Crossbow Scope. Inside the scope, the crosshairs are set at 20 and 40 yards. All summer long, he practiced shooting from 40-yards in and he could put three arrows in a target about the size of a softball. I knew he was proficient enough to take a deer at 40 yards.
We traveled to south Texas and hunted the King Ranch, a great ranch with a nice lodge and really-nice people. Too, it’s a target-rich environment. At the ranch, we were given a picture of a mature 8-point buck that the landowner wanted taken out of the herd. They knew this 6-1/2-year-old buck had been showing-up frequently at the stand site where Jacob and I would hunt the next morning, and that he’d never have antlers larger than 8 points. We set-up in a ground blind located between a feeder and the pond. Because Texas was experiencing a drought at this time, there was a game trail that went back and forth between the food and the water.
Jacob and I hadn’t been there very long before the big 8-point arrived. We easily could tell he was the dominant buck in that area, since he was running-off other deer as they came down the game trail. We didn’t get a shot on the buck when we first saw him due to his going back and forth in and out of the brush. Finally, he presented a broadside shot. As Jacob was preparing to shoot, he asked, “Dad, will that netting interfere with the flight of the bow when I squeeze the trigger?” I was so impressed with my son’s awareness of the netting that hung down over the shooting port that it almost caught my breath. I told him, “No, Jacob, the netting isn’t touching the bolt or the crossbow. Take the shot when you’re ready.” Jacob made a perfect heart shot on the buck, which bolted and ran into the bushes. Jacob looked up to me and said, “Dad that’s the most exiting thing I’ve ever done, and I’m sure this is the greatest hunt I’ll ever have.” I was more excited about Jacob taking that buck than I’ve ever been with any animal I’ve taken.
I knew the deer was hit well, and that at 20 yards, the crossbow was more than sufficient to take a buck. We got out of the blind, and I put Jacob on the blood trail, which was easy to follow because the buck was hit so well. When Jacob found that buck about 20-yards from where he’d shot him, he was super excited and jumping up and down. He’s a youngster who doesn’t talk very much, and to see him really excited and animated got me excited too. That was a very special moment for my son and me. When the adventure was over, Jacob decided to drag the deer out to the pick-up spot. I filmed him trying to drag the deer out, but the most important word here was, trying. The deer was so large that he couldn’t move it by himself. After that hunt, we also did a spot-and-stalk hunt on a javelina with his crossbow.
I’m often asked why I’d recommend a crossbow to potential bowhunters. My answer is simple. At age 10, Jacob was ready to go hunting. He’d been shooting his Mini Burner at targets, but it wasn’t big or strong enough to pull over 30 pounds. He’d taken his safety course, and he wanted to hunt with a limited-range weapon like a bow. I knew he couldn’t get the kinetic energy he needed to ethically take a deer with a 30-pound bow. I’d learned that the crossbow was a great stepping-stone to go from a youth bow up to a hunting bow, regardless of whether or not the youngster was strong enough to shoot a heavy bow. So, the crossbow filled that middle gap between a youth bow or a light-poundage bow and a hunting bow.
Something else I’ve realized is that as you get older, you don’t pull a heavy-weight bow. I’ve already turned-down the poundage on my bow, and I’ve realized the crossbow will allow me to hunt long after I can’t pull the weight of my hunting bow. I still can be a bowhunter, until I no longer can squeeze the trigger on a crossbow. For hunters who want to get into archery and see what it’s like, the crossbow is a great stepping stone in-between gun hunting and the compound bow. Too, the crossbow allows many hunters to extend their hunting seasons and in many states, take more animals. More and more states are permitting the use of the crossbow during archery season. I really believe that we’ll see hunters move from the crossbow and into conventional archery tackle eventually.