In this day and age, we have enough challenges to overcome. Hunters need to stick together. I want you to say something with me– crossbows. Did it make you cringe? Did you smile? Does it rile you up? Ask yourself why? Why the animosity toward crossbow hunters? I’ll be the first to admit, I used to feel the same way. From the outside looking in, I was totally against having someone use a crossbow during archery season. In fact, when I lived in New York, I didn’t even want to have it as part of the allowed weapons.
I was ignorant and incredibly short-sighted. Since then, I have changed my tune after learning a bit more, talking with crossbow manufacturers and listening to other hunters. Most of the arguments I hear are that they make it too easy to hunt. How so? My thoughts are to not judge, and that hunters should support hunters, period. I would note that some rifle hunters will shoot out to 1,000 yards on an animal. Personally, I feel like I need to get closer to the animal to make it a hunt. That doesn’t mean I am against longrange shooting. It is just my personal desire, and I won’t push that on anyone.
In fact, there are many who need to fill their freezers for winter, and that style can provide sustenance. I don’t need to hunt for my food like I used to, but I enjoy hunting and, even more so, I enjoy eating wild game. With a crossbow, you still have to get close to an animal to shoot it. You might be able to shoot a longer distance with a crossbow versus a compound, but how is that “easier?” You still have to make an ethical kill shot. What about using a compound bow versus a traditional recurve bow? They are both considered archery equipment, but doesn’t the let-off in a compound give the hunter an advantage over a traditional bow? Sure it does! I personally prefer a compound over a recurve. It is my personal preference. I will never push that ideology on anyone else.
If someone wants to hunt with me and they use a recurve, I welcome them. I think they are at more of a disadvantage than I am. I have sights, a stabilizer, a dropaway rest, 75 percent let-off, and I use a release. Does that make me better? Worse? No. In fact, it makes me a hunter. If they want to use a crossbow, and it’s legal, bring it and hunt with it! I want you to hunt and have a good time while trying to fill your tag.
PROS AND CONS
In general, crossbows are faster shooting, but are also heavier and more cumbersome. Many weigh double what a compound weighs. They are less maneuverable when stalking, and also take longer to reload. On the plus side, they allow disabled hunters to hunt more – isn’t that a good thing? In California, you can hunt deer with a crossbow during regular (firearm) season, if you have a tag valid for the regular season. Did you know that? I didn’t until this year. You can also hunt wild pigs with a crossbow. With the pig population so large, I think that offers more opportunities to hunters. Where I draw the line is classifying a crossbow as strictly archery equipment. It’s not. Some slingshots shoot arrows too. They are not archery tackle. They are also not a firearm. Crossbows use different technology to store energy to send a bolt downrange.
So where does that leave them? I feel that crossbows are in a category all by themselves. Shooting one takes skill, no matter what anyone says. They utilize similar technology from both archers and firearms. I have heard hunters say that the technology in a crossbow makes the hunter lazy. What about the wheeliebows versus a recurve then? Many of the arguments against crossbows come from people who have never even shot one before.
They just see the person shooting and assume it’s easy. Crossbows are another tool that allows hunters to go after wild game. Think about the fact that in many areas firearms are prohibited, especially in many areas of Southern California. Yet, crossbows are allowed, depending on the regulations and ordinances for that area. One of the animals anyone can hunt with a crossbow is the feral pig. Recently, I put my crossbow to the test and ventured out in search of some wild pork on public land.
CALLING ALL HOGS
Hunting pigs is incredibly fun, but is quite a challenge with any weapon. I have been unsuccessfully chasing pigs for a couple years with my compound bow. Recently, my friend Chris Turgeon and I sat along a travel route that we were sure pigs would cross through. Chris knows pigs, and has made it his mission to help me learn pig behavior and set trail cams to find them. In fact, he had been disappointed that he hasn’t been able to help me shoot a pig. A couple weeks ago, both of us went about our daily routines and then we saw the weather report – rain! With a significant storm in the forecast, we immediately came up with a game plan.
If I could make the drive up to meet Chris, we could be on pigs on that afternoon. When Saturday came, I decided I would bring the crossbow this time. It was another challenge and I had never taken an animal with one. I loaded up the car and hit the road as early as I could. Chris and I both knew the pigs would be on the move. It was much cooler, the ground was wet, and we hoped the pigs would be foraging all day. It was just a matter of choosing the right spot to ambush them. We discussed ideas and paid close attention to the wind, as that was what had busted us numerous times before. We wanted our scent to be blowing in the right direction and not swirling.
The wind was perfect for only one location, and we knew where we had to go. We began our long hike around the woods to a natural blind to avoid detection. I knew I wanted a pig really bad, so I was strict on my scent reduction. My clothes had been in an ozone tote prior to leaving home. I’d sprayed everything down with a scent-killing spray at the vehicle and had brought extra on the hunt. Once we hit our ambush point we both sprayed everything down again. We probably overdid it, but we didn’t care. I’d rather go over the top and increase my chances. It was now 2 p.m., so we sat down and waited.
Through the binoculars, we could see two sets of fresh tracks through a clearing. We made an educated guess that they were pig tracks. We hoped the rest of the group would come the same way. The wind was perfect and we continually sprayed down. We wouldn’t have to wait long. I looked down at my watch: 3:06 p.m. As I looked up, two black shapes silently appeared in the clearing. Both of us saw them at the same time, and Chris said, “You’re on!” My body felt different than on other hunts. The adrenaline was controlled and I was focused.
One pig stopped broadside at 12 yards. I ever so slowly raised my crossbow and settled it on the pig’s vitals. As the hog dug up the muddy ground, I took the shot. Fewer than 30 seconds had elapsed between the moment the pigs had come in and when I took the shot. My Scorpyd Ventilator crossbow sent the bolt so fast that we didn’t even see where it went. We heard the pig hitting some saplings, and then came a crash. Surprisingly, I was super calm and focused. I turned to Chris and smiled from ear to ear. We had done it!
If I had waited a few more seconds, the other pig may have turned for Chris to get a shot, but after hunting wild hogs for so long, I was not about to give up the opportunity. We talked about the shot and knew it was a kill shot. I pulled up the binoculars to look through the brush and could see blood on saplings and undergrowth. It was going to be a fun tracking job. We opted to wait an hour to see if any other pigs trotted through the area. It was a shot in the dark as they probably busted out of there when I shot my pig. As predicted, nothing happened, so we set off to trail my pig. The blood trail was easy to follow as the broadhead had cut through both lungs and left a wide spray of blood.
Even with the excellent shot, the pig ran nearly 100 yards. Those animals are tough! We found the dead pig in a small clearing and estimated it to be around 80 pounds, a perfect size for eating. And no matter what, it was the perfect pig for my first one ever.
Some people have asked me if I regret not using my compound bow to take my first pig. Not at all! In fact, I am glad to have had the opportunity to use a crossbow. Plus, I now have wild pig in my freezer, and that is a great thing. Hunters need to support hunters, period. We all have different methods, tactics, and use different weapons. We shouldn’t be elitist about one weapon over another when trying to encourage more people to start hunting. Whether they are young or old, male or female, it shouldn’t matter. If it is legal and they want to hunt, welcome them into the fold. CS Editor’s note: For more on the author, go to socalbowhunter.com.
By Al Quackenbush