When the going gets tough, the tough don’t wimp out and go back to camp. That’s what I kept telling myself, anyway, as three of us belly-crawled through a cattle-dung-laden field toward a passel of feral hogs.
Storm clouds loomed overhead, and the spitting rain had turned to a steady shower. Bugs landed in my eyes, and dirt covered my hands and face as I inched forward in hopes of zapping one of the boars with the Wicked Ridge Warrior crossbow we had been practice-shooting all afternoon.
By Daniel E. Schmidt
Whitetails are fun. Turkeys are a rush. But hogs one-on-one at eye level — in a storm? That’s pure adrenaline. More on that in a moment.
Yes, it is a wonderful time to be a hunter. Gone are the days of pigeon-holing yourself into one category: bowhunter or gun-hunter. Call it a maturation of the sport, or perhaps a blood transfusion, but these days we can do it all and have a lot more fun doing it.
Take to the woods with a compound bow, recurve, crossbow, revolver, semi-auto 9mm, shotgun, muzzleloader, AR-15 or a standard centerfire. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you hunt ethically and responsibly, and fill your senses with as much of God’s creation as possible.
Of all the tools we can use these days, the crossbow has always infatuated me. Old-school rules prevented me from hunting with one for the longest time. Thankfully, rules are meant to be broken. In this case, crossbows are now legal for deer hunting in dozens of states, plus they’re fair game to use on varmints nearly everywhere.
One cool thing about crossbows is a guy can get set up with a new rig and use it for fun days at the range and hunting all sorts of critters. They’re still a one-and-done proposition for hunting. Seldom, if ever, will you get a second shot at an animal. They require at least some practice before heading afield.
Which tool you choose to shoot comes down to personal preference. If you’re simply looking for an affordable, reliable all-purpose rig, Wicked Ridge is probably the best option. The Warrior model, for example, can be bought in a package that retails for less than $399. It features 175-pound- draw limbs and generates bolt speeds up to 300 feet per second.
Or, you could go high-class with a TenPoint Venom, which is essentially the Rolls Royce of crossbows. Of course, there are dozens of other models in between. TenPoint even has a recurve model (GT Flex) that features the most efficient flex limb in the crossbow industry, with an innovative multi-position power-stroke stock assembly that can be set at 180, 125 or 90 pounds.
Alpha hunters not only seek maximum opportunity, they insist on maximum efficiency. When it comes to tricking out your new crossbow, you’ll want to go with the top-of-the line broadheads, arrows designed for crossbows, nocks and sights.
There’s a metric ton of broadheads that will kill critters cleanly and efficiently. One of the newer ones, however, really caught my eye earlier this year when hunting those feral hogs in Florida.
It is the Killzone Crossbow broadhead from New Archery Products. This is a two-blade rear-deploying broadhead that packs a devastat- ing 2-inch cutting diameter and heavy-duty .039-inch blades for maximum durability. The field- point accurate Killzone Crossbow uses NAP’s unique spring-clip design, which ensures your blades won’t open in flight or in your quiver. There are no O-rings or rubber bands to worry about, and the broadhead is designed for use in crossbows up to 400 fps.
On the two hogs I shot on that trip, the Killzone punched through two sets of shoulder blades (including the plates) on both. One of the broadheads showed no signs of damage. The other one had a slightly bent tip upon exit.
Best, the blades were scary-sharp. That’s not always the case with manufactured broadheads. The difference is quality control during the manufacturing process. The guys at NAP have that down to a science, and that dates back to the company’s early days of manufacturing Thunderheads — one of the best-selling broadheads of all time.
Team one of these nasty broadheads with a bolt like the Easton Full Metal Jacket, and you’ll achieve bone-crushing power and maxi- mum penetration. The FMJ is one of Easton’s crowning innovations of the past few years. It’s offered in regular arrow shaft and crossbow bolts, and with the company’s proprietary Hidden Insert Technology, provides full contact between the broadhead’s shank and the bolt/arrow wall. This results in a smaller-diameter shaft that delivers more kinetic energy.
Hunters should also note that Killzone Crossbow broadheads come in 100- and 125-grain configurations. The Killzone MAXX is also available for compounds, and there’s a low-energy version for bowhunters who shoot lower draw weights.
I’ve been blessed with 20/20 natural vision my entire life, but even the best eyesight in the world will only get a guy so far when hunting, especially when crawling after hogs in a rainstorm.
Quality optics can make or break any hunt. It doesn’t matter how well you shoot at home or the practice range. The true test is when you’re out there in game-day conditions.
To squeeze the most accuracy and low-light performance out of a crossbow, I’d strongly recommend going with a crossbow-specific optic such as an Xtreme IR scope or Triton red-dot. Both of these optics (and more options) can be found at www.truglo.com.
The Xtreme IR is the latest entry into TruGlo’s award-winning Tru-Brite scope series. It retails for $249, and features an illuminated glass-etched trajectory compensating reticle. The configuration is 1.5 to 5X by 32 mm. The Triton is TruGlo’s tri-color 30 mm red-dot. It features see-through, flip-up lens caps and has an integrated Weaver-style mounting system. It retails for just more than $100.
Expanding your hunting experiences can be as easy as walking out your back door and targeting predators in winter or nuisance animals in summer. It can also take the form of becoming a two-, three- or four-season deer hunter. One of the most enjoyable ways, however, is traveling out of state to hunt something you’ve never seen before in the wild.
States such as Florida are ripe with such opportunities. On the aforementioned hunt, I was the guest of Hoppy Kempfer and his Osceola Outfitters operation of St. Cloud, Fla.
Kempfer runs hunts for wild boars, meat hogs, alligators, Osceola turkeys and white-tailed deer. Wild hogs can be hunted year-round by stand, stalking or with the aid of dogs, and hunters can tote a pistol, bow, crossbow, muzzleloader or gun. No license is needed, and a three-day hunt can be had for about the same price as a plane ticket.
During my hunt, guide Jimmy Roseman led the way through that muddy field as we continually maneuvered to stay downwind of the hogs. These critters can’t see worth a lick, but they can smell better than any whitetail I’ve ever encountered. It’s incredible, really. Just one slight shift in wind current, and these porkers will skedaddle for the swamps as fast as their little legs will carry them.
With the storm moving in, we slithered to within 40 yards of the pigs. When we were 40 yards out, Roseman motioned for me to belly-crawl 10 more yards and get into position for a shot.
It All Comes Together
Raindrops were pelting my ballcap as I slowly pulled my knees to my chest and came to a seated shooting position in the pasture. The hogs had their snouts to the ground, rooting arounds, I presumed.
I slowly flicked off the crossbow’s safety and leveled the sight pin on the largest boar’s lung area.
Dead hog. Happy hunter. It was time to go back to camp and celebrate the spirit of the wild.