Early Season Crossbow Tactics for Deer Hunting


The base of a tree, good camouflage and sitting quietly can be a great tactic early in the season if you’re crossbow hunting. (Photo: Horton Crossbows)

October 1 has come and gone, and if the archery season in your state wasn’t already open it probably is by now. We hear so many people talk about hunting deer, specifically bucks, that are still on their summer patterns. However, it is rare that people actually go into detail about exactly how you go about doing that.

Early season hunting tactics can be fairly similar to the way you hunt whitetails late in the year when snow is on the ground. Food is the critical resource. However, the type of food is totally different. Deer don’t necessarily need high protein, high energy yielding food to help get them through the winter months. At this point in time bucks, and deer in general, often are munching on the tastiest food source closest to their bedding location.

You might find deer out in large ag fields this early in the season. Likely a soybean field that still has some green leaves, or maybe an alfalfa or hay field that has just been cut for the last time this year. But you limit yourself to hunting only a few deer that feel safe enough to brave the wide open feeding opportunity in daylight.

Hunting oak woods when acorns are falling is a great tactic for the early season. (Photo: Horton Crossbows)

Instead, a great early season hunting tactic is an oak flat. Like most plant species, oaks tend to be congregated. Where you find find oak, you’ll likely find others, and that is simply because that is where the seed pods take root and germinate. By this same token, oak trees are not likely to be found as a solitary tree amongst other species. That is where the phrase “oak flat” comes from. It is an area that is, more or less, saturated with oak trees, and that is where you’ll likely find the deer movement, still with plenty of huntable daylight.

You may prefer to hunt from a treestand in these locations. It affords you the ability to be elevated, giving you a broader field of view in many cases. But at the same time, if there are a large number of oak saplings shrouding the forest floor with copious amounts of green leaves still clinging to branches, a treestand might limit your visibility.

That is why, especially early season, sometimes your best bet is to find that large, grandfather oak tree and hunker down at its base. With a good camouflage pattern, you’ll blend in perfectly fine with the trunk of that tree as your backdrop, and you’ll be able to see underneath the immature canopy of those younger oak saplings.

The beauty of this, is that you’re right there where the food is, amongst all those fallen acorns. There is no better way to utilize your crossbow as an ideal early season archery tool that this. On the ground, you certainly don’t want to have to move to draw a vertical bow, so a crossbow becomes the perfect way to archery hunt while limiting the movement required to execute a clean shot undetected.

Another key piece is to remember to try to set up with the wind at your back, so that it will encounter the oak tree trunk first. Wind, and air in general, moves like water in a river. Imagine what water does when it encounters a boulder as it flows downstream. Eddies are created, which is the backflow of the water on either side of the rock, meaning it turns and churns back upstream, against the flow of the rest of the water. That is precisely what your human scent will do in this situation as well.

Practicing good scent control practices before the hunt, situating yourself on the downwind side of a big oak tree and utilizing the effectiveness of a hunting crossbow while hunting an oak flat on ground level, is the perfect way to encounter dozens of deer in the early season. Shoot straight and good luck!

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