Sometimes the biggest bucks live on the fringes of the biggest cities. If you’re hunting an urban area the crossbow is an ideal weapon, and here’s why.
Anti-hunters love to vilify sportsmen and one of their go-to invectives is that hunting has eradicated wolves, grizzly bears, elk, bison and a host of other game animals from their native habitat. Here’s a dose of reality, though—the primary reason that those large mammals don’t survive in many areas, particularly in the eastern U.S., is urban sprawl. That’s right. Hunters don’t keep bison and grizzlies at bay. Starbucks, Target, movie theaters and Interstate 75 do.
But there is one large game animal that manages to live right beside us even in these concrete jungles, and that’s the whitetail deer. Odocoileus virginianus, as it’s known to science, inhabits the same green spaces where we play Frisbee. It dines on the flowers we plant at our cemeteries, blithely runs in front of our vehicles and beds in our flowerbeds.
I grew up in Ohio, large urban centers, large rural areas, and large populations of deer. And it’s no secret that some of the biggest Ohio bucks are harvested right on the edge of Dayton, Akron, Columbus and Cincinnati. Getting permission to hunt in some of these urban areas is the eastern equivalent of drawing a bighorn tag in the West. You’re going to find deer, and they’re going to be big.
Urban deer hunting often precludes hunters from using firearms, so bows are the weapon of choice. In some areas bowhunters have a great opportunity to hang their stands in hardwoods that lie along the fringe of well-traveled whitetail corridors, but not all cities have an abundance of trees.
In many areas you’re hunting deer behind rhododendron bushes and you are using whatever cover is available. Sometimes drawing a bow is very difficult. Sometimes it’s impossible. For that reason the crossbow is the ultimate urban deer hunting tool.
Aside from having lots of deer and lots of people, the Buckeye State has a long-standing love affair with crossbows. I grew up hunting with one, and it struck me odd when I learned at about age twelve that some states didn’t view crossbows as legitimate hunting weapons (although crossbow laws have, thankfully, loosened).
One of the reasons I hunted with a crossbow—and still do—is the fact that I like to be mobile. I like to move, to stalk, to be able to make adjustments as needed. If the wind changes I can get down on the ground and change position. If I find a great game trail I can find a tree on the downwind side, build a small blind and be ready to hunt.
That level of freedom is great in the big woods, but it’s essential in an urban hunt. And, yes, you can hunt from the ground with a vertical bow but it’s much simpler and more convenient with a crossbow.
I don’t think hunting with a crossbow is easier than hunting with traditional archery equipment, I think it offers an even greater challenge because it prompts the hunter to try moving into position for a shot rather than hanging out in a stand.
Plus, I’ve found that urban landowners are far less excited about the proposition of climbing up a tree and marring the bark than country folks with hundreds of acres of woods (I know, to many that may seem silly, but to people with manicured lawns and just a few trees the sight of ratchet marks just aren’t going to fly). A surprising number of urban landowners are against treestands. Crossbows, then, offer more flexibility.
But one of the great attributes of crossbows is the fact that they aren’t as limiting as bows. For example, I hunt in one suburban area where the property owners’ kids—a boy and girl of about 10 or 11 years old—are fascinated by all things outdoors. I doubt they see a lot of people wearing camo that aren’t in the military and they certainly had never shot a bow. I pulled a target out of the truck and let them shoot a few arrows from my crossbow.
Guess what? They were hooked. It helped foster relations with the landowner and allowed those kids to have a taste of what hunting feels like. Now the oldest wants to try hunting for himself. I doubt that would have ever happened if we hadn’t spent an October afternoon shooting that crossbow.
As more wilderness areas become suburban landscapes, hunters will have to turn to bows. The crossbow specifically, is a logical choice for urban hunters, not only because of its flexibility but also because of the advances in technology. The modern crossbow is a sophisticated weapon that’s perfect for hunting sophisticated urban whitetails.