Wisconsin Crossbow Hunt 2017 – Success In The Woods!

Wisconsin Crossbow Hunt 2017
Wisconsin Crossbow Hunt 2017 – A picture of my pop up blind in the woods, October 28th 2017.

I am home early from my week of vacation I had planned on taking to crossbow hunt October 27th through November 5th.  My Wisconsin crossbow hunt for 2017 was a successful one!  I decided to save a couple days off by coming home early and going to back to work.  I’ll use those days off for the Wisconsin Black Powder Deer Season.

I’ll talk more about the black powder only season later in a future post.  Right now I am going to lay out the adventures of my successful crossbow hunt.

It went remarkably well, even though it didn’t seem to start out well.  I guess looking back I can’t complain… I’ll never forget this season.

*** DISCLAIMER:  Be advised I am not a trophy hunter by any means.  I usually do not take pictures of animals I harvest, but I did in this case for the purpose of sharing content on this website.  So yes, further down there is a picture of the dead dear and there is some blood.

Wisconsin Crossbow Hunt 2017 – It Didn’t Start Out Well

Friday, October 27th I left work about thirty minutes early and went home to toss my hunting gear into my SUV.  I was on the road and heading north towards my cabin by 4:45pm.

As I was driving It was snowing, which I loved.  I knew the deer would be moving due to the cold snap and the snow.

It is not unusual to have snow at the end of October, though it usually it not the case.  The snow was sticking a little, and the further north I went the more it was accumulating.

My plan was to arrive at my cabin and head straight out into the area of woods I planned to hunt, which was about a quarter of a mile away, and setup my ground blind.  I wanted to have my blind in place, along with my portable chair, so that in the pre-dawn morning on Saturday I wouldn’t  have to mess with setting up.

Looking through my windshield at by cabin's closed gate, with a downed oak tree on the other side.
Looking through my windshield at by cabin’s closed gate, with a downed oak tree on the other side.

Luck was not with me however.  Despite making good time and arriving at my cabin just as the sun went down, I pulled up to the cabin gate and saw that just on the other side a darn tree had falling down across the road.

Talk about a kick in the stones.  In order to open the cabin gate and drive up to the cabin I was going to need to remove that downed tree.  It was windy and the snow was coming down sideways, which is hard to see in my attached picture.  But I had to do what I had to do.

So I left my car parked and walked into the cabin, hoping that there was a saw there to use.  Normally me and my family members don’t leave any tools behind, except for some basic things.  Luckily I found an hand saw, but it had dull teeth…  It would have to do, as the only other saw I had with me my was hunting saw, a small hand held device used for pruning limbs.

It took me about forty minutes to cut up the downed tree, at least enough of it to remove the part that was blocking the cabin road.  It would have gone a lot faster if the saw I was using was new and sharp.  Oh well.

A Quiet Night Of Eager Anticipation

After I got the downed oak tree cleared up I drove up to the cabin and unloaded my gear.  At that point the wind was blowing pretty good but the snow had tapered off.  I had decided to not try and sneak out into the woods that night and setup my blind.  It was plenty dark, the wind was nasty, and I didn’t want to setup my blind and try and secure from it the wind in the dark.  One mistake and it would blow away in the middle of the night.

So instead I got myself settled in at the cabin.  I turned on the gas furnace to help start to get the place warmed up, and got a fire going in the wood stove.  The wood stove is the primary means of heating the place.  The gas furnace is there as a backup only, and for initial heating assistance upon arrival.

I also switched the cabin’s solar battery banks on, so I could run some lights and the water.

After getting the place situated, I settled into one of the recliners near the fireplace and ate some soup I heated up while thinking about tomorrow’s hunt.

Since I didn’t get out in the woods to setup my blind, I decided to get up half an hour earlier to make sure I had time to do so well before first light.

I had the entire cabin to myself.  It was rather nice, actually.  A few weeks earlier I had invited a few in-laws to come over if they were so inclined.  Those I invited live four to five hours away and like to hunt.  I wasn’t sure if any would show up, as I could well imagine they preferred to hunt woods they were familiar with during a peek time of the deer bow season.

I went to bed early that night, going through everything I had to do in the morning before heading out into the woods to hunt.

Morning Of The Hunt!

I slept like crap!  Usually when at the cabin I sleep great.  Not this time.  I woke up feeling a little more tired than I wanted.  Not sure if I was feeling excited to deer hunt or what… all I know is that I didn’t feel rested.

I got up with a grumble and headed to the kitchen and cooked up some scrambled eggs and oatmeal.  After breakfast I quickly made some sandwiches for my hunting pack.  After I cleaned up my mess in the kitchen, I laid out all my hunting clothes and sprayed them down with scent killer before hanging them on the deck to dry.

I showered up using scent free/scent killer soaps.  Not sure how well they work, but I used them anyway.  The shower helped wake me up.

I dressed and headed out the door about one hour before sunup.

Into The Woods

It was just a short five minute drive to where I park my vehicle.  Once parked I set about to spray myself again with scent killer spray (you can read more about my scent preparations here).

Since I didn’t setup my blind then night before, I needed to do it now.  I had way to much gear to carry into the woods all at once, so I was prepared to make a couple trips as needed from where I had parked to where I was planning to hunt.

My hunting spot was only a couple hundred yards away in the woods.  So I grabbed my blind, my portable hunting chair, and my doe decoy along with a bottle of scent killer, and headed towards my hunting spot.  It was still dark, but I used a headlamp with a red light filter to help me see well enough moving through the woods.

Setting up my blind in the dark using a head lamp for light was not that hard, but I felt like I was making way too much noise.  As annoyed as I was becoming from that, setting up my deer decoy from inside my blind was really frustrating me.  I had never used a decoy before, and I was coming to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to ever again after this season (hind site will have me using a decoy more often in the future!).

My deer decoy frustrations:

  • Not that easy to carry into the woods all disassembled with the ‘parts’ tucked away inside the body cavity.
  • It was not at all quiet to assemble, even though I had practiced several times setting it up and taking it down.
  • I was pretty sure that I was scaring every deer away for a mile based on the level of noise I was making.

Eventually I got everything setup; my pop up blind was up and staked down, my chair was inside the blind, and the decoy was setup and out of site in my blind.  At that point I sprayed down the outside of my blind and a little on the inside, and then walked back to my SUV.

Getting Ready To Hunt

Back at my SUV I sprayed myself down a third time with scent killer.  I then got my crossbow, a Barnett Vicious, cocked and loaded and leaned it against a nearby tree.  Then I got out some regular doe pee scent and created a drag cloth that I would pull behind me on a string as I walked back to my stand.

With crossbow in hand, hunting poncho on, backpack on, and my drag cloth ready, I began to walk back to my blind.

Setting my crossbow down inside my blind along with my pack, I grabbed the doe decoy and placed it out in the woods about twenty-five yards away from my blind.  I was mindful of the wind as well as the direction the decoy’s head was looking.  There are specefic ways to setup a decoy to draw attention away from you, and also to setup potential shots at deer (more on this in a future post).

I sprayed the decoy down with scent killer, a lot of it, and then placed some doe estrus pee down on the ground below it.  After that was done I then went and placed a few scent hangers upwind around the area, also using a little doe estrus pee.  I tired to use that stuff in small amounts, feeling it is better to use less than too much, thinking too much woulds care deer.

Using doe estrus scent at the wrong time of the rut can freak out the deer and keep them away.  But using it at the right time… it can be like magic.

It was going to be magic for me…  Keep reading.

Time To Wait and Hunt!

Despite the annoyed feeling I had from what felt like a total cluster bomb getting setup and ready to hunt, I was feeling pretty good.  I was sitting on my blind and it was still dark out.

The wind was doing exactly what I wanted it to do; blowing softly out of the northwest.  I had my blind positioned so I could see pretty much everything north, west, and south.  My deer decoy was positioned directly to my west.

View from my blind looking west. You can barely see my deer decoy twenty five yards away in the center of the picture.
View from my blind looking west. You can barely see my deer decoy twenty five yards away in the center of the picture.

My past experience using a popup ground blind told me that deer most certainly take notice to things ‘appearing’ in the woods that weren’t there before.  Usually it would take a couple days for deer in the area to get used to my blind being there.  Because I hunt public land, I never felt comfortable setting up my popup blind days or weeks in advance of my hunts for the deer to get accustomed to it.

I was hoping that using the deer decoy would help pull attention away from my blind.  And it did.

To make my hunting area work, I needed to make sure the deer were at ease and not so worried about my blind suddenly appearing in their transition area.  I used a lot of scent killer on myself and my blind, as well as the decoy.  Any human scent would make deer wary.

All my hunting preparations had been done; my pres-season scouting, my patterning the deer from where they bed and where they eat, my blind area selection… and now here I was in the woods sitting in my blind.  My scent trail was covered.  The decoy was in place and positioned to give me a good shot.  I had some deer scent out.  There was a little dusting of snow which would make it easier to see the deer moving.

Time to wait and see what would happen.

The Woods Came Alive

One of the very best things about hunting is being outside in nature.  I love being in the woods sitting quietly for about thirty minutes in the dark before sunrise – it lets the forest settle itself from my walking in, setting up, and disturbing the place.  Then I sit and wait, and watch.  I watch as the eastern sky starts to faintly lighten up… and when that happens the woods comes alive.

Sunrise in the woods. The sun coming up over a distant ridge line.
Sunrise in the woods. The sun coming up over a distant ridge line.

It starts with a few birds tweeting.  Then you hear or see a tree limb sway as a bird lands on it.  A squirrel may suddenly appear darting down a tree trunk.  A crow may call in the distance.  The woods slowly comes alive around me.  Experiencing that is a beautiful thing.

Deer Moving Through

At 8:10am I saw my first deer.  I spotted it to the southwest and it was moving northwest into the wind.  It was about forty yards away and moving slowly, taking a few steps and stopping to look around.  It looked my way a couple times, but didn’t seem to be worried.  You can tell if a deer is alert or nervous by its body language.  This one seemed calm and at east.

The area I setup in had limitations on the range at which I could shoot.  While I am accurate enough with my Barnett Vicious Crossbow out to forty and fifty yards, I set personal limits on myself of only taking shots if the deer is within thirty yards.  And the woods I was hunting in from where I set up my blind only had clear shots out to thirty yards.

Yep, a selfie of me sitting in my blind... hunting... waiting.
Yep, a selfie of me sitting in my blind… hunting… waiting.

So I watched as the deer, what appeared to be a big doe, move through the edge of my hunting area.  It was exciting, and I was feeling pumped at seeing a deer so early.  I think it took some notice of me, and my decoy, but paid little attention to either and calmly passed through the area.

At 8:30am three deer came into view in the distance at seventy five yards from the northwest.  The little bit of snow helped me spot their movement in the woods early.  They were coming straight towards my blind and traveling with the wind.  It didn’t take long for them to spot the decoy and they moved towards it a little more leisurely as they sniffed the air.  Once they were closer I could see all three were fawns.

I watched their body movements and they seemed calm.  They mingled around my decoy for a while and paid me little to no attention.  Several feet from the decoy was where I had placed an apple mineral lick (you can read about that here) earlier in the year, and two of the fawns were licking on it.

I suspected their mother chased them away recently as she was getting ready to go into estrus and find a buck to mate with.  Seeing the fawns alone without their mother was a good sign, it told me the seeking phase was in full swing, that deer were getting ready to mate, and maybe already mating.  Deer movement should be at an all time high!

The three fawns mingled around my decoy for about ten minutes before moving on towards the south.  It was a lot of fun watching them.

A Four Point Buck, Looking For Love

Glad I bought this deer call, I think it worked.
Glad I bought this deer call, I think it worked.

At 9:00am I decided to use my doe bleat can.  It is a deer call made by PRIMOS that is meant to sound like a doe in estrus.  I bought it a few days before my hunt after hearing some guys at work say great things about it.  You can read more about this deer call and buy it by clicking here.

I think it worked, or what followed was just a coincidence.

At 9:15am I could just barely see a deer standing in the distance towards the southwest.  I think it was about seventy yards away, and just barely discernible through the woods.  It had stopped along the trail it was following and was looking in my direction.

It knew I was there, clearly seeing my blind and knowing it didn’t belong.

I watched it slowly approach coming mostly towards me.  As it got within sixty yards I could see it was a buck, perhaps four or six points.  Its rack was atypical, which was the norm for the large public woods I was hunting in.

As he continued to get closer I could see that he was constantly looking right at me.  He was on alert, but seemed to be more curious than anything.  I watched as he would approach several steps and then stop, lifting and lowering his head as he sniffed the air, all the while looking right at me trying to decide what my blind was doing there.

I didn’t dare move.  If he saw movement I was sure he would take off running.

He continued to come towards me, but was starting to angle off more to pass just to the south and south east side of my blind.  I just kept watching him.  He looked healthy and pretty big.  I could also now see that he was a four pointer.

Then, as he got to the area south and slightly east of my deer decoy and where I put the estrus scent, the breeze picked up and he must have caught scent of the estrus.

Literally his neck and head snapped to his left, the direction of where I put the estrus and decoy.  And just that quick he seemed to loose all interest in me and my blind.

In just a matter of seconds he began circling back the way he came, but moving more towards the west and eventually north.  His focus was on the deer decoy the entire time he was moving back around.  He made a thirty yard semi-circle around my decoy and came back towards it from directly behind.

Yeah, he was thinking about love, and checking that decoy’s hind quarters.

I wish I would have recorded the entire thing.  He went from being keenly focused on my blind, to a slobbering snorting idiot looking for some action.  It was like somebody flipped a switch.

Flambeau Masters Series Boss Babe Decoy, glad I bought it.
Flambeau Masters Series Boss Babe Decoy, glad I bought it.

My Deer Decoy Is Not That Kind Of Girl!

The decoy I was using I purchased earlier in the spring of 2017.  The Flambeau Masters Series Boss Babe Decoy!  Fairly sturdy, cost was around $100, and I had read good things about using decoys to pull attention away from ground hunters.

Thinking of getting a decoy?  Check mine out here.

Well, it seemed to have worked.  Between the doe estrus bleat call, the estrus pee scent, and the Boss Babe Decoy, that four pointer forgot all about the strange dome shaped blind I was sitting in.

As he approached my decoy from behind he snorted several time and stomped his front hooves.  No doubt he was trying to get the attention of my decoy.  He was about twenty five yards away, and I swear it looked like he was slobbering.

As he approached my decoy I could tell he was going to make his move, and I was afraid for my decoy.  I didn’t want to see her broken under the weight of a horny buck.  That, and I was fairly certain my decoy was not that kind of girl!  I didn’t want to see her defiled and sullied before my eyes!

Filling My 2017 Crossbow Buck Tag

The buck didn’t seem to care I was there.  I moved my crossbow to my shoulder and took careful aim over the vitals, took a slow deep breath to settle my nerves… held it… and fired.

The buck was about four feet behind my decoy, and I think he was about to try and mount it.  My crossbow arrow traveled true and I saw it fly into the deer.  Oddly enough the buck didn’t seem to react to being hit, all he did was bolt off to the south as fast as he could run.  H didn’t flinch, jump, or buck… he just took of running.

I sat quietly in my blind and played through the events in my minds eye of shooting, the arrow impact, and the direction the buck ran.  Several times I looped the entire scene through my mind as I sat and settled my nerves.

I was feeling excitement, sorrow, concern… a swirl of emotions.  I checked my watch it was 9:30am.

I waited twenty minutes before leaving my blind and going to where I shot the buck.  I didn’t see any blood.  I could see in the faint dusting of snow the tracks the buck made as he ran away, and followed them for twenty yards… again not seeing a blood trail.

I was beginning to worry because I knew I hit him… I saw the arrow fly into him.  The worse feeling in the world to a hunter is wounding an animal.

But then I spotted a faint drop of blood in the snow a few feet to the right side of where the deer had ran.  I continued to follow his tracks and after a few more feet there was more blood to both the left and right sides a few feet away.

Judging by the blood I knew he was hit in the lungs.  Blood was being pushed out his arrow wound when he breathed out.  The speckles were on both sides of his tracks, which was an indicator that the arrow passed all the way through.

I looked ahead along his tracks and could see more blood much easier with no effort.  There was no doubt in my mind that he was ahead already passed away.  I went back to the area were I shot him and searched to the opposite side of where he was standing when I shot.  After a few minutes I fount my arrow.  It had good blood on it.

I went back to tracking the deer and following the blood trail.  The light dusting of snow made it easy.  I found him about seventy yards away laying on his side, expired.

My broadhead passed clean through, clipped the top of the heart and passed through both lungs.
My broadhead passed clean through, clipped the top of the heart and passed through both lungs.

Time To Do The Real Work

First thing first, I said a silent prayer for the deer and thanked it for its sacrifice.  It was going to supply my wife and I with clean wild game meat.  I was feeling a little sorrow as I always do when I harvest an animal, but I was also grateful knowing it would provide sustenance.

All of the hunting preparations that go into planning a hunt it not work.  It’s fun.  Even the waiting in a stand for deer to come by, or the stalking you sometimes do is not work.  The work comes after you kill the animal.

Next I prepared my Wisconsin deer hunting tag and called in my registration of the harvest right away.  Then I began the work of field dressing the deer.  It took about eight minutes to remove all thee entrails, and another couple minutes to clean things up inside the cavity.

When field dressing any animal I always pay close attention to its organs to make sure they look healthy and don’t appear abnormal.  This deer didn’t appear to have anything going on inside, or out, that made me think it was sick.  The last thing I did was cut out the back-straps and place them in two large ziplock bags.  I was also going to take the liver, but it slipped my mind and I forgot about it.

Then the hard part… tying my drag rope onto the deer and physically dragging him out of the woods.

Wrapping Up My Wisconsin 2017 Bow Hunt Season

I was not expecting to harvest a deer that soon on the first day I was in the woods actually crossbow hunting.  I had taken an entire week off from work after all, and was expecting it would take at least a few days for the woods to settle back to normal once my blind was setup.

Going into the hunt I was open to harvesting a buck or a doe, and had tags to fill either or both.  I could have kept hunting and filled a doe tag, but there is still the regular Wisconsin gun season and the black powder only season ahead.  I want to hunt them both, and have room for another deer or two in my freezer if I am lucky enough to find success in those future hunts.

I ended up spending the next coupled days hanging around the cabin relaxing.  I went for a few walks in the woods, read some Jules Verne, and slept a lot.  I also cooked up and ate the back-straps during this time.

By Tuesday I was back home.  I decided to go back to work and save my remaining days I was planning to have off that week for a later time.

While my crossbow hunting has come to an end for the year, I am looking forward to deer camp during the regular Wisconsin guns season with my family.



TD is the owner and publisher of TD All Outdoors. He has been enjoying the outdoors since since he was a child. Over the years he has spent as much time as he can solo wilderness canoe tripping, overlanding, hiking, fishing, bushcrafting, hunting, hammock camping, and more. Aside from this blog, he also own his own coffee brand, www.folklore-coffee.com.

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