Like many fathers, Mick Fry was excited about sharing the deer woods with his children. Mick’s son Garett, 10, had hunted before and had taken several deer, but his daughter, Sydney, 8, had never harvested a deer. He wanted to make the 2011 Ohio deer season as positive and productive as possible for his kids with the hopes of getting Sydney a deer while instilling in both of them a lifelong passion for deer hunting.
Even though Mick typically hunts with a compound bow, after much thought, he decided to purchase a Barnett Ghost 400 crossbow for use with his children that season.
“I bought the crossbow because it was fast, flat-shooting and well balanced,” Mick says. “Although Garett had already taken several deer, trying to range the deer while telling him where to aim has been tough. The deer usually just don’t cooperate. If a deer is within 35 yards, the kids can hold dead on it with a crossbow and eliminate all of my and their guess work. They can just aim and shoot.”
Mick didn’t realize just how valuable that ability would be last season, but he soon learned.
Garett had been begging his father to take him deer hunting, but between football practice and poor weather, Mick was having difficulty finding a good time to take his son. On Oct. 22, it rained most of the day. Just after 4 p.m., the rain stopped and the two decided to give it a try.
The Son’s Crossbow Buck
“We had to hurry,” Mick says. “I knew by the time we got up in the stand, we would only have the last hour or so to hunt. We are lucky to have two small properties to hunt. One place is close to our home and the other is in the next county. Without much time, we decided to hunt my in-laws’ property, which consists of approximately 60 acres within minutes of our house in Loundonville. I had already set up a stand with a shooting rail for the kids, and I added a hang-on stand to the side for me to use, so we can sit together.”
Mick and his son had just gotten settled in their stands, when movement caught Mick’s eye. A nice-sized 8-point buck was walking up from behind them.
“I told Garett to turn slowly because a buck was coming,” Mick says. “I could tell it was a good deer, but the leaves on the trees kept me from getting a good look at it. The buck caught us moving. I whispered for Garett to freeze, but the buck spooked. As it turned to run, I could see his antlers were wide with good mass. My heart started to sink because I thought we’d missed our chance.”
Luckily, the buck ran out to just more than 30 yards and stopped providing Garett with a quartering-away shot, which he took.
“After that great shot, we were both a mess,” Mick says. “I told Garett that he’d just shot a big deer, and he looked back at me and said, ‘I know dad!’”
Mick and his son remained in the stand for a bit to give themselves time to calm down and to wait for the deer to drop, but the deer didn’t get far. They found him only 100 yards from where Garett had shot him. The large-bodied, mature, 8-point-buck boasted a 22-inch inside spread that would make anyone proud.
The Daughter’s Crossbow Buck
Just one week later, on Oct. 30, Mick took his daughter, Sydney, hunting in an effort to get her a shot at her first deer. Mick decided to hunt his grandparents’ property, which consists of 56 acres of mostly fencerows with 20 acres of woods. Mick and Sydney set up in a buddy stand in the middle of the property near an opening in the fence rails overlooking a food plot.
“I was hoping the setup would provide Sydney with a standing-still feeding shot,” Mick says. “I’d made several previous trips to that location without seeing a thing, so I decided to take my rattling antlers. The evening was calm and cool. I told Sydney it was a good evening to rattle. I just wanted for her to at least see some deer to keep her spirits up. Sydney wanted me to rattle all evening, but I waited until we had approximately one hour of light left.”
Mick rattled and managed to attract a young buck right to their stand. The anxious dad tried to get Sydney to move slowly around so she could line up a shot on the buck, but just like during his hunt with Garett, they spooked the deer. But, once again, they were lucky and the buck stopped broadside at just more than 30 yards to look back.
Mick whispered to Sydney, “Can you get on him?”
Sydney replied, “I’ve got him.”
Mick then said, “Well, shoot!”
“I heard the crossbow go off and watched as the bolt disappeared through the side of the buck,” Mick says. “Sydney made a great shot! The buck ran a short distance and fell over.”
Mick and Sydney shared a big hug and celebrated in the stand. They remained in the stand for a few minutes giving themselves time to calm down and for the deer to fall.
“My daughter had her first deer -- a nice, young 5-pointer,” Mick says. “And again, we didn’t have time to think or range the deer. Sydney just had to point and shoot.”
The Dad’s Crossbow Buck
Finally it was Mick’s turn to hunt. He’s hunted with a compound bow for more than 25 years and had never taken a deer with a crossbow. But, after shooting the Ghost 400 with the kids and seeing how much speed and energy the crossbow has, he decided to use it.
Mick had trail camera photos of several nice bucks on his grandparents’ property, including a nice 8-pointer with a kicker on his right G2 that stood out among the others.
“On Nov. 5, I climbed into a hang-on stand approximately 100 yards from where Sydney had shot her buck,” he says. “I thought I heard a buck raking his antlers on some saplings just out of sight. I started grunting, but didn’t see anything. Approximately 15 minutes later, I saw a nice 8-pointer crossing the field away from the thicket.”
Mick grunted, but the buck ignored him. He waited until the buck stepped behind some trees in the middle of the field to rattle. Mick was able to rattle the 8-pointer across the field right to him. The buck approached through some thick brush behind the anxious hunter, who had to slide the crossbow between two sections of the tree and lean out to shoot down at the buck. Mick made a successful 8-yard shot at a steep downward angle.
“The buck fell within sight of my stand,” he says. “Just like my kids, I too had my crossbow Ohio buck down. The beautiful 8-pointer with a 19-inch inside spread was the same deer in his trail camera pictures. I wouldn’t have been able to take that particular deer with my compound bow because of the direction and angle. I would have had to let him walk, and I’m sure he would have winded me.”
Mick says thanks to his crossbow, last year was one of the best years he’s ever had hunting. Not only did all three family members kill a buck with the same crossbow, they accomplished that feat using the same bolt. Mick simply changed the broadhead after each hunt.
“My son got his biggest buck ever, my daughter got her first deer and I took a beautiful buck as well,” Mick says. “Since getting biggest buck in the family last year, my son has been running his mouth nonstop, but I’m extremely proud of him, so I don’t mind the trash talk. Hopefully this season will prove just as good.”
Tips for Selecting a Crossbow
Want to give crossbow hunting a try yourself this year? If so, know that selecting the right one can be challenging. With so many options available, hunters are often left confused and unsure about which crossbow to choose. Consider these suggestions offered by crossbow manufacturers when it comes to picking the best crossbow for you.
1. Manufacturer Quality
BJ Wolf, senior account executive for Synergy Outdoors/brand manager for Barnett Crossbows, says you should first consider the quality and reputation of the manufacturer.
"You want to select a brand that stands behind its products, service and one that provides leading technology and expertise," Wolf says.
Of course, you’ll also want to consider performance in regards to speed, accuracy and kinetic energy.
"While most crossbows are fast, some are much faster than others shooting the same weight arrow and broadhead," Wolf says. "So for the hunter, a faster, more powerful bow delivers flatter trajectories, more accuracy and penetration to ensure clean, efficient kills. Weight and handling are key considerations as well. The bow needs to be balanced and easy to point in hand. This allows for quick target acquisition and steadier shots."
3. Best Value
“Consider what accessories you will need to outfit the crossbow to make it ready to hunt," Wolf says. "Some manufacturers offer crossbows as complete packages consisting of scopes or red dot sights, quivers and arrows. Manufacturers select high-quality components to match the performance of the crossbows so the shooter has the best experience possible.”
4. Personal Fit
Rob Dykeman, sales and marketing manager for Excalibur Crossbow, says to not get too carried away by speed.
“Yes, faster crossbows will shoot flatter and hit harder, but at normal crossbow ranges of 20 to 30 yards, you’ll seldom see enough improvement in performance to justify the additional effort it takes to cock them,” Dykeman says. “Instead, select a crossbow that suits your physical size and strength and is easy to cock without resorting to the slow and expensive crank type cocking aids that the ultra-high power units require.”
If given the chance, Dykeman recommends trying out the crossbow at a range before you purchase it.
“Most serious dealers have ranges where you can handle and shoot crossbows while making your decision,” Dykeman says. “Nothing will convince you what is the best crossbow for you like a few shots. Try cocking them first, make sure you can comfortably draw the string back with a rope-cocking device or it’s not the crossbow for you.”
Remember when it comes to reliability on the hunt, often, the more complicated a piece of gear is, the more likely it is to fail.
“Don’t be wooed by bells and whistles,” Dykeman says. “Instead, look for a crossbow with a proven track record for reliability because nothing can ruin a deer season like a dysfunctional crossbow.”
6. Small and Lightweight
Sean Ellis, marketing manager and graphic designer for Horton Archery, says as with all hunting gear, a crossbow that is small in size and light in weight is essential because added weight adds to the difficulty of your hunt and excessive size might prevent you from making difficult shots in tight quarters.
“Whether you prefer to stake out a wary buck from a treestand perch or spot-and-stalk your way to success, you know the importance of a sleek, low-profile design,” Ellis says. “Big bulky bows can turn an otherwise enjoyable hunt into an arduous undertaking.”
Of course, a silent-shooting bow is a must.
“It's no easy undertaking to slip an arrow into a big buck's boiler room,” Ellis says. “With swirling winds, ever-changing weather conditions, a whitetail's superior hearing and sense of smell, and scores of other concerns, the odds are no doubt stacked against you. So why add a noisy bow to the list of things that can sabotage your hunt? ”
When it comes to selecting a crossbow, all the manufacturers agree, a number of qualities, such as ease of use, silence, performance and value should be high on your priority lists of considerations. When it comes down to it, personal preference will play a huge role. With so many quality crossbows to choose from, you should have no problem selecting one that is perfect for you.