Crossbow Tip: How to Wait on a Whitetail

The biggest advantage of a crossbow over a compound or recurve is after a crossbow is cocked, it’s ready to fire. That said, it still pays to hold a crossbow properly while waiting on a whitetail so you aren’t caught off guard.

Crossbow Tip: How to Wait on a Whitetail

Some bowhunters who use compounds believe it’s cheating to use a crossbow. Or if “cheating” is too strong a word, some think that crossbows shouldn’t be allowed during archery-only seasons because you don’t have to hold weight at full draw as with a compound. Well, I won’t dive deep into that debate in this article, but as someone who started with a recurve and now bowhunts with recurves, compounds and crossbows, the same argument could be made about compounds by traditional bowhunters. Personally, I adhere to the “watch my own bobber” philosophy and wish we could simply all get along.

In my experience, a crossbow has an advantage over a compound or recurve when ambushing big game from the ground because I can support it with a shooting rest; my favorite is an adjustable tripod. The key to being ready with a crossbow is resting the buttstock on your knee while positioning one of the bow’s cables against the tripod yoke in such a way that the crossbow balances at about a 45-degree angle. Sure, you could hold the crossbow horizontally with aid of the tripod, with the buttstock pressed to your shoulder, but this is tiring over time. In addition, if it’s below freezing, your hands will soon be cold if you’re holding the bow.

Look Mom, no hands! To ensure you’re ready when a whitetail suddenly appears, rest a crossbow’s buttstock on your knee and its cables on a tripod’s yoke.
Look Mom, no hands! To ensure you’re ready when a whitetail suddenly appears, rest a crossbow’s buttstock on your knee and its cables on a tripod’s yoke.

By balancing my crossbow on my knee and the tripod yoke, I can place my hands in the pockets of my parka or a hand muff. When I spot a whitetail, I slide my hands free and then slowly raise the crossbow into a horizontal position. I slide off the safety when an animal is far enough away to not see my movement or hear the “click.”

The only time I vary from this method of holding the crossbow is when I’m hunting in a pop-up ground blind or a natural ground blind and it works out for me to rest the bow’s stirrup on the blind’s window opening or a log, and the midsection of the bow (near the trigger guard) on the tripod yoke. Doing this holds the crossbow in an almost perfect, ready-to-fire horizontal position, and I don’t have to worry about the crossbow balancing on my knee.

It’s cumbersome to hold a crossbow in your lap, and setting it on the ground beside you means you’ll have to move too much when a deer suddenly appears. Practice balancing it on your knee and a tripod yoke the next time you’re in the whitetail woods.

A sturdy tripod is the ideal way to rest a crossbow when hunting from the ground.
A sturdy tripod is the ideal way to rest a crossbow when hunting from the ground.
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