9 Crossbow Hunting Tips for Rutting Whitetails

Improve your chances to add more venison to your freezer with these nine crossbow hunting tips.

9 Crossbow Hunting Tips for Rutting Whitetails

The old warrior stopped to freshen a scrape, rubbing his orbital glands on the overhanging limb, then urinating on his tarsal glands and the torn-up ground. There was no guessing whether the whitetail rut was in full swing.

The buck fed toward me, turned broadside and took a couple steps. I had already ranged the deer at 46 yards and knew it was now or never. I leveled the crosshair of the scope affixed to my TenPoint Stealth NXT on the vitals and slowly squeezed the trigger. The buck traveled only 60 yards before falling over.

Hunting the rut can often be a magical time when big bucks let down their guard long enough for a hunter to score. Here are nine little things I do to prepare for just such an opportunity.


1. Have Patience and Confidence

The No. 1 thing you need for hunting the rut is patience. It may seem simple, but deer hunters often see a deer and convince themselves there will be only one opportunity for a shot. The buck mentioned above traveled back and forth through a block of timber but always pushed my comfortable range for shooting a crossbow. By waiting, I was finally presented with a broadside shot at a range where I could harvest the deer without a hiccup.


2. Practice on Lifelike Targets

Crossbow hunters often shoot bag targets such as Morrell’s Yellow Jacket because arrows are easy to remove. Real practice should also include shooting life-sized deer targets. I haven’t come across a buck yet that has a target on his side, and picking the vitals, avoiding bone, and knowing where your arrow will exit is critical. Set up the target in true hunting scenarios. Practice shooting from a blind or treestand, replicating field conditions. Inspect your arrow to determine the likely exit point. Shoot from various heights and angles to know where to hold on animals when in the field.


3. Control Human Odor

Before I use anything in the field, I run it through my Scent Crusher Ozone Gear Bag or Locker. The units are big enough to treat everything from blinds and crossbows to clothing. Don’t leave anything to chance and use the ozone on everything you will take with you.

When in the field, I also use Scent Killer Spray — Super Charged. Ozone works great, but traveling in your vehicle to a hunt site or stopping to eat your breakfast will add unwanted scent to your clothing and equipment. An egg sandwich tastes great, but the smell will transfer from your hand to your arrows, to your crossbow and so on — unless you break the chain.

A ground blind keeps a bowhunter hidden, and it also helps contain human odor.
A ground blind keeps a bowhunter hidden, and it also helps contain human odor.

4. Keep Hidden

Use a blind or treestand whenever possible to avoid being detected. Even if you’ve covered your human odor, you still need to avoid being seen or heard. If you haven’t checked out the Primos Double Bull Surround View Blind 360, you need to. Being able to see out of the ground blind without allowing animals to see in, means you can move and prepare for a shot without worrying about getting busted. Just make sure you are quiet, too.

Getting up off the ground can also help, and a treestand is another option that will reduce your chances of getting busted, but remember, you’re still in the open, so avoiding noise and movement is critical.


5. Scout First

There isn’t anything but blind luck that can outweigh scouting. Knowing the deer in your area, where they feed, sleep and travel can be your ace card when trying to harvest a mature buck. A little groundwork goes a long way in boosting your success. If you’re limited on time, try using a trail camera to record what you can’t see. I’ve used Bushnell, Primos and Stealth Cam cameras to take photos and videos with date/time stamps, which is valuable information in planning when and where to hunt. Some units also provide moon phase, allowing you to record shifts in daily movement and times of activity.


6. Use Scents and Drippers

Anyone who has hunted the whitetail rut has had a buck motor past them with its nose to the ground. A buck on a mission to find a hot doe pays little regard to anything else around him. Hanging scents in your shooting lanes can be the ticket to having that buck stop where you can get a clear broadside or quartering-away archery shot. A urine-based scent such as Golden Estrus will catch the attention of a buck’s nose, and it can also work to draw one in close.

Wildlife Research Center also makes the Magnum Scrape-Dripper that drips during daytime only, which increases the likelihood a buck will visit legal hunting hours. It will make a buck think competition is homing in on his territory.


7. Talk Like Whitetails

Deer calls are often overlooked for attracting or stopping a buck. A deer bleat, snort-wheeze or rattling antlers can be the ticket to getting your dream buck within crossbow range. I’ve had good luck with the Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls Dialect Deer Grunt. It allows you to fawn bleat, doe bawl, trail grunt, tending grunt or rutting grunt with one call. It minimizes the number of calls you need to pack, and it’s easy to quickly select the sound and tone.


8. Speed It Up

Modern crossbows are speed machines, and taking advantage of a new racehorse will flatten arrow trajectory, reduce the time a deer has to react (i.e. jump the arrow), and deliver incredible kinetic energy for fast, clean kills. Crossbows such as the TenPoint Nitro XRT and Ravin R26 are mindboggling fast, and once you shoot one you will understand why they are an advantage to even the seasoned hunter.

9. Be Spot On

Black crosshairs can often be hard to find against an animal or in low-light conditions. Consider upgrading your optics to a red dot scope that will allow you to pick a spot on the animal for an exact hold. Truglo makes a variety of crossbow optics that offer illuminated reticles and calibrations for speed settings for aligning crosshairs at various shooting ranges.

Before the rut gets rolling, take the time to make your list of little things that can add up to more venison in the freezer. Go through the scenarios of a hunt and put together a winning formula to increase your odds of taking a buck this deer season.


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