Greg Koelker


El and I have been seeing lots of antlerless deer while driving out and/or home at dusk. We have not seen any antlers, though. I heard a rumor of a couple bucks being taken during the Holiday Hunt — the bucks had dropped their antlers already. As far at the 2018 deer hunt goes, the numbers are in. The Wisconsin DNR reports that deer license sales were down overall. That said, gun, muzzle loader, vertical bow and crossbow kill numbers are up in 2018; it would appear that fewer hunters took more deer. While I got out there some, I “ate” four antlerless tags and two buck tags; regardless, I enjoyed just being part of the hunt and spending time in the woods — no matter the hunt. With all that venison filling freezers, no one should be complaining, but I have seen letters to the editor in The Outdoor News with lots of complaints. Some were about not seeing any deer, some were about neighbors baiting deer, some chewed on the CDAC estimates and suggestion, but the ones I take issue with are the ones about crossbow seasons and the number of bucks being taken by crossbows. Most suggest the crossbow hunters have it too good, getting first crack at rutting trophy bucks. I respond bull; so do vertical bow hunters.

I started bow hunting with a recurve Montgomery Wards bow with wooden arrows back in the mid 1970s. I started hunting with a crossbow three years ago in 2016. The first night I took out my new and relatively inexpensive SA crossbow, I took a stand along a cornfield on our ridge. My testimony is that the crossbow isn’t so easy to use. I missed out on a shot at a turkey and coyote that evening. Picture the crossbow. There is a lot moving up front. Each time I started to try to gracefully lift my crossbow for a shot, my shoulders moved, my head moved to look through the sight, I clicked the safety off (maybe triggering the flight of these two critters), and I never even got off a shot. Later, an adult doe came around the corn and presented me with a perfect broadside. I had observed it coming through the corn, so I was up and ready. When I took the shot, the doe bucked and dashed off into the woods behind me. Even if I could have taken another shot, I couldn’t without pulling out my pulley cocking aid and standing up to do it. I did find a drop of blood, so I headed home. Later, Ellen, along with neighbors Doug and Darien Strasser went back to try to track the deer. We gave up shortly into the woods. The next morning my nephew Chet pointed out my blue luminoc glowing just beyond where I found the drop of blood. Somehow we missed that. He also found some tufts of white hair. He and I and Ellen looked all morning for any other sign and then gave up on what appeared to be a very low hit deer.

I wasn’t done yet. I shot an 8-point buck in 2015 and another 8-pointer in 2016 with arrow and bolt respectively — from the same tree stand on almost the same date, a year apart. Oh, I killed the first buck in 2015 with my compound vertical bow that I had hanging from a hook in front of me. That evening, I slowly lowered my vertical bow, drew it back, and sighted in on the deer; I took the shot. That buck spun away with my luminoc lit arrow through it and dropped within 45 yards of my stand. The buck actually stopped and pulled the arrow out ten yards from where it dropped and died. In 2016, I was in the same stand with my crossbow hanging from the same hook. Two bucks came right up to me. I once again tried to get my weapon down and ready it for a shot. I think the crossbow was heavy enough to make it awkward enough that the approaching deer paused and veered off. The next night, the same scenario played out with only with one one buck and the crossbow in my lap. I killed that buck. After following a 75-yard walk-along blood trail to my luminoc and then my expired buck, I was done bow hunting.

Since then I tried spring turkey hunting with my crossbow and decided it was too clumsy — for me at least. I did go out with Ellen three times and sat in a blind with my crossbow in hopes of getting a deer with it. We only saw deer when we were driving home, though.

My point is that using a crossbow isn’t easy. They are heavy and awkward, they can not be reloaded quickly, and while they pack a punch, one still has to take good shots. (I thought I did.)

Those who don’t like the weapon I choose are making the same arguments used by traditional bow hunters back in the day when the first compounds were showing up in the woods. (Mine was an Outers won at a Ducks Unlimited fundraiser.) Need more, there were more crossbow licenses than vertical bow licenses bought in 2018. The people who are complaining about the crossbow and suggesting a shorter season had better be careful what they wish for. If it comes down to numbers, maybe the vertical bow hunter could be facing a shorter season. I say live and let live, folks.

Until next time, get out — from De Soto Bay to Lake Onalaska the hard water reports have been sketchy. Two guys at the bar the other night said they spent eight hours on Lake Onalaska and only kept five fish. Better’n me; I have not been out for a couple weeks. Enjoy.

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Greg and his wife Ellen Koelker are retired and live on Grouse Hollow Farm near Stoddard. He is chairman of the Vernon County Chapter of Wisconsin Conservation Congress.

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