Tips for Crossbow Hunting Just Outside the City Limits
Sometimes the biggest bucks live on the fringes of the biggest cities. If you’re hunting an urban area the crossbow is an ideal weapon, and here’s why.
Anti-hunters love to vilify sportsmen and one of their go-to invectives is that hunting has eradicated wolves, grizzly bears, elk, bison and a host of other game animals from their native habitat. Here’s a dose of reality, though—the primary reason that those large mammals don’t survive in many areas, particularly in the eastern U.S., is urban sprawl. That’s right. Hunters don’t keep bison and grizzlies at bay. Starbucks, Target, movie theaters and Interstate 75 do.
But there is one large game animal that manages to live right beside us even in these concrete jungles, and that’s the whitetail deer. Odocoileus virginianus, as it’s known to science, inhabits the same green spaces where we play Frisbee. It dines on the flowers we plant at our cemeteries, blithely runs in front of our vehicles and beds in our flowerbeds.
I grew up in Ohio, large urban centers, large rural areas, and large populations of deer. And it’s no secret that some of the biggest Ohio bucks are harvested right on the edge of Dayton, Akron, Columbus and Cincinnati. Getting permission to hunt in some of these urban areas is the eastern equivalent of drawing a bighorn tag in the West. You’re going to find deer, and they’re going to be big.
Urban deer hunting often precludes hunters from using firearms, so bows are the weapon of choice. In some areas bowhunters have a great opportunity to hang their stands in hardwoods that lie along the fringe of well-traveled whitetail corridors, but not all cities have an abundance of trees.
In many areas you’re hunting deer behind rhododendron bushes and you are using whatever cover is available. Sometimes drawing a bow is very difficult. Sometimes it’s impossible. For that reason the crossbow is the ultimate urban deer hunting tool.
Aside from having lots of deer and lots of people, the Buckeye State has a long-standing love affair with crossbows. I grew up hunting with one, and it struck me odd when I learned at about age twelve that some states didn’t view crossbows as legitimate hunting weapons (although crossbow laws have, thankfully, loosened).
One of the reasons I hunted with a crossbow—and still do—is the fact that I like to be mobile. I like to move, to stalk, to be able to make adjustments as needed. If the wind changes I can get down on the ground and change position. If I find a great game trail I can find a tree on the downwind side, build a small blind and be ready to hunt.
That level of freedom is great in the big woods, but it’s essential in an urban hunt. And, yes, you can hunt from the ground with a vertical bow but it’s much simpler and more convenient with a crossbow.
I don’t think hunting with a crossbow is easier than hunting with traditional archery equipment, I think it offers an even greater challenge because it prompts the hunter to try moving into position for a shot rather than hanging out in a stand.
Plus, I’ve found that urban landowners are far less excited about the proposition of climbing up a tree and marring the bark than country folks with hundreds of acres of woods (I know, to many that may seem silly, but to people with manicured lawns and just a few trees the sight of ratchet marks just aren’t going to fly). A surprising number of urban landowners are against treestands. Crossbows, then, offer more flexibility.
But one of the great attributes of crossbows is the fact that they aren’t as limiting as bows. For example, I hunt in one suburban area where the property owners’ kids—a boy and girl of about 10 or 11 years old—are fascinated by all things outdoors. I doubt they see a lot of people wearing camo that aren’t in the military and they certainly had never shot a bow. I pulled a target out of the truck and let them shoot a few arrows from my crossbow.
Guess what? They were hooked. It helped foster relations with the landowner and allowed those kids to have a taste of what hunting feels like. Now the oldest wants to try hunting for himself. I doubt that would have ever happened if we hadn’t spent an October afternoon shooting that crossbow.
As more wilderness areas become suburban landscapes, hunters will have to turn to bows. The crossbow specifically, is a logical choice for urban hunters, not only because of its flexibility but also because of the advances in technology. The modern crossbow is a sophisticated weapon that’s perfect for hunting sophisticated urban whitetails.
To readers: This story was originally published in April 2017, when the bill in question was passed by the Legislature.
House File 475 allows the use of straight wall cartridge rifles, starting with .357 caliber and larger handgun ammunition. The rifles are permitted during the youth and disabled deer hunting seasons — which last until Oct. 1 — and for the first and second shotgun deer hunting seasons, Dec. 2-6 and Dec. 9-17, by licensed deer hunters.
Straight wall cartridge rifles are the same caliber and use the same straight-walled cartridges legal for use in handguns. The law is intended to attract more people to hunting and to offer additional options for hunters while bolstering sales for gun retailers. Straight wall cartridge rifles have reduced recoil compared with larger shotguns and are more accurate than similar caliber handguns.
The bill, which previously passed the Iowa House, was approved by the Senate on a 49-0 vote in April. The Senate rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, who sought to limit hunters to having 10 cartridges in their possession. He said he was responding to constituents who wanted to avoid situations where hunters are carrying high-capacity magazines in the field. Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, the bill’s floor manager, opposed the amendment, saying such regulations would be impossible to enforce.
Several other states have been moving in recent years to allow more options for deer hunting, including Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. Lawmakers said a straight wall cartridge rifle has an effective range of about 200 yards. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources was neutral on the bill, while the Iowa Firearms Coalition was in support and the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club was opposed.
Under the Iowa legislation, the fine for possession of a prohibited rifle while hunting deer would be $250 and hunting privileges would be suspended for two years