Crossbow Hunting During the Whitetail Rut

by Wade Middleton

Southwest Texas is a land full of rugged beauty and abundant wildlife. For over 30 years, I’ve hunted this part of Southwest Texas but during November and December I really enjoy whitetail hunting this area and watching whitetail during pre-rut, rut, and post rut. Even after all this time, I’m still surprised by the new things that we learn and discover. There are always new areas with more deer, better cover, and safer spots where deer like to be, often places I’ve overlooked in the past. This never-ending adventure keeps our passion for hunting alive regardless of whether I’m the hunter or we’re entertaining someone.

The Hilltop Stand: A Lucky Find

Trail Camera of a Whitetail

Our latest adventure started while tracking a deer that Fred Romanians shot two years before. While tracking Fred’s deer it led us east, crossing a dry creek and climbing onto a flat hilltop. We usually avoid these sanctuary-bedding areas, except when tracking as these are places where the whitetail like to bed down and feel comfortable and we will hunt the drains, flats, funnels, and trails leading from them.

Personally, I never like to go into those areas so that the deer will not feel pressured and leave our deer leases. While tracking in those areas however we often find new places and this time we found an old cottonseed feeder from the previous leaseholders. The spot was overgrown, but several trees showed old rubs and the sign where deer were bedding showed us, we’d been missing an area full of potential, and it stayed on our minds for over a year.

During a dry season, we returned to the spot, knowing there was a nearby spring and we started filling the old feeder with cottonseed and monitored the Stealth Cam we put in the area. It wasn’t long till we saw the results.  Deer we had never seen before started showing up, confirming what we had expected.

Setting Up the Perfect Stand

Two hunters in a deer stand

One of the most fun parts of hunting is setting up the stand with friends. Deciding which branches to trim, avoiding prickly bushes in our area, and working together to find the perfect camera angle so we can share the hunt and the excitement of the moment. On setup day in early October, we placed two muddy tripods on the Hilltop in the cover of a large oak tree nearby that would give us the ability to see not only the cottonseed feeder but also the flat to the south east and several trails coming in from the west and northwest.  The Stealth Cams were continuing to light up and with a mix of acorns now on the ground and the cottonseed we knew we just needed to find the right time and conditions for this special set up.

Waiting for the Right Conditions

Hunter aiming a crossbow

With the whitetail rut just starting we were at the lease and Jeff Reynolds would be on the camera and when talking about where to go it was apparent we felt it was time to visit this stand for an afternoon and see how it would hunt. We had placed a Record Rack Block about 30 yards away to spice up the area. The first afternoon hunt in the stand felt like Christmas. We were so excited as the rut was on fire and we could hear deer running all around us and occasionally get glimpses of the chase. The activity around the feeder was incredible.

Hunting, with our TenPoint Nitro 505 Crossbow equipped with the Garmin Xero X1i Crossbow Scope, we got to witness an eight-point buck bully a six-point, several other bucks chasing any doe that walked the ridge as well as few turkeys passing by. The view from our stand was perfect for observing all the action. Just no shooters.

The next morning we got into the stands early, the weather was perfect for the rut cool, rainy and with a decent wind in our faces. However, as the morning went on and the winds changed we got busted by a pair of does and then a decent buck.  Since the winds were not going to be favorable for the rest of the day, we decided to call it a hunt and wait for better conditions.

Third Times the Charm

After a few days of winds that were not favorable, we got lucky and had perfect conditions to get back into that stand during the whitetail rut. Within 15 minutes of getting settled, a buck appeared, staring right at us. The tension was high as we slowly prepared to take the shot. Everything worked perfectly and the Ten Point Nitro-Garmin Xero combination put the arrow right where I was aiming and left us in awe as we watched how fast it blew through the deer and into the brush. You’ll love the video of the story, the hunt, and the shot. 

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