Firearm hunters often choose to maximize the capability of their rifle or slug gun by seeking out places with the longest shooting range, typically tree stands that overlook easement right-of-ways, clearcuts, or browsed-out wood lots. For the past four years, I’ve used a crossbow in firearm season and been successful three times (one miss) in exactly the opposite scenario. Where as my center-fire toting buddies seek out the big wide open spaces, I’m a stickler for “the big thick,” cedars in particular. I first observed this deer behavior in a drive that became an annual occurrence and noticed that the riverbottom hide-away we pushed often teamed with antlers, yet the crafty creatures worked their way back through the drive and rarely fell to a gunshot. “What if I hid in the center of those thickets with my bow?” I wondered and after working out safety measures had a 130-class buck take an arrow through the ribs at 15 yards and a second larger whitetail pass by and escape, as usual.

This 10-point buck ran past the author's location in early morning, yet returned at mid day.
This 10-point buck ran past the author’s locationin early morning, yet returned at mid day.

Hunting in thick cover has its challenges, especially for an archer. First, camouflage is really important. This fall, I used the new Pnuma pattern and had excellent success, even when sitting against a tree. My first morning out, I grunted a very tempting 9-point to 10 yards and the deer searched for that grunting rival for nearly five minutes. I wore hunter orange, the local requirement, got a few glances, yet the deer eventually just moved on. In snow cover, my reversible ScentBlocker jacket in a winter Realtree pattern has been amazing, to the point that I felt invisible. Aside from camouflage, shooting distance is important. I didn’t have a potable tree stand on my last hunt, so I gave considerable time to finding the best shooting lane, one that allowed up to 40 yards of limb-less access. Finally, many bucks seek out these thick areas to make scrapes, rubs, and locate does which makes them more responsive to rattling, grunting and bleating. Bucks seldom approach a call if they can clearly see that no deer is in sight, yet in dense areas, they often step within bow range searching for a rival. Once a buck commits toward your location, be silent and let him work into the best shooting position. You don’t want that ultra-alert animal to pinpoint your position.