In my opinion, releasing an arrow at a trophy-caliber whitetail might be one of the most pressure-packed, throat-tightening events you will ever experience. Think about the endless hours spent scouting, hanging stands, and tuning gear, all in the hopes of getting just one shot at the buck of your dreams.
Now, consider that if all of that hard work and preparation does finally lead to an encounter, that encounter will likely only last a minute or two; most likely less. And in that brief moment, all of your whitetail hopes and dreams will either be won or lost. It all comes down to one thing….can you make the shot?
Looking back over my bowhunting career I’ve encountered a vast array of bow shooting scenarios in my efforts to fill a whitetail tag. And, while there are many to choose from, the following are the 4 most prominent examples that I have faced. Master these bow shooting tips and your odds of making a lethal shot during the moment of truth will skyrocket.
I think it is safe to say that most bowhunters practice at an average distance of 20-30 yards. And, while this may be the standard, there are those times when the buck of your choice will walk right into your lap. When that happens perhaps the biggest mistake bowhunters make is taking the shot.
Now, that might sound strange since that is the objective; to take the shot. However, a lot can be gained by simply letting the buck create some distance between you and him before releasing your arrow. You see, when a buck has come in “ultra-close” and you let him walk past you it typically creates a better shooting angle. Not only that, the deer in question will also be less apt to spot you trying to reach full draw.
However, let’s assume that your dream buck is in your lap and you’re going to take the shot anyway. If that is the case, then a little preparation is in order. First, you should practice such shooting scenarios beforehand; and I don’t mean standing in your backyard shooting at a large block target.
Instead, you should be shooting at a life-like 3D target (at close-range) while above ground, in your stand. That is the only real way to experiment and learn things such as shot angles, bending at the waist, arrow entry and exit paths, and more importantly, how your top pin reacts when your range finder is reading single-digits.
Most often, using your second or third pin will prove the best choice in such cases. Or, you may choose to simply aim high with your first pin. As you can see, despite the seemingly “easy” nature of this shot it is critical to practice it before actually attempting it in the field.
Not only is this shot tough in nature, but depending on whom you ask, it might border on unethical. But that is a different article for a different time. For now, let’s stick with ways you can prepare for a long shot from the treestand. Now, when I say long shot, I’m talking about 40, 50 yards at the most. This can be a realistic range; especially for guys that hunt the edge of food plots.
When preparing for, let’s say, a 40 yard shot, you should do the majority of your shooting from a distance of 50-60 yards. In short, practice beyond the distance you plan to shoot in real life. This will do two things. First, it will tighten up shooting form. You can be a little sloppy on short-range attempts but long range shooting will quickly expose ever flaw in your form. Second, once you master shooting at 50-60 yards, 40 yards will look and feel a lot closer. As a result, confidence will soar and accuracy will greatly increase.
During the rut bucks have only one thing on their minds and their movement through the timber mirrors those emotions. In a nutshell, they move quickly and with a purpose. Yes, preparing for this shot takes some preparation. However, it also takes some forethought.
Now, I’m not one to advocate shooting at a running deer with archery equipment so when I say a “moving” shot I really mean nothing more than a brisk walk. This is common behavior during the rut. Not only that, often times your best effort to stop a moving buck will end in failure. Therefore, you have two choices; let him walk or kill him.
When dealing with a walking buck I try to keep the shooting distance between 15-20 yards. This leaves little room for error and decreases the chances that the buck’s vitals will move out of my arrows flight path before it impacts. Also, the decision must be made whether to follow the buck with your sight pin or hold your pin in an area ahead of the buck and wait for it to walk into view before releasing the arrow. I’ve done it both ways with equal success.
However, I prefer to stop the buck with a soft “uurrpp” sound from my mouth. I’ve yet to have a buck dart away after hearing me (knock on wood) and besides, I would much rather shoot at a stationary target than one that is moving. The choice is really up to you. Just make sure you know how you’re going to handle this shot before it presents itself.
Typically, this shot happens as a result of an animal sneaking in undetected. You turn, and suddenly….he is there. So what do you do? In the past I would naturally reach for my bow; which only lead to blowing any chance I had at arrowing said buck. Today, I prepare for such shooting situations before they arrive. Here’s how.
Most often, if the ground is wet from rain or snow you can bet your last dozen arrows that you’re not going to hear that buck coming in. Therefore, if those are the conditions I’m facing then I make sure I’m ready to make a shot quickly, at a moment’s notice. I do this in a number of ways.
First, I keep my bow in my hand. Nothing will stifle your chances faster than having to turn around and reach for your weapon as it dangles from a nearby tree limb. Second, I hunt standing up. Yes, it is hard at times but the payoff is well worth it. Many times I have tagged bucks that otherwise would have gotten away had I not been two steps ahead of them. Sure, I will sit down from time to time, but for the most part I am standing and ready.
Bowhunting is as unpredictable as the animals you hunt. And when you throw in the plethora of shooting scenarios that present themselves, what you get is a sport unlike any other. As ethical hunters a quick, clean kill should always be the goal. Sure, mistakes will happen. However, if you want to increase your chances of filling your whitetail tag with one shot then make certain you prepare for these 4 “must make bow shots”.
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