Bowhunting Shot Placement and Deer Shot Placement

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deer hunting moving shots

Moving Shots When Deer Hunting

There is a saying that many things can happen on a moving deer shot and none of them are good. This is, of course, very true. Misjudging the speed of your target can result in a missed deer shot, or hitting your whitetail deer or mule deer further back than intended, making for a lengthy and difficult recovery. Instead of trying to calculate a lead while your adrenaline surges through you like a high voltage current it is best to try to stop the animal instead. This can be done by a soft grunt call, a whistle, or even yelling "Hey!”. This is often all that is needed to stop a deer, but you will need to be at full draw or have your rifle sights on the animal in order to quickly and effectively take the deer shot when it is presented. For you bowhunters out there, that means being at full draw with your sight on the animal when it stops, giving you an opportunity to settle your pin and make an effective and ethical shot.

Screened By Brush When Deer Hunting

deer hunting

Under no circumstance when deer hunting should a shot be made hoping to bust through the brush with a firearm or an arrow. One little branch or twig smaller than your pinky finger or the lead of a pencil will deflect an arrow or bullet and change your point of impact potentially resulting in a miss or even worse, a wounded animal.

This is true even on animals screened by “soft brush” such as cattails or tall reed grass often found on riverbanks. This soft brush also makes it difficult or impossible to see the body of the whitetail deer or mule deer in order to aim at your target effectively.

One may be tempted to “blow through” the soft brush, but under no circumstances should you take an “educated guess” on the vital location of the whitetail deer or mule deer in this instance. Keep in mind that these are all shots to pass and wait for the deer to walk into a clearing for a better shot opportunity.

bowhunting shot placement

Many seasoned deer hunters find it helpful to visit your tree stand or hunting ground blind and cut clear shooting lanes for better shot opportunities. Trimming shooting lanes is most often done during the spring and summer months to give your deer hunting area ample opportunity to “cool off” before deer hunting season. By utilizing this tactic you will be rewarded with clear shots when the opportunity presents itself.

Target Animal Among Others When Deer Hunting

During your deer hunting endeavors, you may find your trophy buck of a lifetime lingering among other members of its herd. During this instance, it is imperative that you be patient and wait for the buck or target animal to position himself safely in regards to the other animals. One example may be a whitetail deer or mule deer buck grazing among other deer in a food plot or agricultural field, resulting in one or more deer to be situated behind the buck. Taking a rifle shot at this buck can result in your bullet hitting one of the deer situated behind your target animal. This can also be true of a bowhunter’s arrow if the deer are in close proximity to one another. This is not only unethical, but it can be illegal as well should you lethally wound another animal without having the proper tags. Wait for the animal to clear the others before taking the shot.

Skyline Shots When Deer Hunting

skyline deer hunting shots

Sometimes you may locate your game on a small hill, ridge, dike, or similar rising. Because you may be unaware of what is beyond your game you should pass on this shot. A missed shot or a clean pass through in this situation can result your projectile traveling well past your intended target. This is unsafe to other hunters, game, livestock, and property. Again, remember the Golden Rule: “All sportsmen should be sure of your target and what lays beyond.”

A hunter should never attempt a shot when other people or personal property beyond your target is at risk of being struck. This includes houses, farm buildings, automobiles, roadways and areas where other hunters are in the field.

Barbed-wire Fences When Deer Hunting

deer shot placement

In a lot of hunting areas, both when hunting public land and private land, you are likely to encounter barbed-wire fences used to hold livestock or act as a boundary line between properties. A lot of deer hunting situations are created by spur-of-moment hunting opportunities such “jumping” a whitetail buck from its bed while on the way into or out of your tree stand.

During instance like these, it can be easy to fail to see the thin strands of barbed wire in the foreground (between you and your target) while looking through the scope of your favorite hunting rifle or your bow sights. A small strand of barbed-wire can ruin a deer hunting experience from a resulting missed shot, or worse, a wounded animal.

A bow shot should never be attempted through a fence, as one usually misjudges or forgets to consider the arc of the arrow as it speeds towards the whitetail deer or mule deer. You have probably heard stories of barbed-wire fences deflecting an arrow to miss the buck of a lifetime, with even some well-known hunters making this mistake. It usually results in a good laugh, but should the arrow have been deflected and still hit the deer, the story would have turned disappointing quite suddenly. The same holds true for firearms hunters. All hunters should avoid shooting through a barbed-wire or any other type of fence at all costs.

deer hunting public land

Also take into account that the fence may mark a boundary of your deer hunting land and that of a private individual, so be familiar with your hunting ground and know for sure where you can hunt and which fences in your area indicate the end of your hunting land. It is never OK to shoot an animal over a fence on someone else’s property. Respecting all landowners rights helps preserve our sport.

A Bedded Deer Shot

Sometimes you may find yourself in the advantage of finding your game bedded before it spots you. If you are lucky enough to locate your quarry while it is still bedded, good job! Hopefully, the whitetail or mule deer is unalert, relaxed, and unaware of your presence, but sometimes they see you at the same time you see them...they may remain “frozen” for a brief period during this instance, so know what is a good shot and what is not in either situation so you can make an ethical and quick decision.

bedded deer shot

First, a bedded shot is an ethical and effective deer shot, as long as the whitetail deer or mule deer is positioned correctly for good deer shot placement. The deer shot placement is very much like the deer was standing as you read above, and the same standards should be considered in such a case. You must consider the position of the animal whether it is bedded quartering away from you, quartering towards you, broadside, facing away, or facing towards you. These positions are the same as those discussed above and are the same on a bedded animal as well. Take into consideration that a bedded animal is usually leaning slightly one way or another depending on which side of his body he is bedded on. This will slightly change the entry and exit of your shot compared to a standing broadside shot.

deer shot placement

For instance, if a deer is bedded facing your right and leaning on its left side (away from you), the exit of you bullet or arrow will be slightly higher in relation to your entry as the “rib area” of the deer sits slightly lower on the exit side and is turned down towards the ground. A deer hunter should do everything he can to get a perfect broadside shot on an animal “curled up” in this position, as this lying position compacts the vital area between the rump and shoulder as opposed to the animal being "spread out" while standing upright. A whitetail deer or mule deer bedded with its front legs positioned directly under it is ideal for a good shot. If you feel uncomfortable on taking a bedded shot, you can try to get the animal to rise once you are in a steady, solid shooting position with your sights fixed on the target. A common trick is to whistle or toss a small rock in some brush nearby. These subtle disturbances in the animal’s environment may cause it to rise slowly and assess the source of the disturbance while you are taking steady aim and releasing a comfortable, unrushed shot.



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