Any whitetail bowhunter who tells you he has never missed a shot is either lying or has not been bowhunting all that long. All of us have blown a slam dunk shot at some point in our lives. After wiping the egg off our faces, we then ask ourselves how it could have happened.
Here are the five top reasons most archers pooch that easy shot, and how to avoid these mistakes this fall.
1. Lack of Practice
How many of your buddies grab their archery equipment the weekend before they plan to go hunting, give it a quick once-over, and head out? We don’t all fall in this category, but some archers do. Many of them miss easy shots.
A serious deer hunter knows how critical it is to shoot arrows prior to hunting season. This is important for so many reasons, including making sure the bow is tuned and shooting broadheads perfectly, that your sights are dead-on, and that your muscles are back in shape after a long summer.
It is also imperative to practice shooting the same way you’ll be hunting. That means from an elevated platform if you hunt from a tree stand, or from a stool if you hunt from a ground blind. It means putting on big, bulky hunting clothes — including your tree stand safety harness — and practicing reaching up and getting your bow off the hook, attaching your release, drawing, picking a spot, aiming and making the shot.
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2. Equipment Malfunction
Here comes a deer. You get ready to shoot. Then something goes awry. Maybe the tube that straightens your peep sight pops off. Perhaps the arrow nock gets turned, causing a fletch to nick the rest. Or maybe the peep slides up the bowstring just a smidge when you draw, making the arrow impact a little low. It could be that the arrow makes a horrible screeching noise as it is drawn across the rest. Whatever happens, in bowhunting it’s the little things that allow deer to keep their scalps.
That’s why it is so important to check over everything connected to your bow and arrow set-up to make sure it is all in A-1 shape before leaving the house. The time to do this is well before the season, so any repairs or replacements can be made in time to hunt.
3. Passing the First Good Shot
You spot a deer heading for your stand, and do the mental math: “OK, if he keeps coming, he’ll get to that spot 20 yards out and I can smash him.”
You pass up a 30-yard broadside shot, and maybe that quartering-away shot at 25 yards. Then, before the deer comes closer, something happens. He changes course. Another deer appears and draws him behind brush too thick to shoot through. Or, even worse, he gets to 15 yards and his radar finds you as you start to draw. All these, and more, have cost me deer of all shapes and sizes.
Now I have two basic rules when it comes to when to shoot: No. 1 is to take the first good shot a deer gives me within 35 yards. No. 2 is do not let a deer get closer than 20 yards.
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4. Poor Shooting Form
To shoot a consistently precise arrow, archers must maintain proper shooting form — regardless of the situation. That means keeping your bow arm’s elbow slightly bent, your anchor point the same every time, and bending at the waist when shooting downhill.
This form must be maintained even if you are required to twist your torso at an odd angle to take a shot at a deer that is off to the side or even directly behind your stand. You might have to rotate at the torso and bend or lean to clear limbs. To be able to do this, you must practice it.
5. Loss of Concentration
The best deer hunters I know can multi-task with ease. When they decide it’s time to shoot something, they have the ability to make things slow down in their minds. While focusing on the target animal, they also know where all the other deer are and what those animals are doing. They anticipate what is going to happen, and thus are able to know precisely when to draw and release. They pick a spot on the deer’s chest and burn a hole through it with their eyes as they aim. They concentrate on follow-through, not allowing their bow arm to drop away too quickly.
Never Miss Again?
Misses are part of archery. However, eliminate these five gaffes from your game, and chances are good you’ll be eating backstrap this year, and not tag soup.