WATCH: Deer Ducking an Arrow

Can a deer duck, dodge or otherwise avoid being hit by an arrow?

This is a common topic among bowhunters, especially when bowhunting season starts. Here’s a little insight from a trail camera sequence capture by our editor-in-chief.

By Daniel E. Schmidt

Seasoned bowhunters often use the “deer ducked my arrow” excuse as a reason why they missed a shot on that buck of their dreams. Is it true? Can deer really dodge an arrow that’s speeding at them at 300 feet per second (or faster)? We’ve addressed this topic many times in Deer & Deer Hunting.

We’ve even enlisted NASA scientists to get to the bottom of the realities of these claims. Here are the facts: If you’re shooting a modern compound at a relatively high speed (think 280 fps and faster), there’s little to no chance a deer can duck your arrow (even if the deer is alert), on shots less than 25 yards away. Get beyond 30 yards (especially beyond 40 yards), and the discussion takes a different turn. At those distances, it all depends on the angle of the deer and whether that deer is on high alert when the shot is taken.

Here’s some non-scientific proof how far a deer can duck in less than two seconds.

These images are from my Stealth Cam. The young doe in these photos was spooked (apparently) by the red flash of the IR camera.

In the first image, she is standing alert looking away from the camera. In the second image, she does the classic “duck” that any seasoned bowhunter has noticed upon the shot of a deer. In this behavior, the deer instinctively splays its front legs and shoulders forward, almost in a lunging position. This allows the deer to drop the front half of its body I’m guessing 6 to 8 inches lower than its normal standing position.

Without getting into speed vs. reaction time formulas, it’s easy to see how far a deer can lower its kill zone in just a matter of seconds (if not one second). The point here is this: When shooting at alert deer with a bow and arrow, be sure to gauge your distance accurately.

If that deer is high-wired, you’d be best served to stay at full draw for a few more seconds until the deer calms down a bit.

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