When to Shoot

When to Shoot

Leveling a pin on a mature buck’s vitals is one of those moments in a hunter’s life that has no equal. Time stops. Birds quiet. The landscape is a blur in that all you see is the couple of inches of dark brown hair.

Of course to get to this moment consistently has taken me many, many years. Back in the infancy of my bowhunting career, I screwed up a lot. But it’s as they say, lessons learned the hard way stay with you the longest. It’s made me better.

Always remember that if you can see a deer’s eyes, it could see you. I’ve had bucks bust me trying to take a deep breath. Their sight, sense of smell and innate ability to hear and sense danger is what makes them such a challenge to hunt.

Knowing when to shoot has helped Dan tag his fair share of giant bucks.
Knowing when to shoot has helped Dan tag his fair share of giant bucks.

Over the years, some things have become more important and other aspects less so. For instance, it doesn’t matter how high you hang your tree stand. If a deer is a fair distance, all he has to do it look up a few degrees to spot you. The following are 10 rules that I will follow until I’m no longer able to draw a bow.

Be Patient

If a deer is walking toward you, let him pass before you draw your bow. You always want his eyes to be looking somewhere else. Drawing a bow is the most movement you will make all day, so don’t let that spoil the hunt.

All About Angles

Pay careful attention to the angle the deer is standing in relation to the angle the arrow will travel through its vitals. Hopefully you’ve practiced these shots all summer. Think double lung.

Let Them Look Away

Whenever possible wait until the deer’s vision is obstructed before drawing your bow. Like we mentioned earlier, drawing back is a lot of movement. Wait until he puts his head down, looks away or walks behind a tree before you draw.

Stand ASAP

Do not wait until a buck is too close before standing. As soon as you hear or see deer approaching, slowly stand and get into position. This holds true even if you do not plan on shooting any of the deer you see approaching. By standing anyway you’ll be ready if the next deer that comes out of the brush is the bruiser you’ve been waiting for.

Don’t Take Risks

Know your limitations. I believe it’s much wiser to pass a questionable shot and hope for another encounter than to take an “iffy” shot and risk missing or maiming a trophy buck. This is the best way to eliminate a second chance.

Take It When You Can

Even if it looks like you might get a better shot, take the first good shot you get. A sudden swirling wind or a barking squirrel can instantly change everything. Or, as bucks do, he might change direction for no apparent reason.

Number 7 & 8

I recommend you get ready, but don’t draw your bow too soon because trembling muscles could give out and force you to let down. Worse, you might miss or wound the deer because you couldn’t hold steady. On the contrary, don’t wait too long to draw because you might get caught in mid stride. These two, numbers seven and eight, may seem contradictory...

Be Studious

...but it’s a fine line you’ll need to walk perfectly in order to be successful. When it comes to drawing down on deer, timing is very important. The best way I know to acquire this skill is simply by watching deer and studying their behavior.

Aim Small, Miss Small

When a shot opportunity presents itself, calm down, pick a spot to anchor your sight pin and squeeze the release’s trigger. Imagine you’re in the backyard shooting the same target you wore out all summer. Think accuracy and form and there’s a good chance that world-class buck will be coming home with you.