You’ve been religious about slipping into the backyard and sending a few arrows into the 3-D deer. Maybe, you even entered a few tournaments where they forced you to make shots from various heights and distances. But for most of us, we simply step off 20 or 30 yards and release arrows at a broadside target. This is great for dialing in our aim, unfortunately, it really only prepares us for shooting in perfect conditions-which real hunting situations rarely are.
Deer don’t always offer that perfect broadside shot. They stand behind trees or limbs, they walk in from odd angles, they run and walk, and I’m willing to bet in virtually 99 percent of the situations, we aren’t standing on ground level with the animal when we shoot. We still have our work cut out to get shoot-ready for opening day. Let’s get started.
Are those t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops you’ve been wearing when you practice what you’ll be wearing when you hunt? Didn’t think so. Now when you practice, put on camo gloves, a face mask, a hat, hunting boots, even a light and heavy jacket; whatever you’ll be wearing when you hunt. The goal is to simulate actual hunting conditions. Don’t wait until you’re drawing on the biggest buck you’ve ever seen to realize your jacket is in the way of your bow string.
Most of us will hunt from a treestand. That means we should practice from a treestand. Hang a stand with the same size platform you’ll be hunting from and put it at the same height you typically hunt. Like to get 25 to 30 feet up? The target area is going to shrink from that angle. Better practice that. Oh, and don’t forget to wear your safety belt. Safety is still paramount, and you need to get used to shooting with that on as well.
Take a Seat
Conversely, if you’re going to hunt from a blind, you need to get used to shooting from a sitting position in a confined space. Set up your blind and put your chair, pack and any other gear you’ll have in there with you when you hunt. Figure out now how you want to situate everything so it doesn’t interfere with your movement when it’s time to make a shot at a real deer. Then practice shooting from inside.
Work the Angles
Because deer don’t always stand broadside, you need to set your 3-D target angling away from you and in any other conceivable position you feel will provide a clean, ethical kill shot. Similarly, set the target peeking from behind a tree or partially obscured on either end by two trees or limbs to simulate hunting in a woods situation.
Go the Distance
You need to make shots as close as 10 yards and as far out as 30, 40, even 50 yards or more. Even if you never plan on shooting that far on a real deer, if you can nail a target at 50 or 60 yards, a 25-yarder will be a chip shot. Put targets at various distances, range them and shoot. Then move them and estimate the distances without ranging. This will help you develop an ability to accurately judge distances.
The vitals on most targets seem to be placed for center-of-mass practice shots more so than how vitals actually sit in a whitetail’s body. Targets also don’t reflexively duck or bend at the sound of an arrow. Get ready for shots at real deer by aiming at the lower third of the deer’s vital area. Most shots on deer are missed high. To avoid this, shoot low on a real whitetail and when it flinches a few inches, you’re arrow will run right through the heart and/or lungs as it should.
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us atUSAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.