By Josh Boyd
As any bowhunter is well aware, there are few moments as chaotic as those few directly preceding the release of an arrow, while in a stand or ground blind. After what has seemed like an eternity of waiting for the stars to align, the moment you have been waiting for has arrived, and the shot opportunity for which you have been longing has finally presented itself.
In the moments that follow, your hunt will either come to a successful conclusion or will end in heartbreak, with very little separating one outcome from the other. At this moment, anything less than perfection simply will not do. As adrenaline courses through your body, you must rely upon the muscle memory built during a summer’s worth of practice, to anchor as intended, and place your arrow with perfection.
In this adrenaline addled state, it is easy to overlook what would otherwise be obvious. The resulting oversight is often all that is needed to send an arrow astray and has been the saving grace of many deer throughout the years. However, by identifying these potential oversights, and acting accordingly, you can spare yourself the agony of defeat that many archers face every season.
If you bowhunt long enough, you will eventually misjudge the yardage of a given shot opportunity. In doing so, an arrow is almost always inadvertently sent flying over or under its intended target, leaving an archer to shake his or her head in anguish.
This comes as an easy mistake to make. When presented with no more than a few seconds to evaluate a shot opportunity, little time is presented to assess the distance to your target, and mistakes can occur as a result.
Mistakes of this nature are best avoided through the use of a hand-held range finder, whenever possible. Alternatively, it is always advisable to step off yardages from your stand prior to season, where they can then be referenced by corresponding landmarks, such as trees or other visible indicators.
Another problem that plagues many bowhunters every year is that of improper form when shooting from the stand. When filled with a surge of adrenaline, we seldom stop to consider if we are anchoring our shots as usual or keeping correct upper body geometry. Unfortunately, this can also be our undoing when the moment of truth arrives.
In many cases, a shot is botched for no other reason other than forgetting to bend at the waist when compensating for a shot at a steep angle. This leads to improper upper body posture, which affects every other aspect of the shot, and is highly detrimental to accuracy. No matter the situation, it is helpful for an archer to get in the habit of mentally checking their form prior to releasing an arrow.
When attempting to arrow a deer, nothing spells defeat quite like an inconveniently dangling limb, of which we were not aware. Although it would seem that an obstruction of this nature would be easily noticed, this is not always the case when you begin to form tunnel vision on the target that stands before you, and you have only seconds to execute your shot.
Perhaps the best way to remedy this situation is to eliminate such obstructions before they have a chance to become a problem. By taking the time to cut shooting lanes prior to season, you are better able to take your time and whittle away at objects that might be positioned within an arrow’s flight path.
Rushed Shot Opportunities
Another problem that often plagues bowhunters, is that of rushed shot opportunities. When the buck you have been watching all summer stands only a mere 20 yards away, it is difficult not to jump at the first available chance to send an arrow downrange. However, the first shot opportunity is not always the best, and this eagerness can cost us.
In order to avoid this scenario altogether, it is helpful to think of different shot scenarios when waiting in the stand, evaluating which are high percentage in nature while doing so. When a deer walks into range, pass on marginal opportunities such as hard quartering to shots, or those requiring brush to be navigated through.
Buck Fever-Induced Target Panic
Many missed shot opportunities every year come at the hands of buck fever-induced target panic. These misses are easy to identify. If you ask a bowhunter exactly where they aimed or where their arrow hit, yet they have no recollection of the like, this is more than likely what has taken place. Rather than actually aiming as one typically would, an archer punches the trigger of their release as soon as their sight pin floats over the first visual brown fur.
In a bid to avoid this occurrence, take a series of deep breaths when coming to full draw on a deer, and slowly settle your sight pin into place. If you feel anxious, simply close your eyes momentarily to remove the temptation to punch the trigger of your release. By forcing yourself to slow down, target panic can be eliminated in the bulk of cases.
Avoiding a Last-Minute Meltdown
After a season’s worth of effort, no one wants to miss when the moment of truth finally arrives. While one hopes to never face this situation, if you bowhunt long enough, one or more of the abovementioned oversights will eventually cost you a deer. However, by understanding the anatomy of a missed shot opportunity, and the most common causes behind their occurrence, you can be on the offensive against these shortfalls, and put yourself in better contention for success.