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Bow Hunting Deer: Make That One Shot Count

By Bruce Beal

Bow hunting for deer can be a real challenge! But it’s fun and rewarding. Hunting with a bow requires discipline in the skill of archery, but you need to learn specific skills and tricks that other hunters wouldn’t even think about.

The first point to consider is how important your selection of equipment is. When I was a beginner bow hunter, I had many wrong ideas about how to choose a bow. Many beginners believe that they will be a better hunter if they use a heavier, more powerful bow. However, in bow hunting, particularly bow hunting deer, that’s no way to select a bow.

All a bow hunter needs are a well-placed shot; a 40-pound bow can provide that. Compound bows are a great tool for bow hunting, because they are accurate and highly efficient. What is essential when choosing a compound bow is that it feels comfortable when you hold it. Simply put, it should feel well-balanced, and the pull of the bow needs to be right for your frame and size. Most importantly, you need to be able to pull the string without straining, making your shooting relaxed and accurate.

The best place to shoot a deer with a bow:

The next thing bow hunters fail to consider is the angle of the shot they have to take. Aiming at targets is fairly easy… they don’t move! Plus, a deer is not a flat target. A bow hunter will want to place the shot in the heart and lung area to make sure they take down the deer, and this means a shot behind the front leg when the deer is quartering away or broadside.

Some hunters also advise shooting a little lower to compensate for the deer dropping slightly at the sound of the release. Additionally, the majority of the shots a bow hunter will take will be from 15-20 yards away. This is accepted as the range where a deer won’t have the ability to see or smell you easily, while still permitting a shot that can take down a deer. Both these points mean that a bow hunter should practice shooting at a range of 15-20 yards, with a target about the size of the heart and lung area of a deer.

In the field, chances are that you will only get one shot! A bow hunter needs to be prepared for that one, very important, shot. You miss,  the deer will be spooked and run away. That one shot COUNTS.

Bowhunting is a fun and challenging alternative to rifle hunting but requires a different set of skills. A bow hunter needs to get in close to his target to make a successful kill. Here are some tips for improving your skills when bow hunting deer.

Prepare your equipment

Before heading out on your hunt, make sure you can draw your bow silently. Get your bow tuned professionally! Make sure your broadheads are sharp to allow easy penetration into the animals hide, and that are tuned before shooting. Look after your arrows when you are storing and transporting them and ensure they are straight and intact before the hunt.

If a deer spots you, don’t move

Often the animal will not pick you out unless it detects movement. When it goes back to feeding or turns away, move closer with the aim of getting within shooting distance. If the deer turns its head towards you then freeze again and wait. Patience in using this method with produce good results in the long run.

Pay attention to draw timing

Avoid pulling back on the bow more than you can handle. If you have drawn your bow and are awaiting a deer you have spotted coming into range, your arms are likely to get tired and will begin to shake. At this point, the release will then be compromised. Make sure you carry out the pull back when the animal is looking away from you or has its head hidden behind a tree or other foliage.

Blend with the deer’s habitat

Use a deer call to help attract deer to your hunting area, but don’t call too often as it may sound unnatural. A gap of about 15 to 20 minutes between calls is a good guideline. Use scent masking chemicals to mask your body odor from the animal you are hunting and always try to stay downwind of the prey whenever possible. The ability to smell is one of the animal’s most effective means of survival, and unusual smells will send it running in the opposite direction to you. Use camouflage clothing and natural camouflage to disguise yourself as much as possible. Stay close to cover at all times and avoid hunting in the open when you can avoid it.

Finally, the most important tip of all is to get as much practice and experience as you can both on and off season, in the field and on our range – incidentally, the only indoor range in Lubbock that allows crossbows!

Come shoot with us!

Submitted by Bruce Beal, owner of the Archery Shack, Lubbock, TX. For more information, visit us online at and follow us on Facebook at @ArcheryShackTexas


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