By Harrison Hoegh
“Hit a branch,” “Miss-judged the distance,” “the deer ducked,” “the wind pushed the arrow,” “I swear I hit him;” I have used many of these excuses over the years to describe how I let a deer get through my fingertips, when I could just admit that I didn’t prepare adequately.
On a windy day about a week ago I was practicing shooting around a tree, and other awkward positions. I realized that these shots weren’t that hard to imagine in a tree stand, but all would be considered trick shots in practice. What one needs to understand about shooting a deer in the woods is that it involves a lot more than shooting a target in your backyard. So if we know that a multitude of awkward shots are possible in the field why do we insist on practicing like we are competing in a Vegas round. Missing this year is probably going to come down to a factor that has nothing to do with ordinary practice. Being ready for that deer that sneaks up the backside of the trail is what will matter more than being prepared to shoot the ten ring with a perfect stance.
Here are a few ways to prepare to deliver in realistic situations.
- Mentally prepare to wait for that deer to turn broadside, don’t just imagine a buck walking into your tree stand imagine him taking his time, imagine that a branch is in the way, imagine watching him for an hour before the shot is clear.
- Make sure your shot is clear every time. This affected my shot twice last year. I tend to sit in more concealed blinds, I am amazed at how small of a branch can deflect an arrow.
- Get out there and shoot in the wind, rain, heat, and with someone watching to raise pressure
- Shoot after a long day of work to prepare for when you are exhausted mentally
- Practice shooting after holding your bow back for 30 seconds
- Make sure your bow is silent, or at least you can draw it silently and with minimal movement. Having a deer hear you draw your bow and skirt away should be thought of as a miss. It might not sting like seeing your arrow fly over the back of a deer, but having a buck hear you is a more detrimental opportunity loss than an arrow startling a deer away.
- Shoot does. Likely the smartest deer in the woods, and also surrounded by other does trying to detect movement, shooting a doe is the most realistic preparation for a buck.
We have been preparing for months for the season to begin. Scouting and spending countless hours in the stand will bring the moment of truth to fruition. Don’t allow the final step to be the one you overlook. These steps can be performed in the final week before the season. Shooting a buck is not a matter of having buck fever or not, it’s a matter of practicing with a purpose. Good Luck.