Bowhunting Tips: 3 Ways to Avoid Missing at the Moment of Truth

Photograph by Lance Krueger

Determining whether to trigger your release or pass on an animal occurs in the blink of an eye. It might feel instinctual, but as the moment of truth approaches, the bowhunter’s brain processes millions of bits of information. Here are the three most critical components that must factor into that decision.

1) Calculate the Gap
Misjudging target distance is the greatest cause of missed or misplaced shots. However, it's not quite as simple as proper range estimation. While most archery experts caution against long-distance shots, remember that most misses occur within 25 yards due to perplexing shot geometry.

Short shots, especially for treestand hunters, require dramatic changes in shot calculation. These adjustments, or lack thereof, often make easy chip shots anything but simple. A rangefinder with an angle compensator can alleviate all distancing miscues, and a few practice sessions focused on proper short-shot geometry can help lessen these ills.

2) Be Inflexible
We've all heard tales of miracle kill shots made on deer from odd angles, but for every arrow slipped into some fold of buckskin, many more such shots are whiffs or worse. To be consistently successful, you must learn to be completely unyielding in your shot selection, whether you are shooting from a treestand or flat ground. Whereas champion 3D shooters might be capable of hitting a toothpick-wide crevice consistently out to 40 yards, great marksmanship is only part of the equation. It's critical to always hold out for high-percentage shots—broadside or quartering-away only. Shots anchored here offer the greatest amount of anatomical target area. If you can't get the ideal shot, don't take it.

3) Move Yourself
Although volumes have been written about proper shooting form when it comes to the shotgun sports and target archery, precious little information is available with regard to correct in-the-woods shooting form for bowhunters. No matter how athletic you think you are, shots that require odd body twists and contortions rarely end well. These circus shots alter your shot geometry too dramatically. Your stance and body attitude as it relates to your target are critical.

Anticipation will help. Think about making your move the instant you hear an animal approaching. Once you see the animal, slowly begin moving your feet in order to achieve a 90-degree angle to the anticipated shot location. Being perpendicular to your target, feet shoulder-width apart, provides the best stability for a good shot. Attaining proper posture before taking the shot increases your odds for success. If you’re caught contemplating an odd shot angle, a miss is likely to follow.