Should You Shoot?
GUN Assume for all shooting situations that you are shooting a .30-06 rifle, with a 3-9×40 scope and 165-grain bullet and you’re pretty confident shooting out to 300 yards. The buck is standing broadside at 75 yards, but there is some brush between him and you. All you can see is the front of his shoulder, his neck and his head. He’s headed to your right and even thicker cover and soon you won’t be able to get a shot. Photo by: Charles and Clint
John Snow: Close, but no cigar. The brush in the way of this deer could too easily deflect the bullet and cause the bullet to miss or, worse yet, wound the animal. Unless he steps into the clear you need to let him walk.
There’s three bucks standing still and looking your way. One of them is a shooter. You’ve ranged the distance to be 125 yards. There’s a 20-mph crosswind blowing from left to right, but you’ve setup a bi-pod and are laying in the prone position. Photo by: Derek Bakkan
John Snow: To take an ethical shot in high winds requires four things: a rock-solid shooting position, which we have here, an accurate estimation of the wind’s speed, knowledge of what the wind will do to your bullet under these conditions and, lastly, actual time spent shooting under windy conditions. The good news here is that the animal is close enough–125 yards–that even a 20-mph wind won’t blow our bullet off course by more than 2 or 3 inches. So with a solid rest you can cheat a couple inches into the wind and take the shot.
From 200 yards out this buck is slowly quartering toward you. There is a doe that ran past your stand about two minutes ago and this big boy is on her trail. He’s not acting spooked, and he’s following the path of the doe. The only problem? He’s downwind of you. Do you shoot now or let him come in?
John Snow: A moving target at 200 yards–even if it is walking at a slow and steady pace–is not an ethical shot. But don’t despair. Before that buck gets to your scent cone and bolts you have a good trick up your sleeve. Give him a strong solid bleat and chances are he’ll pause and, presto, you’ll have a good shot.
These mule deer popped up out of nowhere and are now trotting away at what you estimate to be 75 yards. The buck in the back is a shooter. You have about three seconds before they reach the ridgeline and disappear. Photo: Derek Bakken
John Snow: A trotting shot at 75 yards isn’t a big deal, assuming the position you’re in allows for a smooth swing of barrel. I’m thinking here of a solid sitting position with the benefit of shooting sticks. The bigger question here is–is that buck actually a shooter? In the heat of the moment it is easy to overestimate the size of a deer’s rack. In this case I would take a pass and hold out for a more mature deer.
There’s a shooter buck standing about 150 yards out with a doe. They’re not coming any closer and you only have mere minutes of legal shooting light left. You can still see the buck in your scope fairly clearly. Photo by: Michael McCollough
John Snow: Legal light is still legal–and a buck standing in the open is exactly the target you’re looking for. With today’s optics, your crosshairs should still be clearly visible on his body. In this instance, don’t rush. You still have some time. Be patient and let the buck turn broadside before shooting. The only problem here is that these deer look like they’ve busted the hunter.
You’re posted on the end of a deer drive when this buck comes busting out of cover full speed at 60 yards. You have a clear (and safe) shot but, he’s moving about as fast as a deer can move. Photo: Kabsik Pakr
John Snow: A buck at 60 yards running at top speed? Sorry, but you should let this boy go and hope for a better presentation next time.
You spot this buck from your stand at the same time he spots you. You’ve brought your gun up and have your scope on him, but he’s just standing there facing you acting spooked at 75 yards. Your hunch is that any second he’s going to whirl around and dash off the way he came, but you’re not sure. Photo: Chauncey Davis
John Snow: I’ve killed a number of animals with frontal chest shots and have never had one run off wounded. But there’s a bit of grass obscuring the patch in this buck’s chest where I’d like to put my bullet so in this case I’m not shooting.
This buck is feeding 365 yards away. There’s no good cover for a stalk but you might be able to belly crawl a little closer at the risk of spooking him or the deer around him. It doesn’t look like he’s walking your way. You’ve practiced at the shooting range all summer and feel comfortable shooting at 300 yards, but you’ve never taken a shot farther than that in your life. You’ve been watching the buck for about 15 minutes and it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere soon. Photo: Michael McCullough
John Snow: On paper the .30-06 has plenty of ooomph to kill a buck at 365 yards, but if you’re only comfortable shooting at 300, then you need to take a pass. Knowing your limits and staying patient are perhaps the two most important skills a hunter can develop. With this deer you could either try to make an approach to get in range when the deer are looking away or you can just enjoy the show and watch them feed, slip out when the coast is clear and make another try for him tomorrow.
Assume for all bowhunting shots you’re shooting a compound bow with a draw weight of 65 pounds. You’re confident shooting out to 35 yards. This buck is quartering away from you at 20 yards. There’s a pretty good shot, but there’s high grass covering his vitals. If you shoot, you’ll have to shoot through the grass.
Travis Faulkner: As an ethical bow hunter, this would be a tough decision to make. The short yardage and quartering angle sounds like a no-brainer. However, trying to shoot through obstructions with an arrow is usually not a very good plan. In this situation I would let the buck walk and wait for a shot opportunity that clearly shows his vitals.
Just as you were drawing on this buck he turned to face you. Now he’s standing still at 15 yards and you have your bow fully drawn. You wait, and he just stands there looking at you. The seconds are ticking by and you’re arm is starting to get tired …
Travis Faulkner: I once watched a good bow hunter on television take a monster buck in this same situation. Without question, a correctly placed arrow can reach a lot of vitals at this angle, but there are still many drawbacks to consider. For example, you’re only going to have an entry hole to leave blood. In addition, there is a good chance that the arrow is going to stay lodged in the buck’s chest, which will dramatically restrict bleeding. A clogged entry hole can make tracking the animal very difficult. In this situation, I would pass on the shot and hope that my arms would hold on a few seconds longer.
You finally crept within 30 yards of the big muley you’ve been stalking all day. He’s standing still, but light is fading fast and the snow has turned into rain. Any blood trail will probably get washed away over night. Because of the weather you know the buck is headed for his bedding area and you have a pretty good idea where that is. Take the shot or go after him again tomorrow? Photo: tuchodi
Travis Faulkner: In this situation, I would probably go ahead and take the shot. It will take the rain some time to wash away the snow and the blood trail. I am very confident that a clear 30-yard shot will result in a very short tracking job anyway.
You’re doe tag is burning a hole in your pocket and these two deer have snuck up a steep hill behind you. You’re range finder says the deer are 30 yards away but you estimate the incline of the hill to be about 60 degrees. It seems like it’s straight up. They’re slowly crossing the side of the hill moving to your left. Photo: jcookfisher
Travis Faulkner: Hunting the steep mountain country of southeastern, Kentucky has placed me in this situation many times throughout my hunting career. Personally, I would have no problem taking this shot under these circumstances. However, I practice a lot in the offseason taking shots at extreme high and low angles. All bow hunters need to practice shooting tough uphill and downhill angles with their bow before attempting shots like these in the field.
It’s the opening morning of archery season and two bucks are grazing at 35 yards away, according to your range finder. They’re not coming closer and are slowly moving off to your right. There’s grass in the way now, but Soon you’ll have an open broadside shot. It’s not an especially windy day, but you’ve been watching these bucks for about 10 minutes and now you’re shaking with a slight case of buck fever. Photo: Ollie Crafoord
Travis Faulkner: In this scenario, I would have no problem taking a 35-yard shot with a clean shooting lane. However, shaking from buck fever at that distance would make me reconsider letting an arrow fly. Shaking can significantly alter shots period, especially when shooting past 20 yards. Luckily, I’ve never experienced buck fever or nerves until after taking the shot. Wrapping my hands around a massive racked-bruiser still makes me lose control, but that has never happened to me before or during the moment of truth.