Best advice for a bowhunter – make shot at deer close

One evening last archery season I ran into two hunters who were hunting private land that bordered the property I was hunting. We were exiting toward parked trucks that were close to each other, shadowed by woods that were quickly becoming dark.

Small talk between the three of us revealed none had seen even a single deer during that late afternoon hunt. I noticed that both archers carried crossbows – I use a compound, but have no problem with those who choose any form of legal hunting tool – and I asked them how they liked hunting with their style bows.

They praised their bows, suggesting they could make shots out to 70 yards. I said nothing to that statement, but deep inside I recoiled at the thought that anyone would shoot at a deer with any type of bow and arrow at that distance.

It’s absurd to think killing shots are at a high percentage at that distance.

Years ago, an extremely successful archery hunter told me the secret of his success. “I simply let the deer get close enough that I know I’ll kill them,” he said. “Twenty yards and in is my rule. Over that distance, I let ‘em walk.”

I know the accuracy of modern bows can be downright lethal out to at least 40 yards, but that sort of shooting is executed on still targets with a known distance. Shooting at deer without knowing the yardage, in shaded woods with various forms of surrounding light and at unusual angles is a whole different ball game.

Too many people complain to me that they find dead deer that were wounded by archery hunters. I do not enjoy listening to those complaints (and let’s be up front here, many more deer are lost during gun seasons than in archery seasons), but those complaints are valid, and those who discover carcasses that are the result of bad archery shots have every reason to criticize and grumble.

Wounded animals escape hunters to die later, unfound. That is a part of hunting that will never completely fade away. But, when it comes to archery, a close shot is the best shot to increase the odds of a clean kill.

With archery season already open in certain parts of Pennsylvania, keep in mind we hunters all have the responsibility to make clean kills in the best possible manner. Know your bows capability and your lethal range, and stick to it. Never hesitate to let a deer walk that is plainly too far away.


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