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Bowhunting from a Treestand: When to Stand and Draw

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October 09, 2012

Bowhunting from a Treestand: When to Stand and Draw

By Will Brantley

My wife, Michelle, has been bowhunting for the past five years. Though she killed a couple deer with a bow during her second and third season in the woods, she also blew a plethora of “gimme” opportunities. That’s part of it.

But she killed a nice buck the second week of Kentucky’s bow season last year, and after that, something clicked. She arrowed two deer right out of the gate during opening week this year, including a good velvet buck I reported on in a Mid-South Rut Reporters entry. Despite her lack of a goatee (have we run that in the ground yet?), she became a certified Bad-Ass Deer Hunter.

Her confidence has soared. Curious, I asked her what changed; what one thing had she learned above all else that helped her to begin consistently killing deer with a bow? Her answer: when to stand up and when to draw.

What a spot-on observation. Collectively, neither of those two actions will take more than two seconds. To a seasoned bowhunter, they can seem second-nature. But when it comes to spooking deer, they’re the riskiest maneuvers a treestand hunter has to make. 

I practice shooting from a sitting position and have killed several deer like that. But shooting a bow while sitting down destroys many important aspects of good form and limits the shots you can take. Given the chance, it’s always best to stand up.

Attempting to stand with a deer right under you is obviously risky. But standing too fast can back-fire, too. When you’re standing, you move more. It’s tougher to keep your arms and legs still while you’re balancing in your stand, holding your bow, than it is while you’re sitting down. I get busted by more deer while I’m standing than sitting, and I bet if you think about it, you do, too.

As a rule, I don’t stand up as soon as I see a deer out of range. Instead, I get my bow in hand when I can, and try to stand only when the deer is within 75 yards and headed my way. If I’m surprised by a deer inside 40 yards, I usually sit tight unless it steps behind thick cover.

Knowing when to draw is even more critical. I struggled with this in my formative bowhunting years. Many times, I drew too soon and got stuck holding at full draw with no shot. Drawing as a deer is walking and just about to step into a shooting lane is best. That’s my usual routine, followed by a soft mouth bleat to stop the animal and take the shot.
But so long as a deer isn’t looking right up at me, I don’t hesitate to draw on an animal standing in the open, either, especially if it’s 20 yards or farther away. A good lesson to learn here is to keep the bow in front of you and draw straight back. The odds of a deer catching sky-lined movement from your arms are minimized that way.

Of course, much as I attempt to explain it, these two skills are truly learned only through experience. I often preach for new bowhunters to not worry so much about killing a big deer, but to focus on just killing deer—does, small bucks—whatever gives you an opportunity. Few things will help your hunting more than confidence. And nothing boosts your confidence more than killing a deer. 

Comments (15)

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from ejunk wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

your next to last paragraph is a great piece of advice - and yet another reason that nobody should ever buy a bow that is so heavy of a draw weight that they can't draw straight back.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Well I have to admit something here and not sure how many people have done this but this was a rookie mistake on my part. All the stands I have have gun rests on them and this weekend I had a perfect shot at a doe about ten yards from base of tree. Well I forgot to get my bow on the outside of the gun rest and when I touched the trigger my bottom bow limb hit the gun rest and sent my arrow in an unknown direction. Alls I know is I heard the arrow traveling through tree limbs in front of me! Needless to say no luck this weekend, but I learned something.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wravian wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

As someone who is just getting into bowhunting, I never thought about the impact that could make. Thanks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from blevenson wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Good advice. Hopefully I can put it to use when I come back from South America in December and try to tag a MN whitetail in the snow.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Practice shooting from your sitting position too. If you set your stand up right, many shot opportunities won't even require you to stand. Shot a big tom turkey last fall from a stand that's main shooting lane was oriented where I could shoot from my butt. He was in a flock of about 20 birds and standing up would have meant game over.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Raccoon Creeker wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

The worst is when youre in the middle of standing up and they peg you, at that point theres no chance. Already happened to me twice this year

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ALJoe wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Hey Dcast, the most important word in your comment is that you learned from your mistake. Every time we can admit we made a mistake and learn from the experience we come away as a little bit better and more seasoned hunter.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kevin wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I honestly can't remember the last time I got busted trying to stand or draw on stand, not bragging just proud of that. I live by a few rules that make that possible. I stand as early as possible when I see a deer I want to shoot, that is the most movement you will make and the farther away they are the less chance they'll see it. Then I don't draw unless the deer is looking away, behind cover, or moving itself. Moving is best cause everything around them is moving as they walk, so you can get by with more movement. It's always risky to draw when they are looking in your general direction cause of their huge eyesight range, but not skying your bow and drawing straight back really helps as stated by Brantley. That itself is a good reason to shoot a lower poundage bow, especially when it's cold out and your muscles are stiff. Be prepared for the opportunity at hand and take the first good shot presented, never wait for the perfect shot. I learned that lesson the hard way once, cost me a large buck I never saw again.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Will Brantley wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

@Jbird - Good point on the turkeys. The few turkeys I've killed from a treestand with a bow have all been shot sitting down because standing up without spooking them simply wasn't possible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I got busted by a real good old 8 pointer last year after he snuck in on me. Instinctively i stood and reached for my bow a little quicker than i should've (probably because he was the nicest buck i'd had that close in years). You know the rest...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I stand and remain standing if deer are in the area. I also holster my bow in front of me at the ready. A bow holster allows the bow to rest comfortably in front of you while deer are close. Too many times a doe will pin you to a tree when a nice buck walks in.

I do not know when I draw. I think every deer hunting scenario is different.

Regardless of when I draw, I never release the arrow if the deer is alert to my presence. You're just asking for the deer to jump the string.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from johntalbott wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I usually stand almost the entire time I'm hunting. I hunt public land in Georgia and Arkansas, in pine thickets and thick oak bottoms. Waiting to stand isn't much of an option- though I've killed deer after standing up, I've had many more give me no opportunity to stand. That being said, this article is really helpful, I generally get a little too bold in my draw.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from scratchgolf72 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

i always stand the first and last 2 hours of the day when i see deer. to many times you look down and there stands a deer at 20 yards, then what do you do? i find it best to always be ready then to have to scramble to get ready.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fishy man wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

I just follow my instinct when i feel comfortable to stand and draw.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SeanGroves wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

Great article on an important subject.

I try to stand right at sunrise and sunset for the hour during/before to be prepared and at anytime I see or get a sense something is in the area. I try to minimize by movement leading up to a shot as much as possible.

In the times I've had to rise up with deer in the area I try to slow my breathing and rise up at a snail's pace-sometimes taking a break as I watch the deer and try to envision their viewing area. I'd rather be too slow and miss an opportunity at a shot than be quick to getting up and alert the deer and bust my stand.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from ejunk wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

your next to last paragraph is a great piece of advice - and yet another reason that nobody should ever buy a bow that is so heavy of a draw weight that they can't draw straight back.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Well I have to admit something here and not sure how many people have done this but this was a rookie mistake on my part. All the stands I have have gun rests on them and this weekend I had a perfect shot at a doe about ten yards from base of tree. Well I forgot to get my bow on the outside of the gun rest and when I touched the trigger my bottom bow limb hit the gun rest and sent my arrow in an unknown direction. Alls I know is I heard the arrow traveling through tree limbs in front of me! Needless to say no luck this weekend, but I learned something.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from blevenson wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Good advice. Hopefully I can put it to use when I come back from South America in December and try to tag a MN whitetail in the snow.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ALJoe wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Hey Dcast, the most important word in your comment is that you learned from your mistake. Every time we can admit we made a mistake and learn from the experience we come away as a little bit better and more seasoned hunter.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kevin wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I honestly can't remember the last time I got busted trying to stand or draw on stand, not bragging just proud of that. I live by a few rules that make that possible. I stand as early as possible when I see a deer I want to shoot, that is the most movement you will make and the farther away they are the less chance they'll see it. Then I don't draw unless the deer is looking away, behind cover, or moving itself. Moving is best cause everything around them is moving as they walk, so you can get by with more movement. It's always risky to draw when they are looking in your general direction cause of their huge eyesight range, but not skying your bow and drawing straight back really helps as stated by Brantley. That itself is a good reason to shoot a lower poundage bow, especially when it's cold out and your muscles are stiff. Be prepared for the opportunity at hand and take the first good shot presented, never wait for the perfect shot. I learned that lesson the hard way once, cost me a large buck I never saw again.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wravian wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

As someone who is just getting into bowhunting, I never thought about the impact that could make. Thanks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Practice shooting from your sitting position too. If you set your stand up right, many shot opportunities won't even require you to stand. Shot a big tom turkey last fall from a stand that's main shooting lane was oriented where I could shoot from my butt. He was in a flock of about 20 birds and standing up would have meant game over.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Raccoon Creeker wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

The worst is when youre in the middle of standing up and they peg you, at that point theres no chance. Already happened to me twice this year

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Will Brantley wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

@Jbird - Good point on the turkeys. The few turkeys I've killed from a treestand with a bow have all been shot sitting down because standing up without spooking them simply wasn't possible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I got busted by a real good old 8 pointer last year after he snuck in on me. Instinctively i stood and reached for my bow a little quicker than i should've (probably because he was the nicest buck i'd had that close in years). You know the rest...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I stand and remain standing if deer are in the area. I also holster my bow in front of me at the ready. A bow holster allows the bow to rest comfortably in front of you while deer are close. Too many times a doe will pin you to a tree when a nice buck walks in.

I do not know when I draw. I think every deer hunting scenario is different.

Regardless of when I draw, I never release the arrow if the deer is alert to my presence. You're just asking for the deer to jump the string.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from johntalbott wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I usually stand almost the entire time I'm hunting. I hunt public land in Georgia and Arkansas, in pine thickets and thick oak bottoms. Waiting to stand isn't much of an option- though I've killed deer after standing up, I've had many more give me no opportunity to stand. That being said, this article is really helpful, I generally get a little too bold in my draw.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from scratchgolf72 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

i always stand the first and last 2 hours of the day when i see deer. to many times you look down and there stands a deer at 20 yards, then what do you do? i find it best to always be ready then to have to scramble to get ready.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fishy man wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

I just follow my instinct when i feel comfortable to stand and draw.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SeanGroves wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

Great article on an important subject.

I try to stand right at sunrise and sunset for the hour during/before to be prepared and at anytime I see or get a sense something is in the area. I try to minimize by movement leading up to a shot as much as possible.

In the times I've had to rise up with deer in the area I try to slow my breathing and rise up at a snail's pace-sometimes taking a break as I watch the deer and try to envision their viewing area. I'd rather be too slow and miss an opportunity at a shot than be quick to getting up and alert the deer and bust my stand.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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