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A Good Reason Not to Shoot Deer Beyond 30 Yards With a Bow

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November 07, 2012

A Good Reason Not to Shoot Deer Beyond 30 Yards With a Bow

By David Hurteau

I’m not saying that if I can screw up an easy bow shot, anyone can. But if I screw up an easy bow shot…. Well, anyway, this doe was 20 yards away and just barely quartering away. Easy, easy shot--and I missed by a good 8 inches, too far back.

I suspected it was a bad shot after I let it go, and I knew for sure when I got down and found the arrow covered in green alfalfa slime, presumably from the field where this doe had been feeding before she picked her way cautiously into the woods and under my stand, with a yearling buck in tow, last Friday morning. Both deer ran about 70 yards at the shot and disappeared into a tall screen of phragmites at the edge of the swamp.

I waited five hours, came back, followed the blood trail to the spot I’d last seen her, and there she lay, stiff, just inside the tall, grassy stalks. I got lucky. The shot wasn’t quite as bad as I’d thought, but bad enough that it could have easily resulted in a lost deer.

There are plenty of folks who can outshoot me with a bow; on the other hand, I shoot enough to reasonably consider a 20-yard shot a gimme--and it usually is. But it is all too easy to screw up in the field. There are many potential physical problems—an unseen twig, an awkward stance, an extra layer of clothing you don’t wear during practice. And then there’s the mental game. If Yogi Berra were an archer, he’d say that 90 percent of bowhunting is half mental. I say that 90 percent of bowhunters are half mental when there’s a deer in range.

I was half mental last Friday morning. At this stage in my bowhunting life, I thought I was through with only quasi-aiming at a deer. You know, punching the trigger the second you see the pin somewhere in the general vicinity of the vitals, maybe. But that’s exactly what I did.

And like I said, I got lucky. The truth is that as I’ve become a better long-range shooter on the range, I have toyed with the idea of stretching out my self-imposed field limit of about 30 yards in the whitetail woods (I’ve shot a little over that before, but not much). So in the end, this screw up is probably well timed. It has convinced me to keep it at 30.

 

Comments (21)

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from bonifas9017 wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

well put. the guy i hunt with has pins out to 50 yards and think since he he those he can kill anything up to and within 50 yards. i have told him repeatedly not to but never fails he tries and thankful never wounded any deer. but he also have not hit any deer at all. just need to be calm and let them come in.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MarkStapleton wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Couldn't agree more. I have limited myself to 30 yards for the exact same reasons. I could probably pull off a longer shot but I am just not comfortable doing so and would hate to leave a deer wounded or maimed.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

I know a lot of guys who can hit the 10 ring at 50 yards on the range but consistently miss deer in the woods.

I feel most modern compound bows with the bells and whistles are designed for the range and not the woods. Have you ever followed a professional shooter on the range? Takes about 2 minutes to set up his shot. You do not have that luxury in the woods.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

"...usually is..." implies that on some occasions, stuff happens. And when it does, you need to know how to react. You did it right and all went well...this time. When it doesn't, may we all find some comfort in knowing that we did everything we could within our power. Range may have had nothing to do with it, Dave. Most of us can arrow the ten ring out to 50yds. but not with the consistency we demand of ourselves to loose an arrow at a deer. It falls under the heading of being an ethical and responsible hunter.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Johnson wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Anyone think that people stretch their ability to shoot farther due to all the hunting shows out there? They seem to brag about whacking a deer from 40 yards and further. I for one will always be a two-pin shooter.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kevin wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Good topic Dave! I couldn't agree more with you too. I practice out to 70yds+ for tourneys and 3D, but also to make the 30yd deer shot that much 'easier'. It's a mental, confidence thing but that is what it comes down to on an animal shot sometimes. The more routine and instinctive a shot is to a bowhunter the less likely he'll make a bad shot. But when buck fever enters the bloodstream it's tough either way. Plus so many things can go wrong past 30 yards, unseen twigs, deer movement, etc. As bowhunters we need to make ethical shots, we owe it to the animals we hunt.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jaukulele wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

It's good to hear about the reservations that hunters have as opposed to just success stories about the impossible shot that was miraculously pulled off. It's good to hear that there are a few responsible hunters out there. This is why I love using a bow.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Good comments Dave. 30 yards is really the outer edge of my comfort zone and, in the woods, during bow season when we still have lots of leaves on the trees, this is often the limit for clear shots. I did something similar on opening day of archery -- hitting a little too far forward into the shoulder bone. I found the doe later that evening, but only after an epic stalk through a corn field at night.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I don't understand the five hour wait. That is stretching it for salvaging this animal. One hour seems to me would have been plenty long enough for her to stiffen up in a bed. A gut shot deer isn't likely to live that long in any event.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

my limit is 30 yards as well. although the places i hunt you would be hard pressed to shoot further than that even if you wanted to.
part of the fun of bowhunting is the scouting and having deer get into very close ranges for an easy shot. thats why the season is so long

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Captjim wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I got an eight pointer last weekend at 25 yards. My advice is that you have to almost forget about the deer and concentrate 100% on your form especially your front grip on the bow and not tense up and grip it too tight and torque your grip left or right. I use a strap and i still sometimes drop the bow after a shot. The same thing goes with your release hand. It has to be relaxed and your wrist can't be the least bit twisted or the arrow will miss the mark. Also make sure your release is not too long and you have to reach with your trigger finger. I use a youth release. That's my 2 cents.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Ontario,
It was a nice cold morning. Salvaging the animal was never in doubt. We ate some backstrap last night. Very good. And I have personally seen a deer shot in the guts with a bow survive for five hours.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I don't think I've ever shot much beyond 20 yards with a bow or crossbow. 100% sure none have been over 25 yards. The vast majority are under 20, either from a tree or the ground.

I agree with Ontario that waiting an hour is about right if you aren't 100% sure of a good shot and didn't hear the "crash", but I'm also with Hurteau in that I've seen a deer live at least 5 hours when pushed. I helped track it. We started too soon and she kept going. We heard her and found bloody beds along the way.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I totally agree with this article. Just because you can shoot 50 yards on the range doesnt mean you should be trying it in the deer woods. There are too many variables that can negatively effect shot placement past 30 yards.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I have seen deer/elk shot in a limb that lasted days. I have never seen a gut shot deer last more than an hour. However, I don't hunt with bow and I have made very few gut shots in my long career.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Many mistakes happen and perhaps the number one is follow through. I watch a many Archery Hunting shows and they all have the same I pick up on.

Check this out,

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o9RGnujlkI&feature=fvwp&NR=1

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Perhaps you need to tweak what you take for "that's good enough" My release is set like my varmint rifle, just keep your finger behind it pushing forward until your ready to send it

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ocbowhunter wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

If you know that your hit on a deer was not ideal, I don't think an hour is nearly enough time. I've never gut shot a deer, but I've made a few liver shots. And even with giving those deer two hours before pursuing them, I was still pushing them out of their beds as I tracked them. So I tend to be conservative as to when I'll go after a shot deer (unless I see or hear it go down).
I wouldn't think that a gut shot deer would be likely to expire more quickly than a liver shot deer, but I could be wrong on that (again, never tracked a gut shot deer).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Todd Guittar wrote 1 year 21 weeks ago

Excellent subject! When I tell others,especially hunter's, I wont take any Bow shot in the woods longer than 30 yds. They look at me like i'm crazy? I gladly explain an arrow or bolt is nothing like a shotgun slug or 30/06 flying through the trees. We certainly owe it to our quarry to only take high % shots. I let an 8 pointer go last fri. I could have taken a shot,However I decided to shoot it with my Nikon instead...Also:a gut shot will def bleed out quicker than a liver(all things even)..a gut shot will cause blood to pool quicker and likely tear up intestines(highly vascular) and cause extreme shock. A liver shot will def. cause similar effect,with more localized internal bleeding(leading to slightly slower shock)...Either way,Bucky will fall quickly...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Franksinthewoods wrote 1 year 20 weeks ago

With my longbow I'm pretty good at 20yds or so, but I still prefer shots in the 5 yard range. It's good to stay within your personal limits and comfort zone It will undoubtedly leave you with a lot less regrets and more venison in the long run.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kseal09 wrote 1 year 20 weeks ago

Its a hard decision to make when that "Buck of a Lifetime" presents a shot that is a little farther than you feel comfortable. If you only have one chance then the question comes into play, "Do I try and take this 40+ yard shot or wait for another chance?" My answer was learned the hard way. I took the shot and wounded a nice buck resulting in finding the antlers and remains weeks later. It is not worth it to wound a deer and it dies unfound or you could wait and hope for a second chance.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from bonifas9017 wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

well put. the guy i hunt with has pins out to 50 yards and think since he he those he can kill anything up to and within 50 yards. i have told him repeatedly not to but never fails he tries and thankful never wounded any deer. but he also have not hit any deer at all. just need to be calm and let them come in.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MarkStapleton wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Couldn't agree more. I have limited myself to 30 yards for the exact same reasons. I could probably pull off a longer shot but I am just not comfortable doing so and would hate to leave a deer wounded or maimed.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

I know a lot of guys who can hit the 10 ring at 50 yards on the range but consistently miss deer in the woods.

I feel most modern compound bows with the bells and whistles are designed for the range and not the woods. Have you ever followed a professional shooter on the range? Takes about 2 minutes to set up his shot. You do not have that luxury in the woods.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I totally agree with this article. Just because you can shoot 50 yards on the range doesnt mean you should be trying it in the deer woods. There are too many variables that can negatively effect shot placement past 30 yards.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

"...usually is..." implies that on some occasions, stuff happens. And when it does, you need to know how to react. You did it right and all went well...this time. When it doesn't, may we all find some comfort in knowing that we did everything we could within our power. Range may have had nothing to do with it, Dave. Most of us can arrow the ten ring out to 50yds. but not with the consistency we demand of ourselves to loose an arrow at a deer. It falls under the heading of being an ethical and responsible hunter.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Johnson wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Anyone think that people stretch their ability to shoot farther due to all the hunting shows out there? They seem to brag about whacking a deer from 40 yards and further. I for one will always be a two-pin shooter.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kevin wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Good topic Dave! I couldn't agree more with you too. I practice out to 70yds+ for tourneys and 3D, but also to make the 30yd deer shot that much 'easier'. It's a mental, confidence thing but that is what it comes down to on an animal shot sometimes. The more routine and instinctive a shot is to a bowhunter the less likely he'll make a bad shot. But when buck fever enters the bloodstream it's tough either way. Plus so many things can go wrong past 30 yards, unseen twigs, deer movement, etc. As bowhunters we need to make ethical shots, we owe it to the animals we hunt.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jaukulele wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

It's good to hear about the reservations that hunters have as opposed to just success stories about the impossible shot that was miraculously pulled off. It's good to hear that there are a few responsible hunters out there. This is why I love using a bow.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Good comments Dave. 30 yards is really the outer edge of my comfort zone and, in the woods, during bow season when we still have lots of leaves on the trees, this is often the limit for clear shots. I did something similar on opening day of archery -- hitting a little too far forward into the shoulder bone. I found the doe later that evening, but only after an epic stalk through a corn field at night.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

my limit is 30 yards as well. although the places i hunt you would be hard pressed to shoot further than that even if you wanted to.
part of the fun of bowhunting is the scouting and having deer get into very close ranges for an easy shot. thats why the season is so long

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Ontario,
It was a nice cold morning. Salvaging the animal was never in doubt. We ate some backstrap last night. Very good. And I have personally seen a deer shot in the guts with a bow survive for five hours.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ocbowhunter wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

If you know that your hit on a deer was not ideal, I don't think an hour is nearly enough time. I've never gut shot a deer, but I've made a few liver shots. And even with giving those deer two hours before pursuing them, I was still pushing them out of their beds as I tracked them. So I tend to be conservative as to when I'll go after a shot deer (unless I see or hear it go down).
I wouldn't think that a gut shot deer would be likely to expire more quickly than a liver shot deer, but I could be wrong on that (again, never tracked a gut shot deer).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Captjim wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I got an eight pointer last weekend at 25 yards. My advice is that you have to almost forget about the deer and concentrate 100% on your form especially your front grip on the bow and not tense up and grip it too tight and torque your grip left or right. I use a strap and i still sometimes drop the bow after a shot. The same thing goes with your release hand. It has to be relaxed and your wrist can't be the least bit twisted or the arrow will miss the mark. Also make sure your release is not too long and you have to reach with your trigger finger. I use a youth release. That's my 2 cents.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I don't think I've ever shot much beyond 20 yards with a bow or crossbow. 100% sure none have been over 25 yards. The vast majority are under 20, either from a tree or the ground.

I agree with Ontario that waiting an hour is about right if you aren't 100% sure of a good shot and didn't hear the "crash", but I'm also with Hurteau in that I've seen a deer live at least 5 hours when pushed. I helped track it. We started too soon and she kept going. We heard her and found bloody beds along the way.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I have seen deer/elk shot in a limb that lasted days. I have never seen a gut shot deer last more than an hour. However, I don't hunt with bow and I have made very few gut shots in my long career.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Many mistakes happen and perhaps the number one is follow through. I watch a many Archery Hunting shows and they all have the same I pick up on.

Check this out,

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o9RGnujlkI&feature=fvwp&NR=1

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Perhaps you need to tweak what you take for "that's good enough" My release is set like my varmint rifle, just keep your finger behind it pushing forward until your ready to send it

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Todd Guittar wrote 1 year 21 weeks ago

Excellent subject! When I tell others,especially hunter's, I wont take any Bow shot in the woods longer than 30 yds. They look at me like i'm crazy? I gladly explain an arrow or bolt is nothing like a shotgun slug or 30/06 flying through the trees. We certainly owe it to our quarry to only take high % shots. I let an 8 pointer go last fri. I could have taken a shot,However I decided to shoot it with my Nikon instead...Also:a gut shot will def bleed out quicker than a liver(all things even)..a gut shot will cause blood to pool quicker and likely tear up intestines(highly vascular) and cause extreme shock. A liver shot will def. cause similar effect,with more localized internal bleeding(leading to slightly slower shock)...Either way,Bucky will fall quickly...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Franksinthewoods wrote 1 year 20 weeks ago

With my longbow I'm pretty good at 20yds or so, but I still prefer shots in the 5 yard range. It's good to stay within your personal limits and comfort zone It will undoubtedly leave you with a lot less regrets and more venison in the long run.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kseal09 wrote 1 year 20 weeks ago

Its a hard decision to make when that "Buck of a Lifetime" presents a shot that is a little farther than you feel comfortable. If you only have one chance then the question comes into play, "Do I try and take this 40+ yard shot or wait for another chance?" My answer was learned the hard way. I took the shot and wounded a nice buck resulting in finding the antlers and remains weeks later. It is not worth it to wound a deer and it dies unfound or you could wait and hope for a second chance.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I don't understand the five hour wait. That is stretching it for salvaging this animal. One hour seems to me would have been plenty long enough for her to stiffen up in a bed. A gut shot deer isn't likely to live that long in any event.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

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