Food plots were put in weeks ago. Treestands and blinds have been placed. Cameras have been checked for months. Work, financial commitment, and substantial time has been invested in hopes of harvesting a deer. We do it because we have passion for it and enjoy the total experience. However, oftentimes all of the efforts before season are jammed packed into 30 seconds – give or take – when we are put to the ultimate test to take the shot. The decisions we make during that blur in time are lasting and can spell success or missed opportunity. Maximize your pre-shot routine with a plan. Here’s the break-down.
Identify a Target Deer
The tags/permits in your pack along with your state’s regulations will determine what you can legally harvest. Many states allow a specific number of bucks and antlerless deer. In addition, some states have antler restriction requirements. Make sure the deer you have identified is legal for you to take and meets your expectations.
Look for a Clear Opening and Check the Distance
Regardless of gun or bow, taking the shot through an opening is important. This minimizes arrow or bullet deflection from limbs, trees, etc. and should allow for positive contact on the animal. Watch the direction the deer is moving and depending on speed, look ahead for a potential spot that will allow for stopping the deer to execute the shot. Once you have picked out the first target opening, look ahead further for a second opening if the first doesn’t pan out. In addition, make sure the opening(s) you have selected are within range of your skill and equipment and have safe backstops.
Use Cover to Your Advantage
While the deer is still in a cover screen and just before he steps in your pre-determined opening, go ahead and draw your bow or prepare your gun for the shot. This movement is important to make before the deer knows your location. If done after stopping the deer, there is a significant chance he will pick up your movement.
Wait for the Angle
When preparing to stop the animal and take the shot, make certain the position will end up with the deer in a high percentage shot angle. Your goal should be broadside or quartering away.
Stop the Deer – If Needed
Taking a shot at a moving animal can be tricky and unethical. If the deer is walking, offer a quiet voice grunt to stop it in your opening. If he doesn’t stop, he may not have heard it; amp the volume up a bit until the deer stops. Note: If the deer naturally feeds in your opening and is broadside/quartering away, you do not need to make a noise. This can actually spook the deer and/or alert it to your position making the shot dicey.
Plan the Shot and Pick a Spot
Now is the time for a super focus on the skill of shooting. Pick a spot on the animal that will result in a quick clean kill and concentrate on making the shot. If you are bowhunting, think about the potential for string jumping and plan for impact in the lower third of the kill zone (lower lungs/heart), this should result in a harvest even if the deer reacts to the shot. Take your time and follow the skills you practiced at the range in prep for season.
Follow this pre-shot plan; you’ll be texting your buddies harvest photos in no time.