Shot Selection While Bowhunting

By Hunting NetworkSeptember 25, 2008

LAST UPDATED: May 8th, 2015

The three most important decisions you'll make this season are: 1. should I shoot?  2. When should I shoot?  3. Where should I aim?  Unfortunately, the answers are often the result of surprisingly little thought, maybe no thought at all.  To be most effective on deer, you have to come up with a set of ground rules for dealing with every possible shot you will face while hunting.

You don't want to cave in to the pressure and make a snap decision or force the shot when it really isn't there.  But at the same time, you don't want to be so timid that a great opportunity passes you by simply because you were too conservative to seize it.  There are too few good shots in a season (or a lifetime) to let even one go by untaken. 

The only way to learn your true maximum range is to go to a 3-D target tournament with unmarked distances and determine the estimated distance at which you begin to lose accuracy.  Remember, your range estimate has more to do with your accuracy than nearly all other factors except your pure shooting ability.

Take the first good shot.  You’ve likely heard this advice, (and you’ve probably given it).  Though the statement is surely true, keeping a clear enough head to know when you’re looking at the first good shot isn’t always easy.  Decide in advance.  Before you climb into your first tree stand or ground blind this fall, spend some time considering several of the touchy shots that are likely during a typical bow season.  Know which shots you'll take and how you'll handle some of bowhunting’s most difficult situations.


This is possibly the most common dilemma that bowhunters face.  The buck is crossing the ridge but he’s out there quite a ways.  Sure, you can grunt at him and hope he comes closer, but he’ll probably just stop and stare – then what?  Do you have concrete criteria for deciding when a buck is out of range?  You should.  Don’t leave that important decision to a “mood of the day” reaction.  You have to know your maximum range under real hunting conditions and stick to it.

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