A family friend, David Glover, is the man that got me hooked on archery and bowhunting some 25 years ago. He let me borrow one of his old recurve bows and a handful of aluminum arrows to fling in my back yard. He also gave me a book to read. It was an old-school Bowhunter’s Digest book by Chuck Adams. I spent countless hours reading that book, looking at the photos, and dreaming about bowhunting adventures of my own. But even as a rookie archer, I found the Shot Selection chapter of the book a little strange. Adams pinpointed the best aiming locations for deer at various shot angles. Several of the suggested shot angles went against everything I was taught in my Bowhunter Education class. The ham shot and the quartering-to shot were several that Adams listed as ideal shot opportunities. And while the bowhunting world has all but shunned the dreaded ham shot these days, there still seems to be countless hunters dropping the string each season on quartering-to deer. In fact, it seems to be a growing trend on outdoor TV shows for hosts to take any shot they can get. “It was the only shot I had, and it was now or never” seems to be the mentality plaguing many show hosts in their effort to make a show.
So is the quartering-to shot a great shot opportunity these days? Unfortunately the answer is still no. The shot is no deadlier today than it was decades ago. In fact, with many of the shallow-penetrating mechanical broadheads on the market today, the quartering-to shot may be even less deadly these days. The quartering-to shot is still wrong for all the same reasons. Here’s a look at why you shouldn’t take a quartering-to shot.
On a quartering-to shot, a deer’s shoulder tends to guard the vitals. A quartering-to shot requires the hunter to try and work his shot around the deer’s shoulder, or punch the arrow straight in and through the shoulder. Both are risky at best. Countless hunting videos show that many of today’s broadhead/arrow combinations penetrate very little when encountering bone, not to mention the shoulder itself. A shot around the backside of the shoulder typically finds the arrow getting a single lung, or liver. And while a liver shot is ultimately deadly, a one-lung hit deer can go either way.
Joel Maxfield of Mathews says that the quartering-shot is the number one shot to avoid. “Bowhunters take this shot all the time, and although many deer have fallen to this shot angle, it is a very risky shot. Bowhunters should ask themselves what they are aiming at when taking the shot. What are they hoping to hit? There is so much horizontal and vertical bone in the way when a person takes this shot. The best outcome really is to hit one lung and when you hit one lung, you often lose the deer or other big game animal.”
Give Me a Second
Stan Potts is famous for his post shot statement, “Give me a second!” This excited phrase comes as he’s hyperventilating following a shot on a big buck. A ton of hunters have seen and heard him make this statement after the shot. But what if we could all keep these words in mind before the shot.
Here’s what I mean.
A quartering-to shot usually means that animal is coming to you. So why rush? Give it a second! He’ll likely either get broadside, or pass you, offering a nice, quartering-away shot a few moments later. And if he doesn’t offer a clean shot, that’s okay too. Some times the deer wins. The bottom line is, slow down, and give it a second. Quartering-to shots are most often the results of an impatient hunter that can’t wait to launch and is afraid of the animal getting away. Don’t let yourself become overcome by panic mode. Give it a second!
Risk Versus Reward
A quartering-to shot speaks to the fact that the shooter is willing to take the risk in order to take the shot. I’ve been there plenty of times and I’ve taken the shot more times than I care to admit. Everything in us is screaming, “I can make that shot!” We tell ourselves, “Just tuck in tight behind the shoulder” or “If I get it right in front of that shoulder it will get the job done.” In some cases it works out, but in far too many of them it does not.
You see, the thing with quartering-to shots isn’t just that the vitals are heavily guarded by the shoulder blade. That’s only part of the problem. The other piece of this puzzle that many hunters overlook is how quickly an animal’s reaction to the shot can change the location of those vitals, or quickly cover them with that shoulder that you’re trying to sneak around. One of the main reasons the broadside or quartering-away shot is preferred by bowhunters is that the vitals are readily exposed and offer a much larger margin for error while still making a clean shot. As the animal ducks and turns to get out of dodge it is less likely that their vital will be covered by the shoulder, or move far enough to escape a lethal shot. The quartering-to shot presents very little margin for error, much of which is out of the hunter’s control. One wrong turn or twist and your arrow will likely end up in a shoulder or brisket, which most often result in a difficult recovery if you recover the animal at all.
It’s all about mind games when you’re presented with a quartering-to shot. Sure, you can make a deadly shot on that animal if everything goes right. The reward could be great. Your buddies will congratulate you and you’ll get lots of likes on your social media accounts. But there is a risk involved. We owe it to the animal, landowners, and other hunters and non-hunters alike to say no to risky shots. As I said before, it’s okay for the animal to get away from time to time. The phrase “I had to take that shot” is one that should never enter a bowhunter’s mind. You don’t “have” to do anything.
At the end of the day, it’s your call. That’s the beauty of hunting. It’s the ultimate freedom. We are our own judge and jury. It’s not my place to say what shots you can take or make. This article simply serves as a reminder that, despite what many folks say, the quartering-to shot can present a plethora of problems and risk for the shooter. Slow down this season. Wait for the best shot opportunity to present itself and you’ll be punching more tags instead of following endless blood trails.