Tricks For The Moment Of Truth

December 22nd, 2008 / Posted by
Tricks For The Moment Of Truth

by Bill Winke. For a bowhunter, the moment of truth is intense. When a wary buck or wild-eyed bull stands less than 20 yards away, the extra load of adrenalin can push the nervous system into overload. Instincts take over and the outcome of the hunt depends upon how well you’ve trained them.
Fighting Buck Fever
Instead of trying to eliminate the adrenalin-pulsing excitement (even if you could why would you want to?), learn to control your nerves well enough to permit a good shot in spite of it. Like a professional golfer facing a putt to win the Masters, you need a pre-shot routine you can focus on to keep from coming unglued. A typical example goes as follows: pick your shooting lane, determine the distance, center the pin in the peep sight, lock in on the exact hair you want to hit and smoothly release the string. Focus on each step, one at a time, and you’ll beat buck fever.

Visualize the events unfolding. If you’re hunting from a tree stand, go through a mental checklist for every possible direction a buck can approach. When will I draw? What lane will I shoot through? How far is the shot? Quickly reherse each shot to make sure there’s room to draw your bow and a good lane to shoot through. A few minutes of this type of preparation each time you go on stand will make you much more instinctive and automatic when the buck shows up for real.

Your first aggressive action during the moment of truth, and possibly your most important, is drawing your bow. It is a basic truth that you’ll never shoot anything if you don’t draw your bow. But, you have to have a plan because proper timing is everything.

Let’s look at a typical situation of a big buck approaching your tree stand. You’ll probably see him well before he gets within range. Spend a few seconds gauging his pace. If it’s steady, draw when he’s still beyond your shooting range (assuming you’re using a compound bow), but make sure his head is behind something or his attention averted. If his pace is slow (or if you’re shooting a recurve or longbow), wait until after the buck comes within range before making your move.

We’ve all heard it said but it bears repeating. Take the first good shot; it may be the only one you get. Too many bowhunters wait for a perfect opportunity – a buck at 15 yards, broadside in a wide shooting lane, looking the other way. It makes for a great mental image, but it rarely happens in the real world. Don’t force things, but if the animal’s vitals are exposed and you know you can make the shot, stop waiting and take it.
Read The Body Language

Two pictures of the same deer. Neither shot is ideal-in both-the deer is quartering towards the hunter...however; on top, the deer is walking slowly but not alerted, if you have practiced this shot you can take it safely. The deer on bottom is tense and alert, you should wait till it calms down before attempting a shot.

Two pictures of the same deer. Neither shot is ideal-in both-the deer is quartering towards the hunter...however; on top, the deer is walking slowly but not alerted, if you have practiced this shot you can take it safely. The deer on bottom is tense and alert, you should wait till it calms down before attempting a shot.

Quick decisions have to be made, and the only source of information available to help you make them correctly is the actions of the animals themselves. Several of the bucks I’ve arrowed through the years were the direct result of reading the deer’s body language to determine what it was likely to do next. At each decision point I had only to interpret the animal’s body language properly to be ready for the shot opportunity. Whenever things don’t go exactly as planned, study the animal for clues of what it will do next so you can react accordingly.

Two seasons back I was aiming at a doe that seemingly disappeared in a cloud of leaves when I released the string. The arrow hit right where I was aiming, but she was gone! I should have known from her body language that she’d “jump the string”. Just the sound of my bowstring being released was enough to cause her to simultaneously drop and wheel as she loaded up her legs to bolt. When you read the warning signs of tension – an intensely focused gaze, jerky movements, cupped ears and sometimes foot stamping – compensate for the natural dropping motion by aiming for the very bottom of the animal’s vital area.

Other tell-tale body language can help you during the moment of truth also: a tail twitch means the deer will move very soon, raised nose means the deer has caught a light whiff of something (assume it’s you) – you’d better shoot quick, raised tail means the deer will move off but it probably won’t blow out immediately and ears forward stare means something has alerted the deer but not necessarily alarmed it. Don’t panic on this one you probably still have some time.
Should You Stop A Moving Animal?
Whenever possible, stop a walking animal for an easier shot. After getting the bow drawn and in position, make a loud grunt with your mouth. But, be ready to shoot because the deer probably won’t stand still for long. If the animal immediately looks tense instead of curious, you also have to consider the possibility that it will jump the string.

During the rut, big whitetail bucks rarely stop for long. More than half of all my shots at deer have been at moving targets. I’ve learned the hard way not to try to stop walking game when I have only narrow shooting lanes available. If the animal takes an extra step and freezes behind a screen of cover, I’m sunk. Instead, I aim at the center of an opening in front of the animal and shoot as soon as its shoulder appears beyond your pin. As long as the animal’s pace is leisurely and the distance short (20 yards, or less) I’ll make a double-lung hit.

As a rule of thumb, stop a moving animal in each of the following situations:
1. When you have ample shooting lanes.
2. If you lack the confidence or practice to time the shot at the moving animal.
3. If it is moving faster than a walk.
4. If the range is past 20 yards.

A Clear Sight Picture
A few simple changes to your sighting system can make your sight picture a lot clearer during the moment of truth.
Sight pins: Two years ago I missed a really big buck right before the end of legal shooting time. Since then I’ve switched to a sight using large, .060″ diameter fiber-optic pins, and have not had any problems with pin visibility. Many shot opportunities come during low light conditions when game is moving naturally. Modern fiber sights are excellent at gathering and concentrating scarce ambient light, offering an extra 10 minutes of accurate shooting time every morning and evening.

Simplify your set-up. Two pins will work great for most whitetail hunting situations (set for 10 and 20 yards, or for 20 and 30 yards) and a third one set at a longer distance is a good idea when hunting open settings. If you want to use only one pin, set it for 25 yards to give yourself the greatest margin for error in range estimation for shots from 15 to 30 yards.

Peep sights and kisser buttons: Peep sights will lock you into a consistent anchor point at full draw, but they also restrict the amount of light that reaches your eye, resulting in difficult low-light shooting. Look for peeps having an orifice diameter of at least ¼ inch or choose designs such as the C-Peep that permit greater amounts of light to enter.

Kisser buttons attach to the bowstring and contact your face in the same place every time you reach your normal anchor point. They don’t force the same level of consistency as a peep sight, but they don’t reduce the amount of light that reaches your eye either.

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