by Eric Hall
There are very few absolutes when it comes to hunting whitetail deer. One that I will always stand by is the need to prepare for the season by practicing with your equipment. Below are 5 tips that will help you to be ready for the upcoming season.
Aim Small, Miss Small:
Practicing with 3D targets is a great way to prepare for the archery season. However, simply aiming at a whitetail target’s vitals can lead to disaster when the stress is on in the field. Aiming at small precise targets during the practice will help you develop the habits needed to focus when the buck of a lifetime steps out. Put an orange (or another color) dot on your 3D target. Start with a two-inch dot and as your performance improves move down to a one-inch dot. Focusing on these small targets will improve your form, and help you to slip the shot into the “pocket” this fall.
Practice more than just broadside shots:
Everyone loves the classic broadside shot and we tend to practice this way leading into the fall. The issue arises because the deer do not care what we prefer. Most often, we are presented with quartering shots and aiming like it is broadside will cause one lung or even not vital hits.
A quartering-to shot is not advisable. The biology of the whitetails puts the shoulder blade in front of the vitals. Aiming back behind the shoulderblade will cause one lung and liver hits, especially with archery tackle. Yes, people can drive an arrow through the blade and have killed deer doing this. From my point of view, I would rather lose out on the deer than take a chance on just wounding the animal.
Quartering-away shots allow the hunter to drive the payload through both lungs, but the aiming point will be determined by the angle of the deer. The rule of thumb is to aim through the whitetail to the off side shoulder. This will allow a double lung hit and allow the animal to expire quickly. Be cautious on hard quartering-away shots, it is difficult to hit the vitals. When in doubt pass.
Be sure to practice these angles with both firearms and archery tackle. Knowing where to aim in the summer will help calm your nerves in the fall.
Practice from an elevation:
I have missed more deer shooting from a tree stand because I would not practice from an elevation. The trajectory will alter the impact point of arrows as well as bullets. Take the opportunity to shoot from an elevated perch to know how this impacts your projectile’s flight. Aiming points change due to being in the air. Shooting through to the off shoulder still holds true, but you do not want your first attempt at an elevated shot to be when a mature buck is at your stand. Shoot from a deck or tree stand in your yard. I have a ladder stand attached to the barn. Practice how you intend to hunt.
Practice from multiple positions:
Just like deer will not always give us a perfect broadside shot, they also tend to show up in places we are not prepared to shoot. Often we find ourselves sitting, bending, kneeling, leaning, and twisting to make a shot. Practice shooting from all possible positions. I have taken it so far as to practice shooting left handed with my crossbow. While I have never taken a shot, I know through practice that I am capable and confident with an “out of the box” situation. The more we prepare, the better we will handle the inevitable odd position that whitetails put us into.
Practice with your gear:
Practice with your hunting clothes on with both the gun and the bow. Heavy winter clothing makes me change the way I shoulder a firearm in the late season so I want to know that in August. I tend to practice shouldering my weapons in August in varying amounts of hunting clothes. As hunters, we want to know how our gear will perform all season not just in a t-shirt and shorts. Knowing you have a bowstring catching on your forearm in August will allow you to adjust and adapt prior to the season. I choose August to shoot in my gear because I clean it in September to eliminate odors and prepare for the season.
Consider these practice tips as we push into late August and early September. Practicing how you will hunt will help you prepare for almost any situation that will arise during the season. Prepare, prepare, prepare!!! You will be glad that you did.