7 Bowhunting Mishaps and How to Avoid Them

Bowhunting Featured

You reach for your bow as the crunching of frost-covered leaves gets louder and closer. As you reach full draw, the 10-point buck stops broadside in your shooting lane at 20 yards.

Sounds like a done deal, right? Maybe. What happens next will pack venison into the freezer and hang antlers on the wall, or leave you wondering, “What went wrong?”

The possibilities for bad outcomes are many, but your treestand could squeak, or your arrow could go high or deflect off an unseen branch. Fortunately, many bowhunting blunders are preventable. Let’s cover some common mishaps, and consider a few tips to help you avoid them.

String Jumping

String jumping occurs when your target quickly “ducks” as it attempts to make a fast getaway at the sound of your string being released. This usually results in an arrow passing just over the animal’s back and a frustrating walk back from the treestand. Photo Credit: John Hafner

Perhaps the most common reason arrows miss their mark is “string jumping.” Deer and other game animals react exceptionally fast when startled. They “jump the string” by quickly ducking low the instant they hear the bowstring’s release. They aren’t intentionally ducking the arrow, however. It just looks that way because the deer must gather itself to bolt, much as you do when preparing to jump from a standing position. This sudden drop often lets arrows pass harmlessly over the animal’s back.

What Can You Do?

The closer you are to the animal, the less time it takes the arrow to arrive. Likewise, the faster your arrow flies, the less time the animal has to react. To account for such variables, aim for the heart, which sits at the bottom of the vital zone. If the animal jumps the string and ducks, your arrow will still pass through the lungs above the heart. And if it doesn’t duck, your arrow will pierce the heart. Both wounds cause quick kills.

Shoot the Blind

When bowhunting from a ground blind, always make sure your windows are completely open. Although this exposes you more to your quarry, it ensures you’ll have enough clearance for your arrow at the moment of truth. Photo Credit: John Hafner

You nestled your sight pin on the deer’s vitals. But as you release your arrow, a strange sound startles you, and your arrow sails far from your target. A quick inspection reveals your arrow hit fabric on your ground blind, deflecting it off course.

What Can You Do?

When bowhunting from a ground blind, make sure your shooting windows are completely open. Yes, that can make you more visible to your quarry, but it ensures your arrow has a clear path to its target. Also, be sure to glance at your broadhead before releasing the arrow to verify it won’t hit your blind. Your sight picture might be clear, but your arrow’s launch starts a couple of inches below your sight pin. Make sure nothing will interfere with your shot.

Shoot a Branch

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A small twig the diameter of a pencil is enough to turn the path of an arrow 90 degrees. This makes for challenging hunting situations, as deer and other game animals often prefer areas with thick cover. Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo

Arrows must steer clear of many obstacles to reach the bowhunter’s target. After all, a twig thinner than a pencil can deflect an arrow 90 degrees. Those factors create challenging situations, because deer and other game animals often prefer thick cover.

What Can You Do?

If you can trim shooting lanes around your favorite treestands or ground blinds, get out there with a saw during the offseason. Don’t overdo it, but trim some shooting lanes where you expect deer to walk through. If you’re hunting public lands or the landowner forbids you from cutting shooting lanes, hunt the edges of thick cover along woodland roads, farm fields and natural openings. Also, inspect possible shooting lanes with binoculars to identify obstacles you might not see in low light or with your naked eye.

Aim with the Wrong Pin

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No matter how much time you spend shooting at the range, nothing replicates the adrenaline rush that a big buck gives you as he makes his way towards your treestand. These intense moments also lead to mental lapses, like using the wrong pin for a shot. Photo Credit: John Hafner

No matter how much you practice shooting, nothing replicates the adrenaline rush you’ll feel when a deer approaches your treestand. These intense moments also trigger mental lapses, like using the wrong sight pin when shooting. If you mistakenly use the 40-yard pin for a 30-yard shot, for example, your arrow will pass over the animal’s back.

What Can You Do?

Follow a mental checklist every time you draw your bow to shoot. Did you draw your bowstring to your anchor point? Check. Are any obstacles in your arrow’s flight path? Check. Are you sighting with the right pin on your multi-pin sight? Check. Another option is to use an adjustable single-pin sight, which eliminates the possibility of using the wrong pin. But this solution isn’t for everyone. Work with a pro shop to ensure a quick-adjust sight is right for you.

You Dropped What?

Your quiver, grunt call, rattling antlers and backpack are all suspended high in the air, usually hanging from branches and screw-in hangers. If any of these items aren’t properly secured, you increase the chances of bumping into them as you position yourself for a shot. Photo Credit: John Hafner

Bowhunters bring lots of gear into the treestand. Your backpack, grunt call, rangefinder, binoculars, detachable quiver and rattling antlers often hang from nearby branches and screw-in hangers. If any of them aren’t properly secured, they might fall or you might bump into them while moving to shoot.

What Can You Do?

Staying organized in the treestand greatly reduces the chances of dropping gear or spooking game. Don’t rely on scrawny branches. Buy a bow hanger and multiple gear hangers to keep your essentials within arm’s reach. Double-check to ensure they’re screwed in where they won’t affect your shot.

Noisy Treestands

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Once you bring you stand back in for off-season storage, examine the nuts, bolts and straps and replace any pieces that are showing signs of wear. Not only will this keep you safe, but it will also keep you quiet in your perch as you adjust your positioning for a shot at the buck of a lifetime. Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo

Treestands are subject to rain, sleet, snow and constant swaying in high winds. Those forces cause rusty nuts and bolts, and annoying squeaks as you shift your weight. Squeaky stands also warn away game animals.

What Can You Do?

You can usually prevent squeaky stands by removing them after each hunting season for inspection and maintenance. Before storing them for the offseason, lubricate connection points, examine the nuts, bolts, straps and cables, and replace anything that looks worn. These routine checkups keep you safe, as well as quiet, in your perch as you shift positions for a shot at the buck of a lifetime.

Caught Drawing

Drawing a bow requires a lot of movement, and unfortunately, most game animals have exceptional eyesight. This means you need to be very selective of the moment you choose to come to full draw. Photo Credit: John Hafner

Drawing a bow requires lots of movement, and most game animals have exceptional eyesight. That means you must carefully choose when to pull your bow to full draw. If the animal spots your movements, it almost always flees.

What Can You Do?

Successful bowhunters are opportunistic. When prey makes itself vulnerable, seasoned bowhunters draw their bow. For example, they wait until the animal looks away or walks past a tree or other object that obstructs its view. Always study the animal’s body language. Relaxed animals often look behind themselves, stop to scratch or groom, or lower their head to feed. Those moments offer opportunities to draw your bow. Meanwhile, make sure they don’t hear you draw. Keep your bow and its arrow rest lubricated and well-maintained; and wear soft, silent clothing that won’t make a sound when rubbing against itself.

Conclusion

Much can go wrong in the moments leading up to and during a shot opportunity. The first step in avoiding bowhunting mishaps is to be aware of them. Next, follow a simple mental checklist before each shot during offseason practice so it’s ingrained by autumn. That will help you avoid many bad situations altogether.

Even so, understand that mishaps happen to everyone, and every situation is different. You can’t predict them all. If something goes wrong, try to laugh it off, learn from your mistake, and keep on bowhunting.


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