To Bowkill a Whitetail Deer

Oct 2004 Deer

A little basket rack from my back yard some years back.

To make a killing shot on a whitetail deer with a bow and arrow requires lots of skill and practice and lots of patience. As a former International Bowhunter Education instructor I have had many students that shoot 3D archery and say that they kill deer at 40 and 50 yards all the time on the 3D course. So why not when it is real? First and foremost, a 3D target is not a real live living thing that moves and breaths. Second, the angle is often not ideal in 3D for an anatomically correct shot. And third, if you think a deer is going to wait for you to kill it, think again. Deer can, and have, ducked an arrow if its senses know that danger is at hand. It is the unaware deer that is easier to kill. Having said that, 3D archery is about as close as you are going to come to the real thing and brings  you half way. Judging distance and angles a vegetation are great aids in the learning process. So keep going to 3D shoots and practice knowing that without the fight/flight mechanism you are partly there in this skill set to bowkill a whitetail deer. What is missing is the coming of dawn, climbing into a tree in the darkness, hearing your heartbeat,  little noise from you or your banging and clanging as you get in a real tree stand, real deer, adrenaline, razor sharp broadheads and a bow that has been tuned with broadheads. Or the onset of darkness having to do it all in reverse.

As a human that is about to launch an arrow at a living thing, something different happens to us that has intensity that cannot be felt elsewhere unless death is upon us. And that does not happen with an inanimate object like a 3D target. Our fight or flight mechanism kicks in with a load of adrenaline, breathing can become labored and in many cases the “shakes” take over your body uncontrollably, especially in new bow hunters that have little experience with an actual kill. In some cases the shakes are so violent that early hunters have fallen from tree stands before the advent of safety harnesses.  In some cases hunters will vomit in a post shot environment due to the intensity of the situation, I have experienced this many years ago with too  much adrenaline where an 8 point buck was walking towards me at 20 yard and closing the gap with intent to kill me. I had a Muzzle Loader and killed him instead. Most of us move through that phase, still shake a bit, but with control practice, can still make the shot. Hunting where there is game aplenty will give you this experience. If there was no adrenaline, the hunter would not hunt except to provide food. It is the intensity of the moment with the adrenaline that for most, keeps hunters coming back whether with gun or bow. Some believe more so with bow because often you can see the deer, its eyes, ears and hear your heart beat all at the same time you draw your bowstring to send a razor sharp arrow toward its vitals. As my friend Peter Hathaway Capstick ( Death in the Long Grass) elucidates from his heavenly perch; Something is going to die! In Peter’s case as a dangerous game  hunter, the hunter could die if he or she did not do its job correctly.

Shot placement is key to a quick and humane kill so I have found a website that has an interactive site that aids in shot placement. Two of the scenarios, one at a running deer and the other, a frontal shot are to be avoided at all costs unless the deer is wounded. Without further adieu give this website a try:

If you want to experience this in a real simulated situation, run 200 yards and while huffing and puffing to simulate adrenaline, then take the test. I did not run, but scored 95 out of 100. How bout you? Can you beat my score?



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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game
such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.