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Animals have an extraordinary ability to dodge arrows. This attribute wasn't understood until the behavior of white-tailed deer was captured on videotape and studied carefully. Deer can take flight with uncanny speed at the slightest hint of danger, particularly unnatural sound, including the sound of a bow twanging. This phenomenon is called "jumping the string."

Prior to discovering this behavior, bowhunters assumed that every shot that sailed over the deer's back had simply been aimed too high. What they couldn't see without the benefit of slow-motion replay was that the deer had reacted instinctively to the sound of the bow. The deer collapsed its front legs and dropped its chest to the ground preparing to spring, unconsciously ducking below the arrow.

The problems with jumping the string can be minimized if you will:

  • Limit shots to well within your effective range.
  • Shoot only a quiet, well-tuned bow.
  • Shoot only at unalarmed deer.

The following video shows examples of situations you might encounter while bowhunting. For each example, decide whether or not you would take a shot. If you would shoot, think about when you would shoot and where you would aim. If you would not shoot, think about why a shot should not be taken.

Press the play button (▶) above to start the video. Trouble with this video?

Video Transcript

Exercise 1

A buck stands and walks toward the camera. The view is obstructed by brush.

Narrator

You have called this deer using a grunt call. Choose when to shoot, and pick a spot.

The buck approaches in a head-on position, then turns from quartering-toward to a brief broadside view before turning back into the head-on position. The buck faces the camera, stamps the ground, and snorts. The grunt call sounds, and the buck stamps the ground again. After the last grunt call, the buck turns and bounds away.

Narrator

As is often the case when calling deer, there was never a chance for a high-percentage shot.

Exercise 2

Narrator

When walking to your stand one afternoon, you walk up on the buck you’ve been hoping will come underneath your tree stand. Choose when to shoot, and pick a spot.

The buck walks with his broadside exposed through tall grass. He pauses with his head turned away from the camera, then looks back ahead of him and continues walking.

Narrator

Unfortunately, the high weeds between you and the deer prevented a high-percentage shot. The deer was obviously not spooked. Proceed to your stand, and wait for a better opportunity.

Exercise 3

Narrator

You are almost to your tree stand, and you see another buck.

A buck is grooming his hindquarters. The vital zone is obstructed from view by a small stand of trees.

Narrator

You use several large tree trunks to shield your approach. The timber is wet, and your approach is quiet. You are 15 yards away. Choose when to shoot, and pick a spot.

The buck begins to move from behind the trees. As the animal travels, it continues to be blocked from any long period of view by the thick forest, until it emerges into a clear spot and feeds.

Narrator

Shoot now.

On screen, crosshairs indicate the ideal shot placement—just above where the back edge of the front leg connects to the torso.

Exercise 4

Narrator

You have used a hill to stalk within easy range of this mule deer. You have positioned yourself to draw your bow, and the herd is only mildly disturbed.

The buck raises himself from a resting position, faces broadside, and walks, periodically facing the viewer before turning and continuing. The animal approaches a doe and pauses.

Narrator

Shoot now.

Crosshairs indicate the ideal shot placement—just above where the back of the buck’s front leg meets the torso.

Exercise 5

Narrator

You are in your tree stand at the edge of an alfalfa field when you hear something behind you. You’ve never seen deer approach from that way before. Choose when to shoot, and pick a spot.

The buck emerges from behind trees and offers a broadside view for just a moment before again being blocked by brush. It travels continuously and does not pause.

Narrator

Don’t try to force a shot. Clear small limbs from between trees for more open shooting lanes. Some hunters grunt at walking deer to stop them within those open lanes.

Exercise 6

Narrator

You are well hidden behind several antelope decoys. Choose when to shoot, and pick a spot.

A pronghorn faces the viewer in the head-on position. It gives a short call, then turns to offer a broadside view and walks a few steps. Pausing, the pronghorn turns its head to face the viewer.

Narrator

If you were going to shoot, this would be an ideal aiming point. However, since this pronghorn is alert and looking at you, it is likely it will move before your arrow hits. Most bowhunters will pass on this opportunity and wait for the pronghorn to relax and look away.

Exercise 7

Narrator

You saw this pronghorn buck grazing toward a small saddle, and you got there ahead of him. The distance is 20 yards. You have just drawn your bow, and the pronghorn hardly noticed the movement. Choose when to shoot, and pick a spot.

The buck turns from a rear-facing position into quartering-away. It pauses.

Narrator

Shoot now.

Crosshairs indicate the ideal shot placement in the quartering-away position—slightly behind where a bowhunter would aim at a buck in broadside. The crosshairs are midway up the torso above the front leg farthest from the viewer.

Exercise 8

Narrator

You have been following four bull elk for over an hour. They have been traveling slowly and feeding often, even sparring at times. You’ve closed ground each time they’ve crested a hill. This time, they’ve stopped to feed just over the crest, and you’ve closed the distance to less than 20 yards. You can’t top the crest now, or they’ll see you. Finally, all the bulls have turned to walk directly away. Not one of them sees you as you top the hill and draw your bow. You cow-call with the diaphragm in your mouth. The bull you want calmly turns, expecting to see a cow elk. Don’t forget to pick a spot.

The bull offers a broadside shot, clear from brush or other obstruction, and waits motionlessly.

Narrator

Shoot now.

Crosshairs indicate the ideal broadside shot placement—slightly above where the back of the front leg joins the torso.

This video segment is from The Basics of Bowhunting: Traditions In Safe and Ethical Bowhunting on the 2003 Kansas Bowhunter Education DVD produced by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks; written, directed, photographed, and edited by Gene Brehm; and narrated by Bob Mathews.