LONG SHOTS AND COLD NIGHTS
Long shots always spark an ethics debate among bowhunters. I don’t see that happen nearly as much among gun hunters even though long shots with a gun are just as challenging as those with a bow.
That aside, it is good to discuss this subject.
The negative comments we get when we show long shots always focus on two things. First, we are told that the shot was too long because the deer could move while the arrow was in the air. No doubt, this is a valid point and I will get to that in a minute.
Second, some say we are setting a bad example by seeming to promote long shots encouraging bowhunters to exceed their skill level in the hopes of arrowing a big buck. Again, there is definitely a point here, as well.
The Deer Can Move: No doubt about it, the longer the shot, the more time the deer has to move. Mike aimed low and the buck dropped into the arrow. That was a very conservative plan. If the buck had not dropped, Mike would have missed him low – an outcome he was prepared for and would have been satisfied with.
When discussing the subject of movement and string jumping, we take the first steps in putting together a very complex puzzle. I will take on part of it here, but will save the bulk of this discussion for another day. Here is the short version of what I have learned. I only hunt with a camera over my shoulder now so the things I am learning now are only possible by going back and studying the video footage frame by frame to see what really happens, not what we think happened.
In my experience in having shot many deer over the past few years, they tend to jump the string (at least here in the Midwest) most noticeably at ranges from 20 to 40 yards. The most dramatic movement (they drop to load their legs to bolt off) occurs at ranges between 30 and 40 yards. At those distances, it seems that the deer have time to hear and react to the shot – the sound is close enough that it causes alarm.
Beyond 40 yards, it seems that the deer are less alarmed by the sound than they are when closer. They may still drop a bit, but they don’t turn inside out. It is almost as if the greater distance makes them feel more insulated and safer. These are just very general observations so don’t take them as gospel. Each deer will be different and it seems that every year I learn more. I just wanted to pass these thoughts along and get your wheels turning.
The Risk of Promoting Long Shots: We are not promoting long shots at Chasing November. Just the opposite is true. Most of the whitetails we shoot are at very close range. Some of those have been tough shots too, so distance is not the only factor when determining when, or if, to shoot. Plus, Mike practices often at longer distances, so he was prepared for this shot. It was not just some kind of Hail Mary.
On top of just being prepared, you also have to feel good about the specific shot at hand. Just like you have to read each deer separately to perceive its reaction to the shot, you have to judge each shot individually with an eye toward your ability to hold the pin solid. I won’t take long shots if the shot angle or my body position is awkward – or the wind is blowing. These factors make it too hard to keep the pin settled as I squeeze. Again, everything has to be perfect.
Precautions and Disclaimers: No, Mike’s 50 yard shot is not for everyone, nor is it even for Mike in all but the perfect conditions. So don’t infer from this success that he takes long shots all the time.
I am sure Mike never thought about ethics while he was standing there in the tree waiting for the buck to offer the shot. He knew he could make the shot, so he took it. It is very rare indeed when conditions stack up to permit a long shot. It may be years before the conditions are again right for Mike to take another shot this long at a whitetail.