If you’re lucky you’ll fire one bullet at a mature buck this fall. Sight-in and fine-tune your rifle/scope/load this summer, and practice until you are efficient and confident out to 250 yards. Then remember these tips that will help you make that one shot count in the woods.

  • Think out a shot before it happens. Say you’re climbing a hillside or stalking on a ridge. What if a buck jumps out of that draw? Which way will he run? Is it 100 or 200 yards across that canyon? Anticipate and be ready for a quick shot as best you can.
  • One November day I crawled up on a buck browsing in the shade, zapped him at 173 yards with my Leica Geovid binos, flipped down the legs of my Harris bipod, breathed and aimed for 10 seconds and pressed the 6.5 PRC’s trigger. Boom, the buck buckled and dropped on the spot; I might as well have shot him off a bench rest. Use a short bipod in big country where you can go prone and set up a shot through the low grass. There is no better rest. But remember, untold numbers of big bucks get away every fall because hunters spend too much time fooling around with a %@%#*& rest. Practice flipping and extending the legs of a bipod until you can set up the shot quickly and smoothly.


  • In the mental chaos of trying to shoot an old, thick 8-pointer who can remember a fancy wind-doping equation? Lex Webernick, who builds custom rifles and kills deer with them at long ranges in Texas, puts it in terms we can understand: “If the wind’s blowing lightly at 5 or 10 mph hold dead-on a buck. But if you’re having trouble keeping on your cap, use your gut instinct and hold into the wind on shots past 150 yards.” Example: A buck is broadside, looking west into a stout west wind. Aim slightly forward point of his shoulder, still on hair, and let the wind push that bullet back into his boiler room.


  • When’s the last time you shot underneath a buck? “By far most misses are high,” says Wyoming outfitter Brian Beisher. He notes that on the Western plains, most hunters instinctively aim too high, even when a buck is only 100 to 200 yards away. Beisher coaches his clients to calm down and “aim for the heart, aim for the heart.” It helps them pull their shots low into a deer’s chest.


  • When a buck is walking toward you, quartering slightly on, aim the crosshair onto the point of the shoulder you can see. Hit a deer squarely on the mid-point of the shoulder with a stout bullet that drives back through the vitals, and the animal always thumps straight down. It’s one of my favorite shots.