Use this 9-step plan to lance bucks through the boiler room.
1) Set up smart: Position so you’ll never have to make a big, fancy move as a deer approaches. I always face my stand into the wind and in the direction I think a buck will come from so I don’t have to move much when I see him. If you shoot right-handed, position a perch so your left shoulder points toward the down-and-to-the-left lane where you hope to see and shoot a deer (vice versa for southpaws).
2) Get Ready: Climb into a tree stand and organize your gear. If you’re right-handed, set your bow on a hook or limb within inches of your left hand. Try to hang it a couple feet out in front of you, where you can reach out and grab it with virtually no movement the instant you spot a buck. Hang your binoculars, range finder, rattling horns, etc. on hooks within easy reach. Bet organized before a buck shows up. You’ll move less, make less noise and be more efficient and ready to go when the moment of truth arrives.
3) Stand or Sit: Once in a blue moon a buck will stroll in and stop in the optimum spot, 15 to 20 yards down and to the left of your perch. Assuming you’re a right-hander, you could remain seated, draw and fire and arrow with virtually no movement. It’s important to learn to sit and shoot at deer so you can take advantage of those few perfect situations; practice shooting your bow from the sitting position. But generally you are best off standing on a platform when it comes time to shoot at a deer. You can shift your feet and turn your body to shoot a buck anywhere in the 180-degree arc out front of your perch, or even 90 degrees to the left and behind it (again, for the right-handed shooter). Most hunters practice standing up, and hence feel most comfortable and confident drawing and shooting that way.
4) Look and Listen: The minute you drop your guard and start daydreaming, presto! A monster buck will pop up within 50 yards or so of your stand. You never want that. When a big deer surprises you, you tend to get rattled, make a fast move and spook him. So concentrate. Scan the woods and try to pick up the flash of antlers or hide as far out you as can. You’ll have time to calm your nerves, stand up, shift your body into position and plan your draw and shot.
5) Read A Buck. Once you spot a buck you want to kill, do not take your eyes off him for even a second. If you look over to grab your bow or pick up your binocular, you might look back up and he’ll be gone—down in a ditch, behind a hump, in a thicket, whatever. It might take you a couple of frantic minutes to pick him up again; you might never see him again. Read a buck’s body language. Things are good when a big deer is calm and strolls along with his head down; he doesn’t know you’re in the world. But anytime a buck looks tense and nervous, say he constantly stops and starts and throws up his head and looks, you’ve got to be extra careful. He’ll bust you in a second if you make a wrong move.
6) Move It. Most of the time an encounter works out so that a buck walks into a thicket…dips into a ditch…sticks his head behind a tree…. Whatever the case, move when his eyes are covered. Hug the tree, stand up, grab your bow and turn your body toward the deer. Make one smooth, quick and confident move; don’t be tentative.
7) Footwork. At this point in an encounter, your footwork is all-important. It’s like the basic mechanics of a hitting a baseball. Position your feet on a stand’s platform like a right-handed batter with a slightly open stance. You’re in perfect shooting position, body pointed left and toward an incoming buck. Pan with the deer as he walks into the front-left arc. Fine-tune your position and draw and shoot when you can.
8) Draw Time. When a buck walks or trots on a line for your stand and an open shooting lane within 30 yards, draw your bow as soon as you can, when he steps behind a tree 40 to 50 yards out. That will give you enough time—but not too much time—to calm your nerves, settle your bow, pick the right pin and kill the deer when he walks past in a few seconds. When a buck takes his sweet time mincing toward your stand, meandering and stopping here and there. Resist the urge to draw too early. You don’t want to come to full pull about the time he hangs up 50 or 60 yards out. In this scenario, let a deer stroll smack into shooting range, and then take your chances and draw. If cover is sparse, let the deer walk a few yards past your stand so that he is looking and quartering away. That is always your best shot.
9) Close the Deal. Wait until a buck is inside 40 yards…30 yards is better…inside 25 yards is best. Shoot for a quick, clean, double-lung kill. That means flying an arrow only when a buck is broadside, quartering away or quartering slightly to. That’s it! On a broadside animal aim on the point of the shoulder, or in the crease just behind the front leg. Hone in on a tiny patch of hide a third of the way up the deer’s body. If he stands still at the shot, you clip the top of the heart as well as the lungs. If he ducks at the sound of your bow going off, you might center punch the heart and still get the bottom of the lungs. On a quartering-away shot remember to move your sight pin back on the ribs to drive the arrow up into the vitals. The more severe the going-away angle, the farther back on the ribs you need to aim to punch an arrow forward into the lungs. Now you’re ready. Pull an arrow when you can, let it go in one smooth motion and remember to follow through. Watch the fletching disappear into a big deer’s lungs. There’s no better feeling.