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Know when to Draw on that Buck


The big mature doe ambled towards me totally unaware of my presence. Twenty yards behind her, antlers emerged from the brambles as a mature buck. The white oaks had been dropping for a few weeks and this ridge was loaded. There were so many acorns, it was difficult to walk on the ground, finding exactly where the deer would feed was difficult. They could be anywhere in this five acre oak grove, and setting a stand within bow range was a calculated guess at best.

As she began to feed at thirty yards, I stood slowly and grabbed my Prime bow waited. Fifteen minutes later the buck moved into my self appointed maximum shot in this grove of thirty yards. I waited, now that the doe was at five yards, surely he would feed in closer and make the shot a bit easier. Minute by minute ticked by as they fed well within my range;, but I wanted them to get closer to make the shot easier. As I am sure you have guessed by now, I never got a shot at that buck, he turned and put a tree between he and I and walked out into the dark and I never saw him again that season.

“Note to self – take the FIRST shot you have” that experience has taught me well that when bow hunting, opportunities can be few, to have success consistently, you must, and I repeat must take the first shot offered. Waiting too long for a ‘better’ shot will more times than not backfire.

To be clear, I am not advocating taking poor shots, at long distances or bad angles. I mean, the first good killing shot you have on a mature buck, you better take it. This leads to the question, when is the best time to draw on a buck when archery hunting? And the proverbial “it depends” is prevalent here, however let me say clearly, you draw at the first opportunity you are given to draw and take the first shot presented.

Today’s modern compound bows normally carry between 65 and 80% let off, which translates to a bow set at 65 pounds draw weight, you are holding at full draw between 18 and 24 pounds depending on your particular bow. Regardless, if you have done your practice, you should be able to hold this for a few minutes before it becomes very uncomfortable. This is one of the main reasons I personally shoot around 60 pounds, I know I can draw it easily and hold it for long periods. Shooting heavier poundage serves no other purpose on whitetails. We do not judge our success on how far through the deer the arrow goes, and modern bows and arrows are capable of complete pass through shots at minimal draw weights. In fact I know several television personalities that shoot less than 50 pounds and shoot just as many pass through shots as those shooting 70 or 80 pounds. Its just not necessary. That being the case, set your bow at a weight you can draw in one smooth motion with as little movement as possible. As the old saying goes, ‘if you have to make a face to lift it (or in this case pull it) it’s too heavy’.

Donald Ray Turner of Nichols, SC has killed hundreds of big bucks with archery tackle. His advice is as true as any, Turner says; “if you wait for a better opportunity to draw you probably won’t get it. Take the first chance you can and draw, then when you can take the first shot you are given.” Turner continues by saying that on more than one occasion he waited for a better shot or better opportunity to draw and those never presented themselves. When you decide to shoot this particular deer, commit to that decision, draw, aim and shoot.

In the right situations, I like to wait until the deer seems unconcerned, or turned the other way, head behind a tree or obstructed in some manner. This obviously makes it easier to conceal your movement. However when it’s not possible, it’s not possible, so don’t wait for something that you know will not occur.

Too much work goes into bow hunting not to take advantage of the shots presented us, when a mature buck, or doe gives you the chance take it, without hesitation. Draw and shoot – you will never regret shooting a deer too early, but you will often regret waiting too long.