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Making the last five seconds count





Make sure you can maneuver for any type of shot in your treestand. Deer sometimes come in at the worst possible spots, that's why it's important to have clear shooting lanes. Author photos

September 01, 2007
The last couple seconds of the hunt are the most important and provide the most excitement. It is also the time when a lot of hunters make mistakes and lose a great opportunity to kill a buck. One main reason is that hunters aren't mentally prepared when a shot opportunity presents itself. It's extremely hard to make sense of things under pressure.

Like a lot of other sports, it is smart to develop a good pre-game ritual. It's kind of like a major league baseball player going through his batting ritual before every pitch. This ritual is practiced everyday during batting practice so when the game comes they are ready. This ritual helps block out a screaming fan or a pressure situation. Bow hunting is very similar. Having a routine will cut down on a lot of missed shots and blown opportunities. Some hunters say a prayer or have a special saying to calm their nerves and get them into their routine. Whatever it takes to find your rhythm, practice it at the range so it becomes second nature in the field.

Another good strategy is to imagine the hunt before it happens. Once you sit down and are safely in position, scan the area. Begin to imagine how the hunt will unfold. Being able to imagine what could happen can really help you when it does happen. This will really help combat the dreaded buck fever. Buck fever can make the most seasoned hunter shake in their boots and ruin a great hunt. But by imagining the hunt beforehand, it can help take the pressure off the hunter when the buck comes in from a weird angle or behind them. Make sure you go through all your shot options and obstacles.

Watch the hunt unfold in your mind and answer questions before they come up. Where is a good spot to shoot? Do I have clear shooting lanes? What if he comes in behind me?

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Be aware of limbs and other extremities that could alter the flight of your arrow. Don't overlook the importance of clear shooting lanes, they are vital and this is an excellent time to find good shooting lanes and range the distance ensuring proper shot placement. It's always good to have back up plans just in case plan A doesn't work. Always eliminate anything that could screw up your shot and imagine it all before it happens.

Countless hunters have gone home broken hearted and with empty freezers because they misjudged the buck's distance. Let your rangefinder be one of your most important hunting tools. Remember it's much easier to do the range finding before that buck even appears.

While sitting in your stand, range different landmarks and be confident with the distance given. Too often hunters try to guess or have a lack of faith in their range finders. Besides giving the hunter accurate yardage, it can be a great confidence booster. Like any sport, confidence is huge when bow hunting. A lot of times confidence will be the single most important aspect of the hunt. Having pre-ranged reference points can take the guesswork out and replace it with confidence. Take care of all the ranging and distance checking before the deer start to arrive.

A release is another piece of equipment that can make or break a hunt. It's important to pick a release that feels comfortable and fits the hunter's hand properly. Comfort is important but the release should pull smoothly. Shots should be squeezed slowly, avoid punching or jerking your release. Make sure your release is quiet and triggers at a desired pressure. Release aids can be adjusted for a quick, sensitive trigger but most importantly make sure it is comfortable for your shooting style.

Drawing your bow is a skill that is sometimes overlooked but can pay big dividends when trying to fill your tag. There is a small window between drawing too early and drawing too late. If you draw early it increases your risk of holding your bow too long and taking a bad shot. If you draw too late it can spook the deer and ruin the hunt.

In my opinion it's better to draw early and your bow should be drawn when the deer is in a comfortable range. This can vary depending on the speed of the deer. During the rut, bucks seem to be running full speed leaving the hunter less time to draw their bow. Some hunters get into a bad habit of waiting for the "perfect" time to draw their bow and lose their opportunity. Knowing how and when you are going to draw can take away some of the mistakes made during the last five seconds of the hunt.

After spending all summer dreaming about shooting a buck, it pays to have a plan in place to maximize your chances. Remember to make as many decisions as possible before the buck arrives. Anticipation can help take some of the pressure off the actual shot. When the buck does show up you will have a plan and hopefully some venison for the freezer.n

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