Upon Release: The Most Crucial Time
We spend, or should at least, countless time and hours into making sure we are fine tuned shooting specimens. Our bows are tuned, our broad heads are flying true and we are confident from elevated positions or on the ground, sitting or standing.
However, what if I told you the most crucial aspect of the shot doesn’t involve your bow, your arrow or even yourself directly?
What if I told you the most crucial part of a successful shot is everything which occurs after the release is punched and the arrow is in flight?
Okay, so the title is a bit misleading but the message is this: you can be an amazing target or 3D shot, but that doesn’t mean a hill of beans in the hunting woods; what you do after the squeeze of the release can show more about you as a bow hunter than anything you did prior.
Nothing is guaranteed and no two shots are the exact same. Two things that have stuck with me from the time I started hunting.
Having heard them from both hunters I trust and my father, I’m going to go ahead and write them in stone and treat them as gospel. These truths have been proven time and time again by not only me but every single hunter I’ve ever spoken with about bow hunting.
Another fact I’ve come to realize is this; a vast majority of hunters’ brains cease to function upon squeezing their fingers and releasing an arrow (or bullet for that matter). I get it though, your adrenaline is at an all time high…most likely you are shaking uncontrollably…breathing is a task which takes far too much effort…everything is going a mile a minute…SLOW DOWN YOU ARE NOT DONE.
I do not know how we are taught it but it seems the aspect of watching and following through with your form is the end of the shot process for far too many. Sure we “see” where we “think” we hit the deer…but we don’t continue to analyze everything we can before the deer disappears or expires. So in an attempt to combat this phenomenon lets discuss things which are pivotal to finishing off the pivotal part of a shot: impact and its aftermath.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
Where did you hit it, exactly?
Often times I have friends or hunters describe a shot to me for various reasons, and I always ask “Where did you hit it?” Often times I get the normal responses right behind the shoulder…between the belly and back…oh double lung for sure…right where I was aiming. None of those describe exactly where you hit the deer...nor does it discuss or dissect what I’m really after which is what internally did you hit?
Knowing precisely where your impact is will allow you to begin to formulate a most likely entrance and exit and path that arrow took through the animal.
Factors which will need factored in would be height of stand if elevated, angle at which the deer stood and any known bone obstructions inside the deer.
Knowing where you hit the deer and the path that arrow took through it will greatly impact your next steps of the recovery process.
How much penetration did you get?
Now while answering your first question, this second one may be easy if you got a pass through but hunt long enough and you will not always get that perfect pass through shot. If the arrow stayed in the animal attempt to capture in your mind how much of that arrow was sticking out, compare this to another arrow in your quiver and commit to memory how many inches you got of penetration.
One of the most interesting things you will no doubt experience is the off shoulder bounce back effect. Depending on the angle sometimes your arrow will penetrate clear through and hit an offside bone (most likely shoulder) and bounce back out some as that deer lunges away. This will impact your amount of penetration thought should you not have the arrow directly to analyze, which leads me to the next question.
What does your arrow tell you?
If your arrow is recovered, analyze it. This is one of the last big puzzle pieces to the entire shot process. Some of the questions to ask when looking at the arrow are the following:
-What kind of blood is present? (bright, dark, bubbly)
-Is there any fat or guts present?
-Any bone fragments?
-Where at on the arrow does penetration appear to have stopped?
All of these questions can and do impact your shot analysis and what you do after it…some of the most undervalued pieces of evidence I witness from stories is what the arrow tells the hunter; don’t overlook it!
Once you’ve analyzed all of this, your shot now transfers over to blood trailing and recovery, but it is all this data from your shot which greatly impacts whether you pick up the trail right away or know it is wiser to wait an hour, a couple or till morning.