How to Diagnose a Miss

A buck walks into range. You try to calm your nerves and stay quiet. It walks behind a tree and stops. You slowly draw your bow and wait for it to step out. When it moves, you zero in on its vitals. Everything is perfect. You slowly squeeze your trigger and…the arrow zips through the air and blasts into the dirt.

What happened?

Well, everything wasn’t perfect. 

To correct what went awry, start by evaluating your shot and the aftermath. First, verify you missed. If you find no sign of a hit, it’s time to diagnose your miss. Here are some of the most common situations that cause bowhunters to miss and how to fix them:

  1. Your Arrow Hit a Branch

If your arrow looked like it changed direction midair, it probably hit a branch. Arrows easily deflect off leaves, branches, tall grass, and other vegetation. Clear your shooting lanes in summer to ensure nothing blocks your arrow’s flight path. If you use a climbing treestand to hunt new locations, or you hunt public lands that forbid trimming, use binoculars to identify downrange twigs and obstacles you might not see.

  1. You Misjudged the Distance

Accurately judging distances takes practice. Practice by guessing distance to trees and other objects once you’re set up. Then, use a rangefinder to confirm the distances. Identify yardage markers to establish shooting boundaries and only shoot deer within range. You can also practice judging distances in your everyday life. Pace 20 or 30 yards when practicing, and remember the distances and how they looked. When you’re out and about, judge distances to cars, buildings, or other objects ahead, and check your guesses by counting your paces as you walk to it.

  1. You Rushed the Shot

If your memory of aiming is vague, you might have rushed the shot. It’s easy to underestimate the time needed to shoot. Hurrying can cause a poor release after skipping steps in the shot process. Instead, be proactive. Visualize a calm, smooth, well-executed shot, and then make it happen. Remember to take deep breaths. Regulate your breathing to calm your nerves and minimize the chances of reacting without thinking. Take your time and make a deadly shot.

  1. The Deer Jumped the String

Deer instinctively duck or drop their bodies when hearing a startling noise and leap away. Unfortunately, one such alarming noise is a bow releasing an arrow. Fast, quiet bows help, but most deer still react to a bowhunter’s shot. Bowhunters must read a deer’s body language to know if it’s alert or skittish. Compensate for the deer’s swift reactions by aiming lower in the chest at the heart. If it jumps the string, your arrow will still pierce the deer’s lungs. If it doesn’t jump the string, you’ll hit the heart or lower lungs.

  1. Your Equipment Malfunctioned

Human errors cause most misses, but equipment malfunctions happen. Limbs crack, strings break, peeps fall out, and sights get knocked from proper alignment. Always practice during bow season to stay sharp and to ensure your equipment remains in working order. Also be sure to regularly check your bow for wear, damage, cracks, frays, and loose fittings as well as your arrows for loose fletching, broken nocks, and cracks on both ends of the shaft.

Not only is practicing with a SpyderWeb Target incredibly fun, regular practice can help you avoid missing the mark when that trophy buck finally does walk into range. 

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