shooting restDeer hunting is about patience, waiting, and more patience. Finally, there will be a moment of truth and great excitement. Will you be prepared when the time arrives?

The bushes move, a twig snaps, an ear flicks, or a simple feeling signals your attention that something is approaching. Your eyes quickly and thoroughly scan the area. You are searching for antler, a deer, safe shooting, and the potential opportunity to fill your tag.

Examine the critter carefully. Low light, excitement, or surprise can impact the upcoming shot. The human brain can quickly analyze the situation if you relax and allow the process to evolve. This is not the time for a “sound shot” or a quick offhand, reaction shot. That’s what inexperienced and unsafe hunters do. When you have made the decision to harvest a deer, how do you know when to shoot?

1.) SLOW THE MOMENT DOWN!  The hardest thing you must overcome is your mind! After hours of sitting and anticipation, it is now the moment of truth. It is ok to get excited but try and control it. Once you find the downed deer, you can dance, scream, and go crazy. Become the “Terminator” and focus on the task at hand.

2.) MOVE SLOWLY. Deer sense and see movement, especially when they are close. Their eyes   only see black and white which allows them to discriminate more detail. Wearing a large, bright colored hat magnifies your head movement. Wear something more discreet. Have you weapon prepositioned so you can reduce movement and noise. Slow and smooth are best!

3.) EXAMINE YOUR TARGET CAREFULLY. Inspect your field of fire and target. Make sure the shot is safe. Never shoot a deer sky lined atop a hill or ridge. The projectile will often pass through the critter and continue. Is the critter healthy? How is the deer moving, limping, visible wounds, etc. Prior to any shooting, use a range finder to measure distances. This is your “shooting dope” sheet. Landmarks identify ranges for accurate shooting.

4.) AIM FOR THE EXIT. Think about the wound channel and path that your arrow or slug will travel when it hits the deer. Adjust your crosshairs or aim to compensate for this angle. If possible, wait for the best broadside, standing still moment. If you impact both lungs, they will never know what happened.point of impact

5.) PLAN TO SHOOT ONCE You only need one shot! Don’t shoot a full clip or quiver full of arrows. The one perfect shot is the result of hundreds of practice shots. Muscle memory is huge when it comes to these exciting moments. Let your body and mind take over.

6.) FIND THE PLACE BETWEEN THE BREATH and HEARTBEAT. Breath slowly and relax. Take a deep breath and snug into to your aim. Using a rest such as a shooting rail, stick, tree, or pack is always a good idea. Focus on the target, your calm slow breathing, and trigger pull. You will feel your heartbeat when the moment is right. The crosshairs tend to move with each breath and every heartbeat. Feel the moment when your heart and breath are in sync. Now!

7.) SQUEEZE THE TRIGGER OR RELEASE. ALLOW THE SHOT TO BE A SURPRISE. Practice makes perfect. Every rifle or weapon has a certain unique feel or “personality”. Every trigger or release is different. With practice, you will be familiar with every characteristic. Pull the trigger slowly and evenly. Never jerk the trigger or flinch. When you settle into the shooting position and have found the space between the heartbeat and breath, let the recoil surprise you. The shot will be perfect!

8.) WATCH THE CRITTER AFTER THE SHOT. If you have done everything right, you will only need one shot. Reload and watch the critter. You are looking for its reaction and behavior. Mark the last place you saw the critter, where you shot at it, and where you shot from. Colored ribbon is useful. Allow some time to relax and settle down. Once you are calm, locate the spot where the deer was standing when you shot. Look for sign such as hair, blood, or your arrow. This will tell the story.

9.) FOLLOW The BLOOD. Hunting is a blood sport. The way a deer dies is from loss of blood. When you locate a blood trail, follow it. This skill is exciting and important. If you go to the site where you last saw the critter, you may miss the deer. Many shots are at low light, bad weather, or the hunter is just way to excited. The blood trail will not lie. Mark the trail with ribbons so you can look backwards to see the predictable path. If you made a great shot, the outcome will be exciting and positive.blood trail

10.) RESPECTFULLY CELEBRATE you HARVEST. Once you find the downed deer, there is always a sense of incredible elation and excitement. You want to touch the antlers or stroke the deer’s neck! Make sure the critter is dead. Approach from the rear and touch the eye with a stick. If it is still alive, you may need to back off for a while or use a second shot to end any suffering. Safely secure your weapon! Tag the deer with the appropriate paper tag. Now you can do your “Happy Dance”!

Finally, take a knee and say a small prayer for the bounty you have earned. Place a small branch or grass in the deer’s mouth and turn it toward the sunset. Say a simple prayer to give thanks. This ancient ritual is important and respectful to the prey and the hunter. Giving thanks for the food, memory, and fellowship will crystalize this moment in your memory forever. Teaching new hunters this tradition reminds us why we hunt.

Deer are magnificent creatures. Hunters are blessed to be able to hunt and harvest them.

When it is time to shoot, do it right the first time!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his website at www.montanagrantfishing.com.