By Will Brantley
My wife, Michelle, has been bowhunting for the past five years. Though she
killed a couple deer with a bow during her second and third season in the
woods, she also blew a plethora of “gimme” opportunities. That’s part of
But she killed a nice buck the second week of Kentucky’s bow season last
year, and after that, something clicked. She arrowed two deer right out of
the gate during opening week this year, including a good velvet buck I
reported on in a Mid-South Rut Reporters entry. Despite her lack of a goatee
(have we run that in the ground yet?), she became a certified Bad-Ass Deer
Her confidence has soared. Curious, I asked her what changed; what one thing
had she learned above all else that helped her to begin consistently
killing deer with a bow? Her answer: when to stand up and when to draw.
What a spot-on observation. Collectively, neither of those two actions will
take more than two seconds. To a seasoned bowhunter, they can seem second-
nature. But when it comes to spooking deer, they’re the riskiest maneuvers
a treestand hunter has to make.
I practice shooting from a sitting position and have killed several deer
like that. But shooting a bow while sitting down destroys many important
aspects of good form and limits the shots you can take. Given the chance, it
’s always best to stand up.
Attempting to stand with a deer right under you is obviously risky. But
standing too fast can back-fire, too. When you’re standing, you move more.
It’s tougher to keep your arms and legs still while you’re balancing in
your stand, holding your bow, than it is while you’re sitting down. I get
busted by more deer while I’m standing than sitting, and I bet if you think
about it, you do, too.
As a rule, I don’t stand up as soon as I see a deer out of range. Instead,
I get my bow in hand when I can, and try to stand only when the deer is
within 75 yards and headed my way. If I’m surprised by a deer inside 40
yards, I usually sit tight unless it steps behind thick cover.
Knowing when to draw is even more critical. I struggled with this in my
formative bowhunting years. Many times, I drew too soon and got stuck
holding at full draw with no shot. Drawing as a deer is walking and just
about to step into a shooting lane is best. That’s my usual routine,
followed by a soft mouth bleat to stop the animal and take the shot.
But so long as a deer isn’t looking right up at me, I don’t hesitate to
draw on an animal standing in the open, either, especially if it’s 20 yards
or farther away. A good lesson to learn here is to keep the bow in front of
you and draw straight back. The odds of a deer catching sky-lined movement
from your arms are minimized that way.
Of course, much as I attempt to explain it, these two skills are truly
learned only through experience. I often preach for new bowhunters to not
worry so much about killing a big deer, but to focus on just killing deer—
does, small bucks—whatever gives you an opportunity. Few things will help
your hunting more than confidence. And nothing boosts your confidence more
than killing a deer.