Hunting trends are cyclical. For the youngsters out there, it might come as a surprise that this current tree saddle craze isn’t the first tree saddle craze. Or that sweet, retro-looking camo pattern that all of your buddies are wearing to church and formal dinners have actually been around since the ‘90s.
Heavy arrows are another one. This one has been burning hot for a few years, and while it’s a good thing to think about the overall weight of your arrows, it’s not magic. You’re still shooting the modern version of a sharp stick, and with that come some limits regardless of whether they weigh 350 grains, or 900.
In lock-step with heavier arrows and their bone-busting promise comes questions on various shot angles. When I was growing up, it was broadside, quartering away, or nothing. At least that’s what hunters admitted to. These days, you’ll hear about plenty of hunters taking quartering toward shots, or frontal, in addition to the old reliable angles.
This is bad, and elk hunters are partially to blame.
Frontal shots in the elk mountains happen for two simple reasons. The first is that the primary method for hunting elk is by calling them from the ground. This means that bulls often approach the caller (or shooter) head-on, while looking for the source of the bugles or cow calls.
This is a situation that is ripe for a frontal shot, but is really only justified by the other reason—elk are big. If you’ve never had a dead elk down when you’re by yourself deep in the backcountry, you probably can’t appreciate how big they really are. It’s a different thing altogether.
With that body size comes a vital zone that is much, much bigger than what a whitetail offers. All of those videos you see of big bulls taking an arrow to the chest or the throat and keeling over mere seconds later are great for those elk hunters. But they shouldn’t serve as an inspiration for whitetail hunters. The elk shot situation is different, as is the margin for error.
Neither favors the deer crowd.
I’ve seen debates on where to shoot deer for a long time. On a broadside deer, hunters will argue that the “golden triangle” is the ticket. This spot, which is low and right behind the front leg, is lethal. It’s also small, and kind of stupid to target when you could just aim halfway up and four inches behind the shoulder to deflate their lungs.
Frontal shots, which allow a well-placed arrow to hit the heart, some part of the lungs, or all of the stuff that feeds blood into either, represent a small target. Think anywhere from maybe a softball to a volleyball, depending on the size of the deer.
If you’re off by a few inches left or right, it’s a nightmare. Hit too high, and you’ll probably be fine, but it could be an ugly death. Too low, and you’re in for a frustrating and fruitless blood trail.
Even if you only hunt from the ground, this is still a shot that isn’t easy to make. If you hunt from an elevated position, it’s a recipe for disaster. This holds true for many reasons, but primarily because you’re very likely to get busted drawing. In that case, you’re dealing with a small window to the vitals and a high likelihood that the deer is going to move at the shot.
Simply put, wait for a better angle.
Let’s say you’re sitting at home reading this and you’re thinking, “Well this writer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I just saw a compilation video of frontal shots on YouTube where a dozen bucks died within sight.”
The thing about frontal shots is, yes, they can work. You can kill a deer with a head shot or the Texas heart shot straight up their ass, too, but both are irresponsible. You’re also never going to see a video of a frontal shot that didn’t work, because no one in their right mind would release it. Instead, you’re watching a curated highlight reel of the ones that went well. Just like when you chat with hunters, they’re far more likely to tell you about when they made the frontal shot work, versus when they spent the night blood trailing a lost cause.
Even with heavy arrows and a ground hunt, it’s not a great shot. If you aren’t shooting heavy arrows and you like to saddle up or hunt from treestands, it’s really not a great shot. Be patient, and let your encounters play out. You’ll be surprised at how often deer will offer you a much higher odds shot opportunity if you just give them enough time to do it.
For more information on how to shoot deer correctly, check these articles out: The Most Common Reasons Bowhunters Miss Deer, How Far Is Too Far To Shoot A Deer With A Bow, and How To Kill Your First Deer With A Bow.
Be sure to check out all the stellar deals happening throughout Whitetail Week over at FirstLite.com right now!