Why You Should Obsess Over Shot Angles

In late September, one of my daughters hit a young buck with her crossbow. The Wisconsin 5-pointer, which led us on a long and fruitless blood trail, looked pretty healthy when I jumped him 600 yards from the impact site.

He looked even healthier the following week when he showed up on one of my trail cameras. It was a tough lesson for a young hunter, but drove home a point that we should all obsess over—shot angles.

In the bowhunting world, we focus on getting in range of deer more than anything. When we do, it’s either broadside, quartering-to, or quartering-away shots. We throw these phrases around a lot but don’t break them down much into what they really are, which is shot opportunities that demand different points of impact.

Worse yet, we tend to only practice broadside shots, which reinforces somewhat of a false reality. Most of the wild deer we take aim at are not perfectly broadside, and often, aren’t that close.

A Matter Of Degrees

When my daughter and I returned to the woods in October, it was after we had had quite a few discussions on shot placement and shot angles. She had also shot plenty of practice rounds on our backyard 3D targets, so I could fully illustrate the times when you might want to tuck in tight to the shoulder (quartering to), or when you would want to aim farther away from the shoulder (quartering away).

The latter is my favorite. I love a quartering-away shot where I can aim slightly forward of center and hit the offside shoulder. That’s exactly what she did on the first mature doe that walked in range. The blood trail was a most welcome, short affair. That evening, with a second doe tag to fill, she made a slightly quartering-to shot that resulted in another 40-yard blood trail.

Understanding angles, at least from the ground, is pretty simple and should be practiced. While treestand hunting, you have an added element of just how steep the shot is. This necessitates not only understanding how the body is positioned during the shot, but where you need to aim elevation-wise to get the best wound channel, and exit, possible. This, too, should be practiced.

Angles Are Good, Sometimes

There’s a general consensus that pure broadside shots are the best. It’s hard to argue with that, but I’m going to try. As mentioned, I really like quartering-away shots. Not only for ease in aiming, which takes me well away from the shoulder, but also the fact that I will get more damage with that shot.

Now, if I execute perfectly, it really doesn’t matter. A broadside double lung and a quartering-away double lung pretty much accomplish the same thing. But if I rush my shot and shank it, I’d rather have my arrow angling through a deer while cutting as much as possible. This is better than shanking it on a broadside shot, where my arrow is going straight through from point A to B.

Look at it another way, a standard deer might average between 12 and about 16 inches wide, which is how much you’ll cut on a broadside shot. But a quartering away angle might allow your arrow to cut through another six to 12 inches of the good stuff (or the good enough stuff).

No matter your angle preference one thing is certain—understanding the point of impact and wound channels will help you become far more lethal as a bowhunter. Just remember to practice all potential shots, and then pay close attention to what actually happened to every deer that you shot and recovered. This will really help you fine-tune your shot selection.

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