All bow hunters understand two fundamental rules. First, practice weapon safety at all times, even when you think the weapon isn’t loaded. Second, treat all animals with respect and dignity. While most hunters practice the first rule, the second rule can be violated unknowingly if you’re not making the right kinds of shots. Here is a list of bow shots that you can avoid in order to bring your prey down safely and humanely.
A quartering shot occurs when the animal presents its flank at an angle, usually with the head facing away from you. Often it seems that enough of the flank is exposed to take such a shot successfully; however, several problems arise. Fatal bow shots on large animals, like deer, elk, and moose, require a clean path through the torso into the vital organs. The cleanest kills come when the arrow passes through the midsection of the animal and punctures both lungs at the same time. When you take a quartering shot, it’s extremely difficult to hit both lungs. The ribs and other large bones form a protective barrier into the torso, and in the best case scenario, you’ll only puncture a single lung.
The most tempting shot of all is the straight-on or head-on shot. In this instance the animal is facing straight towards you. It appears that you have a clear shot into the chest cavity, and if you were hunting with a rifle, it’s possible to land a fatal shot. Bow shots, on the other hand, very rarely result in a kill from this angle. The breast bone dissipates much of the kinetic energy from the shot, slowing the arrow enough to stop fatal damage to the internal organs. Even if you are able to get past the breast, bone splinters and damage from the shot renders much of the animal’s meat useless.
Not all bad bow shots are the result of bad angles. In fact, a common mistake bow hunters make is overestimating their range. You might be a dead shot on the practice range at 100 yards, but the effective range of your bow in the field can be as little as half of your target range. Many factors–like fatigue and the thrill of the hunt–affect your shot in the field in ways that don’t happen in target practice. This ends up limiting your accuracy. Your arrow also loses kinetic energy rapidly the further it flies. A difference of just 15-20 yards can affect the impact energy of the shot by 6-10 percent.
When you hunt with a rifle, foliage and other blockages don’t matter much to the bullet. Arrows are a different story. Branches and heavy foliage can significantly alter the flight path of your arrow, so you’ll want to avoid taking a blocked shot.
Hitting an animal with bad bow shots adds an unnecessary level of pain to the animal’s death. Simply nicking a lung or the heart means an agonizing death for your prey, and it may take hours before the animal bleeds out. This season focus on taking good shots and you’ll end up with a clean kill.