Making your best bowshot
How to ensure a clean kill
About five years ago during a spring hunt, when my son Cameron first started hunting, we encountered a boar black bear that was acutely agitated by our presence. We were in a treestand hunting over bait in a secluded area of western Alberta when the bear spotted us and threw a tantrum, becoming aggressive and threatening.
Since Cameron was just 15 years old at the time, I was worried about his composure and ability to wait for the right opportunity to shoot. He was at full draw twice, but couldn’t get a clear broadside shot. After 10 minutes, the bear finally settled down and sat on the ground about 15 yards in front of us. Then, when the bear got back up to walk away, Cameron saw the perfect shot and released his arrow.
The broadhead entered at a steep angle about two-thirds of the way up the bear’s body, behind the front shoulder and through both lungs. The animal whirled, ran about 20 yards and piled up. Even though he was drawing just 42 pounds, Cam was able to make a complete pass-through shot by waiting for the ideal moment. To make sure your crucial shots also hit their mark, always keep the following pointers in mind.
You owe it to every type of game you pursue to ensure a clean kill, making it essential that you know your quarry’s anatomy. An elk, for example, has its vitals located low in the chest. To guarantee a quick kill, therefore, you have to shoot through the bottom third of the animal, behind the front shoulder and in front of the diaphragm.
It’s important to understand that an arrow doesn’t have the penetration and knockdown power of a bullet-shots through bone, or tricky neck or head shots, should never be considered. Different game species have slightly different anatomies, so knowing where the vitals are, and how to penetrate them without hitting bone, will undoubtedly improve your success rate.
Most hunters focus only on the spot where they want to shoot an animal—the entry point. Successful archers know the exit point is far more important, however, when it comes to ensuring a quick kill.
The key to hitting the vitals, whether you’re shooting on the ground or from a treestand, is to visualize where the arrow will exit the animal. From there, the point of entry, or aim point, becomes clear. When my son shot the bear, for example, his arrow placement may have looked a little high at first, but the arrow exited low in the far side of the bear’s chest-having come straight through the lungs.
Bowhunters must always consider the angle of their shot to make sure it results in a blood trail. Unlike a bullet, which can smash through heavy bone and enter the vital organs before exiting the animal, a broadhead is only designed to cut through muscle, arteries and veins. If it hits bone, there’ll be no exit wound. And if there’s no exit wound, there’ll only be a faint trail, making tracking the wounded animal far more difficult.
An arrow shot through both lungs is best. In addition to causing severe bleeding, both lungs will collapse, resulting in a quick death through suffocation. While a quartering away shot can be a good option if the field conditions are right, there’s also a good chance it will embed in the animal’s far shoulder and not produce an exit wound. Not good.
One way to get a better understanding of exit wounds, anatomy and angles is to practise shooting on a 3-D decoy. I like the GlenDel Buck decoy because it has a four-sided replaceable insert that offers views of the vitals from various directions and angles. Practice makes perfect, and remember-there’s certainly no sense in shooting an animal if you can’t recover it.
This article was originally published on November 12, 2010