I remember well the instructor in my archery course showing the class a diagram of the vital areas on a whitetail deer. His point was that the only shot an ethical hunter would take is quartering away, broadside. While everyone was nodding their heads, I was thinking the only ethical shot a hunter would take is one that he was sure would quickly kill the deer. I have seen guys take shots at broadside deer that I would never attempt due to branches, distance, wind, etc. The shots were all justified by the hunter saying – he turned broadside and I shot. Too automatic for me.
So, it should be no surprise that the first deer I ever killed with my bow was not broadside at all, but I knew I could kill the deer given the circumstances. This is how it unfolded.
I was hunting with a friend of mine who had much more experience than I did and he was trying to get me my first deer bowhunting. At first light, I found myself perched in a tall pine tree next to a logging trail that was halfway up a ravine with a creek at the bottom. About 8:30 a.m. I heard a quiet grunt and when I looked down into the ravine I saw three does coming single file up the ravine in my direction. I was ready and they were still 80 yards out. Anyway, they kept coming, and kept coming, and kept coming……before I knew it, I had three does under my stand actually licking the trunk of the tree I had my stand in. I was watching the deer I wanted to shoot right through the platform of my treestand. As it turns out, the trail they were on led right under my stand. The deer was only 12 feet below me and at less than 5 yards.
I could clearly see the entire top of the deer, but had no chance at sticking an arrow in the side, even if it was broadside which it wasn’t. The deer was facing directly away from me. I drew my bow and remember thinking, pick a spot, pick a spot. I rested my pin on the dead center of the deer’s spine, just behind the shoulder blades and pulled my head from the string a few times checking my point of aim. When I let the shot go, the arrow hit the deer so hard it nearly fell down, but managed to get its legs and run a short 80 yards before expiring. I had taken out both lungs and punched the arrow out the bottom of the deer’s chest. The blood trail was very easy to follow.
Now, that deer may have turned broadside at some point, but it likely would have been a longer shot. I was sure I could hit the shot I was attempting at less than 5 yards, and at that range I knew my 65 pound bow would drive an arrow very hard into the vitals no matter what I hit. Know your equipment, concentrate on the shot and the deer and all of your shots will leave dead deer. Don’t get caught up in the thought that broadside is the only way. It may be the best odds in many instances, but it is not the only shot that is ethical.