It’s happened this year. It happened last year, and the one before. It probably happened 200 years ago when the natives had their run of the hunting grounds - this is a curiosity that may never be satisfied. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that the majority of deer that jump the string are already on high alert. You may also notice this trend happening more with does. However, bucks do it too; and those are the ones that hurt the worst.
So how can we play the odds when a deer jumps the bowstring? That question is tricky, really. Because if we say “we’re going to aim six inches low, assuming that’s where the kill zone is going to be, assuming he’s going to drop at the sound of the bow releasing the arrow.” That’s a lot of assuming. And we’ll never know whether a deer is going to jump the string until we shoot. Whitetails are incredible creatures, capable of unimaginable speed and agility.
When to Shoot
A good buck is following a hot doe. To stop him, you grunt loudly and he freezes in his tracks, ears perked and looking hard back in your direction. Is he about to have to tangle with an intruder? He’s on high alert, his body like a springboard ready to launch, which is when he is highly likely to jump the string.
Some will say just aim low. Others say forget stopping him, shoot while he’s walking. Then a select few may suggest shooting in the millisecond before he has a chance to come to high alert. We prefer to shoot a stationary target if we can help it, rather than risk a gut shot and a deer we may never recover. This makes your aim ultra important.
By aiming small your margin of error will decrease drastically. If you’re shooting at a walnut, for example, an only miss by an inch or two, that’s not so bad. This means that if you concentrate on aiming for a deer’s heart, and it jumps the string, there’s still plenty of vital area (the lungs) just above the heart to make the shot lethal.
Fast Arrow or Quiet Bow?
Which will serve us better? According to Bill Winke in an article he wrote for AmericanHunter.org a few years ago, a deer standing at 30 yards, if it’s going to jump, will do so about .15 seconds after the arrow leaves the bow. These numbers are based on a bow shooting about 300 fps. “At this distance (25 to 35 yards), the deer is close enough to hear even a quiet bow, yet it is far enough that it can drop a good distance,” Winke said.
Whitetail deer can hear the quietest sound that is unnatural to their surroundings. If he jumps the string at 30 yards, when the arrow is two-thirds of the way to its body, then we are certain that the deer is going to drop about 16 inches, ready to spring. If a good buck stands 38 inches at the top of the shoulder, and the 10-inch vital (lung/heart) area is between inch markers 24 and 34, then we can afford to aim at the bottom of the vital circle, concluding that a fast arrow is the better option.