Tips & Tactics

Too Close for Comfort

Too Close for Comfort

By Ken Piper

Don’t set up for 20-yard shots if you can shoot well out to 30.

One of the most common problems with stand setups is being too close. It’s natural to want an easier shot, but your odds of getting that shot off go up dramatically the farther you set up from the deer’s travel area.

Early in my bowhunting days, I used to cut lanes in the thickest cover I could find and set up just off the trails I had made. Deer used them, and I had many close encounters (5 yards or less) with both bucks and does, but I could never get off a shot. I still recall several times when I could see the utter look of shock on a deer’s face when they saw me sitting just off the trail - it probably matched my own. That’s an extreme example, but it still applies for setups in more traditional terrain.

I made the same mistake when hanging treestands, again setting up too close to trails or food sources.

One of the best reasons to continue to practice shooting after establishing your equipment is hitting where you want it to is to extend your effective range. Surprisingly, the average shot distance for bucks in the record books is about 20 yards. But that doesn’t mean you should set up exactly 20 yards from where you expect to see your buck.

If you can shoot consistently out to 30 yards, set up that far away. That is the distance I’ve come to find offers the best balance between a makable shot and not being detected. The 10 or so extra yards offer the chance of more cover between you and the cautious eyes of does, and also some leeway in case a buck doesn’t stay right on a trail.

Conversely, even if you’re an excellent shot, don’t set up too far away. A whitetail is not a foam target, and it will react to the sound of your bow. Sound travels much faster than even the most expensive bow you can buy, and deer react instinctively and without thinking. The more nervous they are before the shot, the more violent and extreme that reaction will be.

Distances beyond 30 yards give them too much time to move, resulting in wounding shots and outright misses.

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