Top 5 Ways To Miss A Deer

My Dad used to say that clay targets aren't hard to hit, but they are easy to miss. That always made me scratch my head, but I think deer are like that, too. I've missed a few, seen a lot more missed, and heard the tales of woe from hundreds of deer hunters. So, here are the five top ways to miss a deer.

1. Don't aim at it.

Huh? Yep. I've done it. Why would you not aim at the deer? Because you think it's a long way off, and you decide to aim "just over its back." Laser rangefinders have helped with the "I think he's about 400 yards" guesses, but sometimes you don't have the rangefinder, or you may not have enough time to use it. I like to use the ballistics to my advantage, so I sight in any deer rifle to hit three inches above the point of aim at 100 yards. With anything from a .243 to a .30-06 to the magnums, the three-inches-high-at-100 system allows you to hold dead on out to about 350 yards, which will take care of 99 percent of hunting shots. If you think it's really, really far, hold just under the back line. Not over it. If you aim high, you'll most likely shoot over its back. Yeah, ask me how I know. And it was a nice mule deer! Gresham's Rule: For the first shot, always aim at hair.

2. Take too long.

It's common for a hunter to have five seconds or so to make the shot. Longer than that may find the deer walking behind a tree or even bolting out of sight. Hunters who have shot only from the bench seem to take forever to make the shot on a buck. How to correct this? Practice getting your shots off quickly. Get off the bench. Once your rifle is sighted in, there's no value in shooting from the bench again. You can do this one with an empty rifle. Practice taking the slung rifle off your shoulder, bringing the butt to your shoulder, keep both eyes open, (the scope is on the lowest power, right?), aim at something, and press the trigger. Don't wait until the crosshairs stop moving. They won't. Live Big Skywith the wobble, press the trigger, and you'll get your deer.

3. Too much magnification.

This goes with number two. Hunters love those high-power scopes, but high magnification makes it much harder to find the deer in the scope. That slows you down, and the buck may walk away before you can find it. I've seen it happen. Keep your variable scope on the lowest power. If it's a 3-9X scope, it should live at 3X. With both eyes open, you can make a fast shot with that lower magnification. If the shot is really long, you have time to turn up the power. Many deer owe their lives to 12-power scopes.

4. Use crummy gear.

The woods, mountains, canyons, plains and tundra are tough environments. Unlike the gun store where even cheap stuff looks great, when you are in the fourth day of rain, or sleet, or snow, or all three, you better have a scope that is tough. Oh. Your scope has a lifetime warranty? Great. Won't that make you feel better that you can get another $69 wonder when that fogged up POS costs you a monster buck. Inexpensive rifles are great these days. But use good scope mounting systems, and good scopes, and lens caps on your scope, and good ammo. Your hunt depends on the details. Binoculars. Almost as important as your rifle and scope. Get the best quality you can. You'll never be sorry.

5. Stand up like a man.

Standing when the hunter could have used a rest is good for thousands of missed deer every year, I'm sure. Yes, you should practice offhand (standing) shots, and you should be able to hit a paper plate at 100 yards offhand ... maybe. But there's often time to take a rest before the shot. It might be leaning the rifle against a tree trunk or rock, flopping down over a sage bush, dropping into a sitting or prone position, or using shooting sticks or a pack frame for a rest. If you have the time, use the rest. Practice these moves so you can get into a shooting position quickly. ~ Tom

Tom Gresham
Author, outdoorsman, gun rights activist, and firearms enthusiast for more than five decades, Tom Gresham hosts Tom Gresham's Gun Talk, the first nationally-syndicated radio show about guns and the shooting sports, and is also the producer and co-host of the Guns & Gear, GunVenture and First Person Defender television series.