Visualizing the Shot

News & Tips: Visualizing the Shot

It's been my experience that, in some ways, the act of arrowing at a deer is actually anti-climatic. Sure it's exciting and it gets your heart pounding, but the truth of it is, if you prepared correctly, you probably were on autopilot at the moment of truth.

VisualizingTheShot blog
This is the type of shot you should prepare for — the deer is relaxed and there's a clear sight to its vitals.

A good shot, after all, is simply the convergence of the months of mental preparation and physical practice.

Before ever leasing the string, the hunter has already honed shooting abilities, chosen and flight-tested the right broadheads, and scouted the hunting grounds. He or she knows the local herd, topography, feeding and bedding areas and travel routes between. That hunter is also familiar with the prevalent wind directions and has a few spots in mind for tree stands, ground blinds or still hunting routes.

Essentially, very little, except for the weather and the deer's whims on the day of the hunt is left to chance.

One of the last preparations I make before deer season is the practice of visualizing the shot I want. This is a pleasant mental diversion that you can do anywhere. And it's one you should repeat so often that, when the moment comes, you hardly have to think about the process at all.

For instance, when I visualize the shot I will take this year, I first think of the deer I have in mind — after all, I've already got a photo or two of him. I visualize the point when I will raise my bow — when that deer has stepped within 20 yards, is fully relaxed and can't see me because of his body angle or an obstacle such as a tree trunk or screen of leaves.

I visualize waiting for the ideal shot angle — when that buck is quartering slightly away or broadside. On the angled shot, I line up the arrow's flight path with the deer's far front leg. I pick a tuft of hair to aim at on the chest cavity of the deer about one-third of the way up the body, a few inches behind the near leg. That way if my shot it off a couple of inches any way, it's still lethal.

Then I mentally repeat my bow hunting mantra, "Pick a spot, don't take your eyes off of it, release."

These things might seem a little silly, but if you are like most hunters, adrenalin will take hold as the shot opportunity nears. That can induce poor judgment, which is the last thing you want when deciding when to shoot. Visualizing the shot sequence and repeating your own mantra helps you remain composed.

The actual situation might be such that you need to modify your plan a bit, but the basics are there. Pick a spot, wait for the right moment to draw, release.

There's a reason Olympic-level athletes practice visualization techniques. Try it.