Tips & Tactics

Super Close Doesn’t Mean Slam Dunk

Super Close Doesn’t Mean Slam Dunk

By Dwayne Barrow and Tim H. Martin

One of the most deceptive yet effective shots in whitetail hunting is when the deer is standing directly beneath or within a few yards of your elevated treestand.

This shot scenario often happens in early bow season when there’s still a lot of foliage remaining in the trees and the hunter cannot get a clear shot at the animal until it’s very close.

I admit, staring straight down on the deer isn’t the most desirable shot angle, but it might be your only chance to put meat on the table, and it can be quite effective if you consider a few things.

With an aiming point a few inches behind the shoulder blades, an arrow or crossbow bolt should take out at least one lung, as well as having a good chance to pierce the liver and/or heart.

If you happen to clip the spine, this will put the deer down immediately, but be prepared to quickly put a follow-up arrow into its vitals, as a broken back will often disable or put down the animal without killing it outright. Still, this shot is lethal.

Super Close Doesn’t Mean Slam DunkAnother benefit of a steeply downward shot angle is a low exit wound.

Gravity will fill the wound channel with blood immediately, and the ensuing blood trail will empty from the hole much quicker and easier from the bottom of the whitetail than it would from the top half of the vital area.

Don’t hesitate to take a shot if the deer is very close to the base of your stand. It can be just as effective as a 25-yard double-lunger if you execute it properly. But you better practice it first to avoid the unknown.

–Editor’s Note by Tim H. Martin

Dwayne’s advice for practicing to avoid the unknown is an understatement. Make sure you test this shot from an elevated treestand before attempting it in the field or you could pay dearly, like I did.

Many years ago, I learned that a 5-yard shot is not a slam dunk if you haven’t practiced it. There are hazards to consider.

It was early bow season in Alabama, and a 9-point buck appeared, grazing nearby, but never offered a clear view until it fed directly beneath my stand. I decided to attempt the shot even though the angle was downright awkward and 95% of my archery practice had been from 20 to 50 yards.

Super Close Doesn’t Mean Slam DunkLooking directly down at the deer’s back, I placed my pendulum site pin behind the buck’s forelegs, aiming to avoid the shoulder blade on nearside of the spine. Then, I released for what I believed was an almost too-easy shot.

I was shocked when my arrow struck the ground beneath the deer without even touching it! Bye, bye, 9-pointer.

Later, I climbed back up the tree and reenacted the exact same shot by aiming at a paper cup. All my arrows struck way low.

I discovered the reduced effect of gravity for short distance, along with a pendulum site that wasn’t made for 5-yard shots caused the point-of-impact to be much lower than what the pin indicated.

From then on, my practice routine included close-in shots from all types of odd angles, and I learned to bend from the waist. Afterward, I knew exactly what my equipment would do the next time a whitetail offered a steeply downward shot angle.

Editor’s Note: If you have a unique or special tip you’d like to share with Buckmasters fans, please email it to and, if chosen, we will send you a cap signed by Jackie Bushman, along with a knife!

Read Recent Tip of the Week:
Are You Shooting for Speed or Power with Your Hunting Crossbow? Crossbow hunters, are you choosing the best arrows to match your weapon?

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd