Archery 3D Doesn’t Mimic Bowhunting Scenarios: Aim For The Exit

Tim Knight | August 30, 2022

Tim Knight got this drop-tine non-typical buck last year while bowhunting a deep-swamp persimmon tree on opening day of firearms season.

At the end of August last season, I grabbed my binoculars and headed out for some preseason scouting for soft and hard mast. It is imperative that every hunter learn his or her food sources. On this trip I was concentrating on soft mast such as muscadines, persimmons and in some areas, crab apples. A good pair of binos are a must this time of year to see clearly up into the canopy of the trees. 

As luck would have it, I found two persimmon trees that were loaded, one already starting to drop and one deep in the swamp that was totally green. I knew the green one in the swamp was at least a month from dropping its mast, but the other would be smoking hot on opening day of bow season. I found the muscadines to be very spotty and would pretty much be dropped out by opening day. 

On opening afternoon of bow season, I slipped in with my climber and was able to take a nice doe on the persimmon that was already dropping. Now fast forward to opening day of gun season. I still had that other persimmon tree in the swamp in mind and decided to slip in and give it a try. I gathered my gear and headed out to the spot early to give myself plenty of time to get in there and check the wind to decide which side of the persimmon I would climb with my Lone Wolf. As luck would have it, I could tell the tree was absolutely labored with fruit because a limb full of fruit had broken and fallen out because it couldn’t support the weight of all the persimmons that were on it.

I had a privet thicket close by that I assumed the deer would come from because it was wide open river swamp and cypress flat behind me. The wind was blowing from the privet thicket. Perfect. As I got settled in my spot, I took out some Voo-Doo deer lure and broadcast it 360 degrees around my tree using the cap to throw it out. A point to be made is I never walk around the perimeter of my stand to put scent out; I walk straight to my tree and climb. 

As the sun started to dip below the treetops, I just happened to glance behind me and caught movement of a deer coming toward me across the wide open cypress flat completely downwind. Fortunately, I had the tree between me and the deer as it approached. At this point I couldn’t tell if it was a buck or doe, I just knew it was a deer making a beeline to the persimmon tree. I was still sitting down and waiting on the opportunity to stand up and see if this was a deer I wanted to shoot. As I turned my head ever so slowly to watch the deer, I could see it was a nice buck, and he was already searching for the falling mast. Not only was he behind the tree, but he was facing straight toward me, which allowed me to ease up and get ready. As I studied the feeding buck, he looked like he had a branch hung in his antlers. When he got to where I could really get a good look at him, I realized it wasn’t a branch… It was antlers! He was a non-typical!

Now my heart was starting to race because I realized he was a shooter, but he was still facing me. What seemed like an eternity was only minutes as I waited for the buck to turn and give me an ethical shot. As he fed to my side of the tree he stopped and lifted his head, and I thought, ‘oh no he has caught my wind,’ but he had caught the scent of the lure and was trying to figure out the source of the scent. Now he was only 15 yards and on my side of the persimmon tree, but he was still facing me, and all I could do was wait patiently for a shot. He finally turned to return to the tree to search for more persimmons. I remember thinking just turn and give me a shot… come on turn. And he finally did, exposing his vitals in a quartered-away position. I drew my PSE Carbon Air and had to lean around the tree I was in as I anchored and took aim all the while saying to myself aim for the exitaim… aim… aim… squeeze. The 165-grain Bipolar with the ignitor lighted nock was on its way! 

• • •

The heart of this article is about aiming for the exit when releasing an arrow at a deer. And this is an OP-ED, which means opinion-editorial. Let me start by saying I have absolutely nothing against 3D archery. I have sponsored many tournaments over the years, as well as individual targets. I have shot it and traveled with the ASA many years ago and shot with the likes of Randy Ulmer, Jesse and Ginger Morehead and Jackie Caudle, just to name a few. I remember when Jeff Hopkins started on the tour. I roomed with Rod White fresh off his gold medal win when Penzoil and Wayne Pearson were running the show. I remember the first archery shoot I went to in the early 80s where it was flat paper targets attached to hay bales. Adding 3D targets was originally designed to help make you a better archer. But now it has turned into a dot-shooting competition with the dots being on 3D targets. In my opinion, the sport has gotten away from teaching you to be a better archery hunter. 

Now before you get your feathers ruffled, let me explain. I understand there is a bowhunter class, but it too has become watered down as far as putting the archer in a true hunting scenario. Let’s face it, 99.9% of us archers practice in their yard from the ground in comfortable attire, yet 99.9% of us hunt from an elevated tree stand in full hunting gear, where keeping your balance on a small platform comes into play. I understand the liability issues of elevated stands at 3D tournaments. But elevated stands could be placed as little as 2 feet off the ground, where the archer could simply step up into it, and having to think about and concentrate on balance is a game changer.

There are many other actual hunting scenarios that should be practiced, such as shooting out of a ground blind, shooting from a seated position, shooting flat on your butt, a squatted position, on one knee, or having to lean hard left or right to shoot. 

The targets are pretty much all broadside at a 3D shoot, and when they are angled, it is only slightly, and the points of aim are still the same. This teaches you to aim at the wrong spot on quartering animals, with disregard of the exit point. 

In true hunting situations, the point of aim constantly changes as the animal moves. On most all 3D targets, the 10 ring is too high to where you should aim at a live animal. IMO, stickers or something similar should be made to change the point of aim, because 3D targets don’t move, smell or react to the shot like a live animal. In truth, the bottom of the 8 line is where the aiming point should be for most live animals, as their first reaction is to drop and turn to run. 

Everyone seems to concentrate on the point of entry, without consideration of the point of where the arrow will exit, which in any situation is the most important. I see these tournament archers with multiple long stabilizers and extended scoped sights with unlimited time in some cases to draw and shoot or let down and reset to shoot and in some cases another archer or helper holding an umbrella to shade the sights of the shooter all while being in a comfortable shooting position. Nothing is further from a true hunting scenario. I’ll be the first to admit that most dot shooters would take my money in a 40- to 50-yard backyard shoot, but most archers can shoot with anyone at 25 yards. And I know lots of archers who are great shots at dots, but they wig out and can’t handle their nerves when in a compromised position or when anything with hair or feathers on it is in front of them at any distance.

I understand that 3D archery is a game, and hunting is for real. But it has gotten away from what it was originally created to do. At present the only two things that 3D actually accomplishes is that it keeps you in great shooting condition, and it teaches you how to judge the yardage of a stagnant target from the ground. 

I’ve watched Senior Pro, Pro, Known Distance, Female, and even Youth shootdowns, but have yet to see a Hunters Class shootdown. And why would you have a 14 ring that is in a terrible spot to aim at an actual animal? And I get it that you call the shot, but the 14 could still be located inside the 8 ring to still make it an ethical shot. At present the only way the 14 would be an ethical shot is from a high angle tree stand severely quartered away concentrating on where the arrow will exit… even if it does not exit, as was the case in my hunt last season. 

My good friend Todd Jones owns and runs Rocky Creek Archery Club here in middle Georgia. 

“We spend a great deal of time shooting 3D and practicing with a bow,” Todd said. “Although target shooting is great practice and keeps you in good shooting condition, it’s not the same as real hunting, and the shot placement on a target can be much different than a real animal. You need to understand and study aiming and shooting angles in real hunting situations. Live animals are constantly moving and almost never present a perfectly broadside shot.” 

David Alligood, a rep for many archery companies and a 3D shooter, has also spent lots of time with me hunting, and we have had this discussion many times. And I can tell you that David, like Todd, is money when it comes crunch time on the real deal. I have been behind the camera and witnessed this firsthand with both of them.

Now back to the hunt…

• • •

I watched as the 165-grain all-steel Bipolar buried up behind the buck’s shoulder slightly high because of the steep angle. The green nock shined like new money. I watched the lighted nock go out of sight as the buck bolted across the open cypress flat and then heard what sounded like a concrete block dropped in the swamp followed by complete silence. By now the full Elvis effect was setting in from the adrenaline dump in my system. I found it hard to text because of the shakes and decided to just call my sons to tell them I had shot one and asked if they wanted to come help. 

While talking to Josh, my oldest, I told him that I had shot a non-typical in the swamp, and he said I’m on the way. He called me back and said, “I’m sending you a picture and tell me if it’s the buck you shot.” Now I’m thinking to myself how in the world could he possibly have a picture of this buck since he does not hunt this piece of property and I don’t run cameras. I received the picture on my I phone a few minutes later and couldn’t believe my eyes…

“That’s him… that’s the buck I shot!”

I called Josh back and told him that’s the buck! 

“Where did you get that picture?”

He said, “I will tell you when I get there.”

I told Josh I would stay in the stand till he arrived. When Josh got there, I had just gotten to the base of the tree, and we took up the track. Josh picked up the first blood about 20 yards from the impact, and it was slow go for a while due to a high entry and no exit and no leaf litter on the bare swamp dirt. After a short time, Josh said I see your lighted nock, and I made a quick sprint to the arrow. About the time I got to my arrow, Josh shouted, “Dad here is your buck.” I had trotted right past the buck which had apparently thrown the arrow 10 yards past him when he tumbled and crashed. After a few high fives and hugs we just admired the unique trophy. 

Josh then proceeded to tell me that a mutual friend Cole Garrett had gotten a picture of that buck the morning before more than 1 1/4 miles up the river on a piece of property he hunts.

So, from Friday morning until Saturday afternoon that buck had traveled that far to visit the persimmon tree that he obviously knew was there. This buck was actually killed by preseason scouting prior to being shot by knowing your food sources and not hunting them until it’s the right time. After further inspection the arrow had stuck low on the opposite shoulder and broken the upper part of his opposite leg.

Aiming for the exit.

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