Shooting Tight Groups

By Allen Bolen

Years ago I was bow hunting some farm country for mule deer with my buddy Jeff. The terrain was mostly flat, but there were some steep sandstone bluffs between crop fields where the deer would often bed.  One morning we turned up a pair of good bucks that fed out of a picked corn field and dropped into some steep and brushy sandstone that overlooked a winter wheat field. 

We couldn’t see exactly where they bedded and it looked to be a nearly impossible stalk, so we left them in search of easier prospects. 

Several hours later, after coming up empty-handed, we returned to make a play on the two bucks. We planned to use a method I call “stalk and stand”, in which you carefully stalk in on a bedded animal to a close-but-safe distance, say 50-70 yards, then you find some shooting lanes and sit down and wait. It’s best to try to guess the direction your prey will naturally move and position on that side. I’ve found there’s about a 50% chance your patience will earn you a shot when he gets up to feed in the evening. Although it’s very tempting to push-in and try to find the animal in his bed, I’ve found that the odds of actually putting an arrow through his lungs are higher when I stalk and stand. 

Jeff and I carefully climbed down the sandstone to a spot where we thought we were probably within 60 yards of the two bedded bucks. It was brushy and gnarly below us and I’m pretty certain that had we kept pushing we’d have blown-out those deer. We sat down on a nice ledge in a couple of well-worn deer beds. We figured it would probably be a couple hours before the bucks moved back to the field. 

Sure enough, that evening, as the sun dropped over the horizon, one of the bucks slumbered up a trail and stopped on a point below us, sky-lined against the winter wheat far below. “46 yards,” I whispered to Jeff after hitting the buck with my rangefinder. 

Jeff drew, and the buck looked our way. But it was too late and the arrow was off, sailing beautifully toward the deer. Excitement peaked and then quickly evaporated, as the arrow flew over his back. The buck disappeared like a ghost and Jeff and I sat there in frustration; perfect opportunities like that were hard to come by. After a few silent moments, we laughed it off and Jeff began whispering about why he might have missed. 

At some point I noticed movement below and I motioned to Jeff. The second buck was now coming up the same trail. Unbelievably, he stopped on the exact same point as the other deer, likely in the same footprints. He stood there calmly, completely unaware that his buddy was probably in the next county. Jeff renocked and drew. My muscles tensed with anticipation and hope for a perfect shot. To my dismay, Jeff’s second arrow sailed cleanly over the second buck’s back. 

I had no words. 

When we stood up to hike out, Jeff said he wanted to go down and look for his arrows. More than slightly annoyed, I told him I thought that was ridiculous. The bucks had been sky-lined and the arrows had flown hundreds of yards down into the wheat field below. He insisted, and I reluctantly agreed. We marked a reference point and walked that line out several hundred yards into the field. Amazingly, Jeff walked right to his arrows. But much more amazingly, those arrows—shot off a cliff at two different bucks—formed a six-inch group at nearly 300 yards!

To this day, I’ve never seen shooting that good, and that bad.

From the FE Films Archive

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