Deer Reaction Time, Jumping the String
(I made another version of this article that was printed in the October issue of Iowa Sportsman Magazine. Click HERE to visit that article.)
I know everybody has heard and seen this before…probably. But this is actually the first time I put some numbers to this unbelievable reaction time of the whitetail deer.
So let’s crunch some numbers two different ways. The following is a run down of a hunt I filmed with client Ryan Hyer. We were hunting a ground blind overlooking alfalfa and soybeans when this doe came in. Ryan had a doe tag and wanted to take her. I often hear that if you shoot at deer that are not alert you don’t have to worry about a deer “jumping the string”. Hogwash is all I can say!!! A deer naturally drops when it goes to run…it’s not that it knows it is being shot at but a natural reaction to the sound of the bow being shot. This doe had no idea we were there, we didn’t stop her.
First, doing some math, Ryan’s doe was about 23 yards away when he shot it. That’s 69 feet….shooting about 300 feet per second with his bow, that means that his arrow arrives at the deer in about .23 seconds.
Second, my camera shoots at a rate of 30 frames per second. I went back and forth frame by frame watching the video and when he shoots I count forward 8 frames before impact on the deer. Because I’m shooting 30fps, I can only break up the action in 1/30th of a second increments. 8 frames is about .26 seconds.
So either way, this doe from when she first hears Ryan’s bow has between .23 and .26 seconds to move. It is astounding just how far she got…take a look at the frame by frame below starting at frame 2. Ryan shot at frame one.
One of my favorite movies is The Patriot. There is a scene where lead actor Mel Gibson tells his sons who are trying to save their older brother to “aim small, miss small”. Do you know what this means. When shooting with archery equipment you need to do just that, aim small. This means if you are aiming small even if you miss your target by an inch or two you are still in a good spot. When shooting at deer for the past 20 years, I aim small by shooting for the heart. If a deer drops I am still perfect, if they don’t I heart shoot them. If they are really close I aim low heart, if they are kind of far I aim high heart. This has led me to a much much higher percentage of good shots on deer and I would recommend aiming “small” for the heart to anyone. More deer every year are wounded or missed because of aiming for the center of the vitals. I can’t count how many times I’ve witnessed or heard of deer being hit high in the shoulder. Aim for the heart and you will greatly increase your odds of good and perfect hits.