Can Your Arrow Penetrate A Buck's Shoulder?

Can Your Arrow Penetrate A Buck's Shoulder?

Several does fed within 20 yards, and a group of bucks was slowly walking in my direction. Every deer in the field was greedily pulling bright orange carrots from the loose, black dirt with their teeth. I was terrified to move considering all of the eyes within shooting range on the organic vegetable farm I'd recently gained permission to bowhunt. Add in the fact that three jakes were standing right next to me gobbling at the the sound of a distant police siren and the scene was something else entirely.

Then it happened. An unseen doe had fed up the field edge and nearly stuck her nose in my natural blind, which I had carved out beneath a low cedar tree. She got a snootful of my scent and went ballistic, setting the whole herd in motion.

In the ensuing melee I drew and watched as one of the bucks ran at me. He was an easy 130-class, mature deer. He stood broadside in the field and I watched as my arrow, tipped with a lighted nock, hit his shoulder and stopped as if I'd shot it into a concrete retaining wall. As he lit out from the field my arrow shot straight up into the air and flipped end over end before coming to rest on the ground.

The shaft showed maybe four inches of penetration, and when I shook it I could hear the broken broadhead ferrule rattling around in the insert. What followed was a few spots of blood, a full day of grid searching, and predictable recovery results.


Fast forward a few years to an absolute beast of an Iowa buck that caught me drawing. He stared bug-eyed in my direction as I intentionally tried to aim low, knowing he was going to drop at the shot. The arrow hit him with a crack and my first impression was that I'd done it again. As he busted through brush along the edge of the creek for 50 yards my heart sunk. Then he simply stopped, looked around, and tipped over.


Both shots had hit mature bucks' shoulders, but the results were vastly different. Broadhead choice played a role in the outcomes, I know that. But I also know arrow choice did as well. The first buck was shot with a lighter-weight, full-diameter carbon arrow. The second, a micro-diameter shaft weighing enough grains-per-inch to handle a bull elk with ease.

Shooting-through-a-bucks-shoulder

Those experiences, and many, many others, are the reason why I take arrow choice seriously. I've had plenty of bowhunters tell me it's impossible to get through a mature buck's shoulder, but that's simply not true.

First off, what we call shoulder is made up of a few parts, with the main bone being the scapula. This bladed bone is thinnest on top and not too difficult to get through. Head south on the bone, however, and it not only becomes thicker but also meets up with a ball joint. Hit that and you're most likely in for a long day of tracking and eventual disappointment. There is also the scapula spine, which is the I-beam looking protrusion on the shoulder blade. This thicker bone feature has caused fits for plenty of bowhunters as well.


So, what should you do about the shoulder-blade dilemma? The simple answer is to aim far enough behind the shoulder to not worry about it. Unfortunately, things go wrong and shots don't always go where we hope. That leaves the best option to still aim correctly, but with an arrow that provides for a much wider margin-for-error.

The right arrow can help you get through a mature buck's shoulder. While no one plans to hit a deer's shoulder, it happens and a smaller diameter arrow that boasts enough weight can tip your odds for a successful recovery.

For most of us, this means bumping up overall arrow weights and opting for smaller-in-diameter shafts. Those two things alone will increase penetration, and when you're talking about getting through the shoulder, you may only need an extra inch or two to reach the far-side lung. With bowhunting, it's the attention to the little details that make success far more common. The right arrow choice for when things go wrong definitely fits into that category, especially when dealing with a mature buck's shoulder.


The next time you go to buy a fresh dozen, choose wisely.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Spot-and-Stalk Texas Hog Bowhunt

Spot-and-Stalk Texas Hog Bowhunt

Bowhunter Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson spot-and-stalks hogs and whitetails in Texas.

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 1

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 1

Bowhunter TV's Derek Mleynek and Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson head to Texas for a late-season mixed bag hunt that promises plenty of action.

Canyon Ranch Bowhunt

Canyon Ranch Bowhunt

Bowhunter Equipment Editor Tony Peterson sees plenty of action while hunting whitetails and hogs in Texas.

Dead On: Picking a Spot

Dead On: Picking a Spot

On this edition of "Dead On," Hall-of-Fame bowhunter Randy Ulmer shares advice on picking a spot.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Follow this advice before embarking on your first hunt! Big Game

Beginner's Guide to Bowhunting Mule Deer

Ron Niziolek

Follow this advice before embarking on your first hunt!

This past fall my twin daughters started kindergarten, which meant that I stopped paying for Bows

9 Top Budget Bows for 2018

Tony J. Peterson - February 20, 2018

This past fall my twin daughters started kindergarten, which meant that I stopped paying for

Advances in rangefinding devices have helped bowhunters immensely. Scouting Tools

Advancements in Rangefinder Technology Through the Years

Chuck Adams

Advances in rangefinding devices have helped bowhunters immensely.

With May comes an opportunity to re-think turkey bowhunting strategies. Turkeys

Spring Gobbler Reset: How to Bowhunt Turkeys in May

Tony J. Peterson

With May comes an opportunity to re-think turkey bowhunting strategies.

See More Trending Articles

More How-To

New year, new look at your whitetail ground How-To

Summer Scouting from Scratch

Tony J. Peterson

New year, new look at your whitetail ground

You can share the elk timber with dangerous bears if you're smart and prepared. How-To

Bear Aware: Elk Hunting in Grizzly Country

Ron Niziolek

You can share the elk timber with dangerous bears if you're smart and prepared.

Bowhunting whitetails on the open plains can provide several unique challenges. How-To

How to Hunt Whitetails in Open Country

Joe Blake

Bowhunting whitetails on the open plains can provide several unique challenges.

Here's how to go from longbeards to big bucks on public land in the same season. How-To

Scout for Whitetails While Turkey Hunting

Tony J. Peterson

Here's how to go from longbeards to big bucks on public land in the same season.

See More How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now