The arrow is released,  the follow through is solid and your mark is true. What could possibly go wrong at this point? Well a lot of things, but in many cases your arrow sails over the back of your buck as he crouches and then springs away. Most of you have probably experienced or heard of a scenario similar to the the one I have just described. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “jumping the string.”  For those of you unfamiliar with this idea, here is a quick video of a buck jumping the string.

So what is actually happening here? The deer is not consciously dodging the arrow, rather it is instinctively reacting to a stimuli. The moment the deer hears an unknown surprising sound it’s “fight or flight” reaction kicks in gear and it immediately drops and loads up to bounce away. Unfortunately this often also helps them by ducking underneath many unfortunate hunters arrows.

So how drastic of an effect can this have on your chances of sticking a buck this year? Well lets consider how much a deer can move once you release your arrow. According to secondary data I’ve found, a deer can drop about 1 in in .1 seconds. So that being given and assuming you are are using a newer bow shooting about 300 fps, your arrow would take about .2 seconds to reach a deer at 20 yards. That would give the deer enough time to hypothetically drop 2 feet, but given the time it would take for the deer to initially hear the bow, you can estimate that a deer could still drop as much as a foot. This math seems to back up what many people have seen in real life or on shows. All of this being said, what is there that we hunters can do to reduce the chances of a deer ducking our arrow?

It seems that solutions to this problem are varied and much debated in hunting circles. There seems to be three general options or steps you can take.

  • Shoot a faster bow
  • Shoot a quieter bow
  • Compensate and aim low
  • Do not shoot at alerted or “jumpy” deer

1. First lets talk about shooting a faster bow. I can see the benefits of shooting a faster bow for increasing accuracy or range, but when it comes to trying to out run sound, its not going to happen. The fastest bows today travel at around 340 fps, thats fast but sound travels at nearly 1100 fps, so lets assume no matter how fast your bow is, the sound will reach the deer much faster than your arrow.

2. On the other hand the act of silencing your bow can have better results. Dampening the noise of your bow can help decrease the chances of a deer jumping the string and it can be achieved in a plethora of ways. Silencing your bow is a whole story for another time, but in short you can buy a variety of silencers and dampeners that can be attached to your bow or strings that can reduce the noise produced. The quieter you can get your bow, the better.

3. The idea of compensating for this “jump” is possibly the most debated aspect of dealing with this. Should you aim low or shouldn’t you?

In my opinion it makes sense to try to compensate for this to a certain extent. I would not want to aim outside of the kill zone, but it definitely makes sense to me that you should aim at the lower third of the vitals. If the deer doesn’t coil I hit the bottom of the lungs and heart. If the deer does coil, I hit the top of the lungs and still have a dead deer down. This compensation won’t always be enough, but it seems to be a safe way to balance the probability of either situation occuring.

4. Last you must consider whether the deer is spooked or not. Ideally you want to be shooting at a deer that is completely oblivious to your existence, but thats not always how it goes down. These “oblivious” deer still can jump your string, but it seems that it doesn’t happen as often. A deer that has tensed up and is on the alert is much more likely to quickly react to a strange noise and book it out of there. If you can try to take your shots at unspooked deer, if you aren’t so lucky it is definitely a good idea to assume the deer will coil and aim a little bit low.

Hopefully being aware of the phenomenon of “jumping the string” and being able to prepare for it will help increase your chances of bagging a buck this fall. For more info check out these resources

North American Hunter Article, DIY Hunting article

Watch this video to see what Chuck Adams, possibly the worlds most accomplished archer, has to say about jumping the string.

Have any other thoughts or ideas on the topic? Let us know! I know there are a lot of opinions out there, so lets hear em!