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String Jumping: Learning the Hard Way

It pays to listen to advice from veteran bowhunters.

String Jumping: Learning the Hard Way

These images taken from a video show what happens when a deer “jumps the string” at the sound of the shot.

I love talking to fellow bowhunters about the topic of “string jumping.” String jumping occurs when a deer or other game animal drops toward the ground at the sound of the shot as they load their legs to flee.

Sometimes, string jumping results in a high hit; other times, the animal manages to completely duck below the arrow before it arrives.

Back when I first started bowhunting, I knew everything. I saved up and bought the latest, greatest bow on the market. I decorated it with all the goodies that labeled you as the best bowhunter out there. I was young and very confident; maybe even a bit cocky.

That fall, I focused my bowhunting efforts in an area where a giant whitetail buck lived. I called him Tac. I found a solid pinch point in the heart of his stomping grounds and set up a blind 28 yards from a deer highway. Come opening day, I would live in that blind every day the wind was right until my boy came through.

Halfway through the season, I’d had many encounters with nice bucks, but not Tac. One day, the wind was wrong for my spot, so I decided to take a day off and swing by my taxidermist’s shop to pick up my prize buck from the year before.

The fellow’s name was Harry Link. He had a longer whitetail resume of big bucks than almost anyone. He was a very quiet man, or maybe he just didn’t talk much because he was tired of every Tom, Dick and Harry telling their big-buck stories while he was trying to get work done. I was no different. Every time I went to see Harry, I begged for a tour of all the animals that had come in and caught Harry up on every single move I made in the deer woods all fall.

I spent 20 minutes telling him about Tac. Then I told him how long I’d been sitting there waiting for him to come through. I finally decided to say goodbye, and when I did, Harry raised his head and asked, “Can I give you a little piece of advice?”

Harry told me setting up on a big whitetail buck at 28 yards, in the cold weather of a Canadian November, is just too far. He said I needed to set up closer or Tac would jump the string.

As the doe dropped and loaded its legs to flee, the arrow sailed completely over its back even though it was aimed directly at the vitals.

I thanked Harry for the advice and headed for home. Alone again, jumping in my truck, I thought to myself, What does that old codger know? He shoots a 50-pound bow from the 60s! NO WONDER THEY DUCK HIS STRING! I shoot 70 pounds, and I have the fastest bow in town!

Ten days later, after sitting sunrise to sunset, I finally got my chance at Tac. And I missed. The buck ducked my arrow at 28 yards. After reviewing my video footage and finding my arrow, I sat down in the snow and said aloud, “You were right, Harry.”

I’ve learned this hard lesson more than once over the years. If you bowhunt big bucks long enough, it will happen. I promise.

This is my take on string jumping: I always set up as close as possible. When I’m focused on a certain trail, I try to be no more than 20 yards from it.


Something else that’s very helpful is reading the animal’s body language. If it comes walking by, relaxed and calm, there’s a good chance it won’t duck. But if it’s nervous, you need to anticipate that deer ducking.

Most people have to learn the hard way, just like I did. But I caution you not to ignore, or write off, advice from those who have been there and done that. If someone who has earned their stripes is willing to share life lessons with you, listen closely.

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