No one shoots to miss… But all too often, it happens. Where did the shot go bad? Was it the cold weather, the steep shot angle, the sheer excitement of the shot, or was it just plain ol' poor and improper practice?
Growing up, I was always told there are three things you need to have to be a good bowhunter: practice, patience, and persistence. Apply all three of these, and you’ll be successful in the bowhunting woods. But what I’ve found to be more true in my years of bowhunting, is the more practice you put in, the less of the other two you’ll need.
OK, maybe that last statement needs to be clarified just a bit. I should have said proper practice will help you be a more efficient and more confident shooter with higher success. Yes, we still need to be patient waiting for the game and for the perfect shot angle to send your arrow into the boiler room. And persistence is always a must for a bowhunter. It’s not easy being a successful bowhunter, and it’s not a given. It takes work, and you better be geared up and ready when that opportunity presents itself… You better be practiced up!
Yes, we’ve all heard the story of the guy or gal who borrowed a buddy’s bow. Never before fired the bow, sat on a stump, and took the biggest buck in the woods! Yes, it happens! But more often then not, bowhunters with little or no practice will not be making successful shots, or worse yet, they’ll be wounding game. (I could write pages on the ethics of bowhunting, but for now I will say this: use your head!)
Practice is essential! And proper practice even more so. I believe practice is more than just stepping into the backyard and flinging arrows. Proper practice is technical, tactical, and with purpose. It’s focused and deliberate…
My approach at practice touches on two key elements of bowhunting: scenarios and possibilities! I like to think things through…develop a tactical plan, and practice for that situation. Low light, cold weather, treestands, ground blinds, kneeling on the ground, shooting uphill…and shooting down. Open terrain shots and in thick brush; how will I perform, and will I be ready? I learn my gear and shoot until it becomes second nature...until it becomes instinctive!
With this approach, you will have a plan when situational shots present themselves so that you aren't totally caught off guard in the field. But there’s a lot of shooting and basic shooting fundamentals needed to get you to this point. Like I said earlier, proper practice will help you be more efficient, and it starts with a proper shooting foundation: the stance, form, follow through, and mental focus. This is the technical side of shooting; the rock solid shooting skills to build from.
How do you get there? You must shoot, and shoot correctly! Sometimes focusing on a few deliberate, well-placed shots is more valuable than a barrage of a hundred shots fired without total concentration and proper form. This is how bad habits are formed. Learn to shoot with a purpose. It’s more than just releasing arrows down range and putting your “time in.” You must learn to shoot for success with each and every arrow.
Every year I find myself getting ready for the season, and it always seems as if I’m starting off cold and nowhere even remotely close to being prepared for the pursuit. My shooting is lacking to say the least. The last few years I’ve taken on the traditional challenge, and I feel this takes more dedication and way more practices. My muscles are weak, I never hit where I’m aiming, my hand-eye coordination is off. I would be totally frustrated if I didn’t have a tried-and-true plan to quickly get back into the game and punching bulls' eyes!
I’ve already talked about my practice strategy once I’m back on track, but I want to walk you through my technique for proper ground level practice, from a “Cold” start. This tip will help both the traditional shooter as well as compound shooters. This is a “Leave your ego at the door" tip!
You need to start back to the beginning. Set yourself up for success! In the beginning of my bowhunting career, at age 4, my dad started me out very close to the targets. Back then, it was probably about 5 feet. He built my success and my confidence by eliminating variables. Close targets and a lot of arrows insured I would eventually hit the bull's eye! As my accuracy increased, so did my distance, until I was bodybuilding with a bow. My muscles were trained, and my hand-eye coordination honed. My shooting started to fall into the groove, and I was accurate.
This is the same technique I still use today to get back on track. I get insanely close to the targets and start shooting. I set myself up for success, focusing on form, follow through, and hitting the mark! I methodically focus, draw, and release… Over and over and over again!
I’m building my core shooting skills. My muscles are getting stronger, my release is perfected, my form is correct, and my aim is true. Once I feel like my shooting is ready, I move back 5 yards and start the process all over again at the new distance. Once I hit new distances, I keep my instinctive shooting on its toes by bouncing back to earlier distances so I don’t get settled and locked into any one specific spot.
I find my groups getting tighter and tighter. My focus is getting trained, and I’m on target and back on my way to gaining distance with accuracy. With dedication and commitment, it’s not long before I’m shooting effective hunting ranges with confidence! This training tip works for all ages. From the beginners to seasoned bowhunters that are just plain ol' rusty!
Train with confidence and purpose… Shoot for success!