It’s been days since you last shot your bow. There are miles between you and your truck. Your body is soaked in perspiration and thoughts of coming home empty handed are filling your head. The temperature has dropped to below freezing, and it's starting to snow. Your bow is tuned, but your string and feathers are soaked and starting to freeze. You hear the grass crunch under the freshly frozen crust as he walks out. You range him and prepare for the shot. Focusing on the spot but seeing antlers in your peripheral is making it hard. Your cold fingers wrap around the string as you begin to pull back. Your cold fingers are the last thing on your mind.
As bow hunters, I feel it’s our responsibility to have better than paper-plate sized groups at our max hunting range. We should consider ourselves as athletes, if not more, because a 5 on a paper target could be an animal’s life not recovered and wasted. We choose the equipment we shoot, and we need to ensure we are giving it our best and not just flinging arrows down range.
"Cold shooting" is not something many people think about. The term comes from rifle terminology, but it relates to archery as well. It's when you shoot your bow for the first time that day or even that week or month. Be honest with yourself when I ask if it hit EXACTLY where you wanted it to. This is something that doesn't seem to be “practiced” or even thought of when you get to the range. But when you’re out in the woods, there are no warm up shots. Sights on your bow is one thing, but with a longbow or recurve it’s also about the feel and confidence that is needed.
This is something I try to do every time I hit the range:
- Always take your first shot a little further than your comfort zone. We can all hope and pray that the quarry we chase will come within out comfort zone 100 percent of the time. But with “Murphy’s Law” we know it’s more likely to push our distance out a touch further.
- Use your range finder and, if you have sights on your bow, move your pins to what your range finder says and not the sign on top of the target. Landscapes change in our hunting area and sometimes using a tree to judge a distance or the football field method does not always work. I spent 2 weeks out in the open tundra without one and missed more than one shot because of yardage. Left and right were spot on, but just too short or too far. Take the guess work out of it.
- If you have the space, get your heart rate up and shoot in what you will be hunting in. Jumping jacks or burpees are a great way to get your blood pumping, and they require next to nothing in space. Your accelerated heart rate is going to mimic that rush you get: that blood pumping, knee-knocking feeling you are holding back and trying to just focus on your spot.
-Whether up in a tree or shooting up a hill, changing the angles of your shooting is going to affect the yardage on an animal as well as changing the shot placement. Your back is up against a tree as you see that giant walk in front of you at 20 yards, you stand up slowly and take the shot... Very Rarely does this happen, especially on flat ground if you're hunting up here in Alaska or in the Northwest. To be honest, a 4 yard shot straight down from your tree stand results in a lot of missed game because it's not practiced. So change your game up with the angles and learn your equipment the best you can.
-Standing, sitting, kneeling, or leaning over the ledge of your tree stand is going to change up the way you shoot. Ground blinds are a very effective tool, but if you don't practice while shooting a longbow, it can cause some unneeded discomfort. You can also put one foot on a log or try it from a knee as it will all change how you shoot. The standard feet parallel to the target with the perfect Archers T is something 95% of us practice, but it’s not always going to be that way in action. With a compound it’s a little different with shorter Axle to Axle bows, but have you ever maneuvered a longbow or recurve in a tree stand?
That’s it. Get out there and shoot. As much as shooting can be just slinging arrows, there is always a purpose and it’s the difference between wounding an animal or coming out heavy. It’s our duty as Ambassadors of bowhunting to ensure the cleanest and most ethical kill we can deliver.
Tribe Archery, LLC
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