It happens every year and I’m guilty. I tell myself that I’m going to practice, and practice a lot before archery season rolls around, and every year something comes up. And the thing is that I know I will improve my odds if I do a few simple things.
Last year I missed an easy shot that I would have certainly made had I practiced like I did the year before. It really is a simple program and one every bow hunter should consider. Here’s what works for me. First of all, good form is the key to good shooting skills. If we don’t re-visit a few basics, we tend to get sloppy. Let’s go through some basics:
Remember to stand with your toes pointed slightly towards the target. When you raise your bow, try to not grip it like the Hulk. It’s easy to get excited but the truth is that you want a relaxed bow hand. All sorts of weird pulls and pushes happen when we give the handle the death grip.
Remember to breathe normally and don’t hold your breath. I like to think of a fluid motion when I raise and pull back my bow. One steady, smooth motion pulling the bowstring towards your face. Lock on your target and remember to release as smoothly and cleanly as you can. Sometimes I just practice my release over and over. It will pay off in accuracy.
The last thing, and it’s a two-part thing for me is to follow through and visualize the arrow hitting the target. Some people call this “willing” the shot but it actually works amazingly well. Try shooting a dozen arrows the standard way and the next dozen consciously seeing the arrow hit the spot on the target you’re aiming for as you release. I’ll bet that you improve your shot.
Think of it like this: Instead of aiming with the pins on the bullseye and getting all wrapped up on locking the pins up (over-aiming), look past the pins and imagine your arrow hitting exactly where you want it to hit. Overthinking sometimes overrides instinct. Learn to hit the target instinctively.
Now, here’s the best tip I have and one that I love to do. Go out and get yourself a 3-D target. Cabela’s has a few to choose from and they’re not too expensive. If you’ve never shot at a 3-D target, you’re in for a treat. And there’s a big difference between paper targets and a target that looks pretty darn real from 30 yards. It’s great psychological edge that works great and provides endless scenarios.
I am not a tree stand hunter so I can’t vouch for how they work from a tree stand (I’m guessing that you could place it all over and take a ton of shots), but for stalkers, still hunters, and surprise situations, these targets are great practice. You can take a buddy with you and each shoot from different spots, enacting different scenarios. It’s a lot of fun.
The other thing that I do is practice shooting from different postures and practicing the quick point-and-shoot shot. A few years ago, I was slowly moving up a game trail when a buck came over the hill right in front of me. I did have an arrow knocked in and all I could do was get off a quick shot from the hip without aiming. It was a narrow miss. I take my 3-D target and place it all over the place and then sneak up on it and get off a quick shot.
There are endless ways to practice with this target and you won’t get bored. We make up games and spend a whole weekend trying to out do each other. The bottom line is that we are shooting in a relaxed, no-stress way and that makes opening day a bit less rigid. You know what to do because you’ve practiced a bunch of different shots.
Don’t forget to shoot those broadheads and make sure you know how they fly. Start remembering the basics and get out there and practice, practice, practice. You’ll be glad you did!