Practice Makes Perfect
Now with a nicely tuned bow comes the shooting practice. I like to practice at least two times a week if not more. It is relaxing to me and I enjoy doing it with my kids and friends. I have lived in some places with great ranges for bows, so it is exciting to go shoot. Practice shooting is good training for you arms, body, and mind. It helps develop the muscles to hold you bow comfortably. As I develop my shooting muscles it is easier to hold on a target for a better shot. Practice good shooting posture and technique. There is no sense in just going out and flinging arrows just to strengthen my shooting, I must also focus on every shot. Lots of practice also gives me the confidence I need to make that shot. I will also get know my comfortable range. This is very important because when that elk presents itself at 50 yards and I can’t get any closer because his harem of cows are looking my direction, than it is good to know that last week on the range I made every shot that distance. I will also know that I might not be comfortable at this range and risk losing a $10 carbon arrow or worse yet chasing a wounded elk three quarters of the way across Wyoming. I have heard of archery education classes where the instructor will ask someone what their comfortable shooting range is. If that person says 40 yards then the instructor sets up a steel target with a hole in the middle usually the size of a dinner plate. If they hit the hole with their first shot, they either got lucky or that is really their comfortable shooting range. If they don’t hit the hole in the middle of the steel then they lose an arrow. I practice from 10 yards to 50 yards and I usually will shoot a few arrows at 60 and 70 yards but I know that I would never take a 60 or 70 yard shot in the field. The 60-70 yards shots help me focus and when I get to a 30 yard shot it is like I am on top of the target.
I like to practice uphill, downhill, and cross hill shots. Hunting in the west usually always requires one of these shots. Practicing different positions like standing, kneeling, sitting, also help to simulate real hunting. It is also important to shot at different times of the day. I once found out I could not see though my peep if I was shooting towards the sun in the morning or evening. I made some small adjustments to my peep and can now see in all shooting light situations.
One mistake that can happen is shooting too much. Shooting too much or continuing to shooting after your too tired can result in bringing back old bad habits or developing new bad habits.
As the season is drawing near, I always find it good to shoot with any equipment that might affect my shooting. I shoot with gloves, face mask, day pack, and wearing the boots that I would be hunting in. It is also good to shoot with the jacket or shirt you may be wearing. I shoot with a forearm guard mostly to keep any clothing out of the string on release. Now that I have developed the strength to pull and hold my draw because I have been shooting all summer, it is time to practice that one shot that counts. When I get to the range, I pick a first shot that might be similar to a real archery hunt. I skip warming up and I hike to a target at the range while working up my heart rate whether its jumping jacks, pushups, light jog, whatever. I then set up for a shoot at a target at an angle or distance that I haven’t shot from and I make one shot. This is as close to real hunting as I can simulate. That one shot has to hit the boiler room of the target, just like the comfortable shooting range I mentioned. This is as close to real simulation that I can get in the preseason. If you shoot with a partner, try having your shooting partner set up your one shot. If you are like me and have to travel to the archery range to shoot, I usually go back and shoot through the course but making that first shot is all that matters. If you have a place to shoot at your home try picking up your bow and doing the same one shot simulation that I do at the range but simply do the shot in the morning, before you get in the truck to go to work, after your training run, or when you get home from work.
After I have practiced all summer I also make sure to leave myself enough time before season to switch over to the broadheads that I plan on using during the season. When I changed bows and went to a carbon arrow I found that my arrow flew differently with broadheads. That season I was so frustrated because when I thought I should shoot a couple of broadheads the night before my big hunt, I found that my broadheads flew higher than my field tips so I had to re-adjust my sights and I lost most of the confidence that I gain throughout my summer of practice.
So when practicing throughout the summer, remember to practice often but not too much, practice real hunting simulations with cloths you might be wearing, and remember to give yourself enough time to shoot if you change things up before the season.