“Close” may count when playing horseshoes, but when it comes to bowhunting, there’s no room for error. A shot that’s just a few inches off its mark can mean the difference between success and missing (or worse yet, wounding the animal). That’s why it’s so critical for every conscientious bowhunter to practice on a routine basis.
Most archers do just that, but they don’t always practice perfectly. They shoot on level, open ground with a textbook stance, at exact distances of 20, 30, 40, etc., yards. Don’t get me wrong, that’s good practice, but how often do we encounter animals at exact yardages standing in the wide-open? Maybe never.
To truly prepare yourself for that once-in-a-lifetime shot at a monster buck or bull, you must be able to pull off the kinds of shots you’re likely to face in the field. It’s relatively easy to do, and a lot of fun, too! Here’s a checklist of the ways you can improve your shot making.
Most deer hunters pursue animals from tree stands, so it only makes sense to practice from one. The descending shot with a bow is far different from a flat shot, particularly if the downward angle is steep. The proper form on a downward shot is to bend at the waist to maintain the same arm/spine position as you’d have with a flat shot. A common mistake is to simply drop the bow arm down when shooting from an elevated perch, but this can cause a miss-hit (typically a shot that’s too high).
Yardage also becomes a tricky variable from a tree stand, since shot angles have a bearing on which sight pin you use. Laser rangefinders takes the guesswork out of pin selection by factoring in the shot angle. It’s made exclusively for bowhunting and is a must for archers who hunt from tree stands.
Just as it is important to practice shots from above, it’s equally important to take uphill-angled shots (especially if you hunt in rugged country where flat shots are extremely rare).
When I first started bowhunting, it was a less than a 20-yard game. But with today’s incredible equipment, shots measuring 50-, 70- and even 100-plus yards are becoming commonplace for some. On longer shots, the effect of wind drift is extremely noticeable. If you have the skill to make this type of shot, get out when the wind is really blowing and practice, because there’s no such thing as a wind compensating sight or rangefinder (yet).
Experience is your only tool here, and the more of it you have, the better your “feel” will be when it’s gusty.
It would be nice if every animal stood broadside in an open field, but that doesn’t happen much. More often than not, your arrows must be slivered through a pre-cut shooting lane, between two trees, or through a gap in the brush. Therefore, take your GlenDel Buck 3-D target into the woods and give yourself some tough shots to execute through tight windows. It might seem like a hassle to do this, but the payoff is having the confidence to “thread the needle” with your arrow when there’s a big buck on the line.
Stance And Posture
Having the proper stance, set-up, and form in archery is no different than other athletic endeavors, such as golf, baseball or bowling. Look at tournament shooters and you’ll see that they all stand virtually the same way and have the same general form. That works on the shooting line, but not always in the woods.
Animals sometimes slip in behind us, where we need to turn 180-degrees for a shot. A low-hanging branch might force you to bend low at the knees to clear underneath it. Other times, you might even need to kneel or sit to make a particular shot.
But how many bowhunters practice these shots? The answer should be ALL of them. In reality, few take the time to master these quirky shots. If you bowhunt from a ground blind, it is absolutely necessary for you to practice from sitting and kneeling positions.
If you don’t already belong to an archery club, do a little research in your area and find one that has a 3-D course (or access to one) that appeals to you. The various stations on the course will provide great practice for real-life situations at various distances, angles, and through challenging shooting windows. You’ll find that it’s so much fun shooting (and sometimes competing) on the course that it won’t feel like practice at all.
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