Standing 20 yards downwind from an archery target pulling back arrow after arrow might be excellent practice in the off season but when it comes down to crunch time the game has to be elevated. Varying your shooting style to more accurately depict the circumstances you’ll encounter on the hunt will help to increase your effectiveness as an archer. Utilizing the tools available can support attaining your goals.
There are many different types of archery targets and they each have their place and time. The most basic are bag targets. Affordably priced these are mainstays in almost every archer’s arsenal. There are fibers and materials inside the bags that are designed to stop the arrows and bolts. They are intended for field points as broadheads can shred the covering of the bag as well as remain lodged inside. Most bag targets are made to be housed indoors to diminish the effects of the punishing elements. Some manufacturers have new covers available for your target but with the affordable nature of these targets total replacement can be best.
Block targets, or foam layered targets, are more portable yet still remain economical. There are several types of foam layers that range from hundreds of thin layers compressed together to the heat fused layers. The layers use friction to stop the arrows instead of the force of other style targets. Field points are recommended but broadheads can be used on many block targets but if you have a heavy draw weight it can propel the arrow deep into the target making removal more difficult. These targets work well for field use as they are lightweight and provide quick set-up.
When you have more time – or a backyard to set-up an archery range – 3D targets offer the most realistic experience. 3D targets are the most expensive consumer target but the preparation it can provide is unparalleled. Field points are recommended in these and most come with the ability to purchase new inserts in order to extend the life of your target. Vital overlays are available on most units and assist the hunter in knowing what organ to hit – or tracking points in competitive archery. 3D targets are available in most species and even some fun characters like Sasquatch and a Velociraptor. If whitetail hunting you can take the 3D target and place it under your treestand to get you practice shooting from the elevation and at the silhouette of the deer.
Angles can make or break your hunt. Shot angles change with every movement of the animal. No matter the targets you use take them into the field and shoot them from your blind or treestand. Move the target around and test the variations of where the prey might be standing. Think about vital organ shot placement and research the species you are hunting. If you don’t have access to your treestand for practice set up in the yard and shoot from the deck – if safe – or at a downhill archery range. When elevated it is crucial to bend at the waist to maintain the arrow trajectory needed. This invaluable research and practice can make the difference between a trophy photo or a lost arrow in the woods.
Other practices that will increase your chances of a harvest are low light, fully clothed and making weather adjustments. Weather can come or go regardless of how we plan our dream hunt. We don’t like sitting in the rain, wind or snow but inevitably most of us can say we have endured such extremes when hunting. If the wind is coming from the East at 10mph will you be able to make the adjustment needed on the fly when a deer walks in? Taking the time and effort to push outside of comfort and practice in these elements will help you determine the effect they have on your shooting. Pulling back a bow in the extreme cold weather of Northern Minnesota changes the entire dynamic of movement. You may not be able to do all of your field practice in the same season; practice this year to benefit your hunt next year too. No matter if you are heading out in the elements or a perfectly sunny day wear your hunting clothes. Feel the difference if you have on a jacket with a hood up versus a t-shirt and baseball cap. The way the strings might snap against your sleeve or the restrictions felt from the shoulders of your jacket can be easier to overcome or adjust if you have time outside of the short hunting season. Along with a shortened hunting season it usually seems like the window of shooting opportunities is most likely to occur in low light situations. I don’t know how many times a deer has walked out within minutes of dawn cresting over the horizon. The shadows created by low light can throw off your aim. Take the time to practice and understand how the different scenarios will play out.
No matter the bow, no matter the arrows, no matter the species – becoming an accurate shot is something that takes time and practice. Utilizing the different targets available and the encouraged variations in practice will increase your efficacy. Ethical harvest is a backbone of hunting and taking a questionable shot goes against the integrity of the sport. Practice and perfect your skills until you can take your best shot.