Archery Practice During The Off-Season Will Pay Dividends!

When you release the bowstring and know, even before the arrow leaves the rest, that your shot is perfect — well, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Such experiences don’t happen by accident. They’re the result of complete preparation of your equipment and yourself. And a wonderful byproduct of preparation is this: CONFIDENCE. I can’t stress the importance of that word enough!

Babe Winklman
Babe Winkelman

Now, if you’re like me, you go through a kind of withdrawal when the bowhunting season ends. Fortunately for us sportsmen, summertime fishing fills the void. But you can still get your fix on bowhunting-related activities by using the warm months to fine-tune your equipment, hone your shooting skills, and build that all-important confidence level. Plus, shooting with family and friends is just plain fun, especially if you add some challenges to the session.

Great School Archery Program
The growing popularity of archery, thanks in large part to the National Archery in the Schools Program, is heartwarming. There’s a good reason why participation is on the rise: because shooting arrows is addicting. The more you shoot, the more you want to shoot, and the better you get!

As with practicing any athletic activity, having the proper fundamentals is essential. Stance, posture, grip and grip pressure, draw, anchor, release and follow through, all fall into the category of fundamentals.

If you’re new to archery, or even if you’re a seasoned shooter, it’s a good idea to visit a pro shop and get a lesson in the fundamentals from an archery expert. Locally, my pro shop is an excellent outfit called Beimert Outdoors. Like all Mathews dealers, their staff lives and breathes archery and is always eager to help you shoot your best.

In addition to setting up your bow, sight and peep, arrow rest, nocking point, etc., a pro shop will recommend proper arrows, vanes, tips/points and accessories such as stabilizers and releases. In almost every case, they’ll have the facilities to not only paper-tune your equipment, but also will have a shooting range so you can leave the store knowing your equipment is “dialed in.”

Be Safe When You Practice
One of the big advantages to archery practice is being able to do it practically anywhere. A Block 4×4 target and 20-30 yards of space is all you need to increase your proficiency with stick-and-string. Safety is naturally a top priority. Always make sure you have a dependable backstop and that all people, pets and buildings are behind the firing line when the arrows are flying.

For bowhunters, practice is more than simply having fun and achieving personal accuracy goals. It’s a commitment to the animals we pursue — to ensure that we know our limitations and make shots that are lethal and responsible.

When preparing for actual hunting conditions, it’s important to simulate the same situations you’ll encounter in the field. That means shooting with your hunting tips. Many a hunter has practiced diligently with field tips only to miss the animal of a lifetime because his broadhead flight was notably different when it really mattered!

I shoot Rage 3-blade, 100-grain expandable broadheads. They’re amazing. And because the good folks at Rage understand effective target practice, they include a practice tip with every pack of broadheads. Additional tips are also available in 3-packs. They exactly duplicate the weight, shape and flight characteristics of the working Rage broadhead.

Shoot From Different Angles
It’s safe to say that most bowhunters practice on flat ground at known distances. Don’t get me wrong ­– that’s great. But you’ll improve your field performance if you mix things up a little. Put a ladder stand up in the back yard and shoot from it, or use an elevated deck if your house has one. Put your target on severe uphill angles and get a feel for those shots, too. You’ll find that uphill and downhill shots require more skill and experience than flat shots ­– and more reliance on the fundamentals of good shooting, too.

Other things to practice include: facing away from your target and pivoting your entire upper body 180 degrees to make the shot; shooting from sitting, crouched, and kneeling positions; and shooting from inside a portable blind if you intend to hunt from your blind this season. All of these scenarios are wildly different than executing the classic flat ground shot. When you become proficient at them, they become second nature when you encounter the same situation on an animal.

And speaking of animals, it’s extremely helpful to shoot at realistic 3-D targets to engrain the focus on vitals when you launch that arrow. I own a few GlenDel Buck 3-D targets that I’ll place at varying distances and angles during every practice session. In addition to their long-lasting durability, GlenDel’s allow you to remove arrows easily ­– so you won’t get annoyed (or tired from pulling) during practice.

Check Your Equipment
Finally, make sure you keep your equipment is in tip-top condition. Check to make sure all Allen bolts (for sights, pins, quivers, etc.) are secure and that peep alignment is perfect. If you don’t already have one, pick up a hard bow case with thick foam padding to keep everything from bouncing around when in transit. Plano makes a new one that’s extremely compact and has Pillar-Locks, which are basically internal structures that really protect your investment. It’s made specifically for today’s short, parallel-limb bows. And before every hunt, shoot a half-dozen arrows to ensure accuracy before taking to the woods.

When that buck of a lifetime steps out broadside at 20 yards, and you come to full draw, you’ll be glad you prepared yourself for the moment of truth!

Good Hunting!

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