A veteran bow hunter and local archery pro shop owner once offered me advice I always remember. The archery pro told me that when practicing shooting, it is necessary to remember that when deer hunting, you will be nervous and cold. When your body is chilled, or the sudden adrenaline rush from a mature buck walking into range takes over, the struggle to draw a bow can be a difficult task.
Many bowhunters spend time throughout the summer practicing with their bows for the upcoming season. Many of these hunters shoot in their backyard or at a local archery range, which is an excellent practice. Yet are they preparing their body and mind for a real hunting situation when it is time to trade in their casual summer clothes for a complete set of hunting garments to be worn while strapped to a tree twenty feet in the air?
Unfortunately, many hunters spend the hunting season devoting countless hours in a treestand, blind, or on the ground, until the shot opportunity on their hit list deer presents itself. When the opportunity comes, the failure of proper preparation catches up to the hunter, causing them to fall short of making the harvest. From misjudged yardage, an overabundance of nerves, a wasted shot, or some other unfortunate situation, something typically occurs that ends in an unfilled deer tag.
Proper preparation on the practice range should begin months before hunting season. First, the hunter should spend a few weeks shooting basic shots to help build muscle strength and establish the proper form that eventually becomes consistent. Once the basics have been covered, replicating real hunting situations throughout the summer is vital to better prepare for the hunt and prevent simple mistakes from ruining an entire season. Below are five ways that hunters can better train this summer.
ONE ARROW A DAY
One of the best summer archery drills I have heard came recently when visiting with a longtime bow hunter and television host Fred Eichler.
Eichler explained to me that he shoots one arrow daily to mentally prepare for a real hunt shot opportunity. He stated that he is simulating the one shot a hunter most likely will have on an animal by only shooting one arrow. Although he admits that having a multiple-round shooting session in the yard is great, shooting at least one arrow throughout the summer better prepares the hunter for a one-shot-only opportunity.
INCREASE HEART RATE BEFORE SHOOTING
Every bowhunter knows that when the buck they have been waiting for all season finally makes his way into archery range, your heart often feels like it will beat out of your chest. The adrenaline, often called buck fever, has cost multiple hunters to mess up and miss the shot.
To better prepare your body for buck fever, conduct a series of jumping jacks or end a long run by picking up your bow and shooting while your heart rate is still high. By shooting when your heart rate has increased, the hunter learns to calm themselves quickly or learn the timing to breathe deep, then make the shot.
SHOOT IN CAMOUFLAGE GEAR
Even though summer shooting practice is more comfortable when wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts to keep cool, it is vital to practice in the same garments you will be wearing while hunting during colder fall temperatures.
Many shots have been deflected or guided off in the wrong direction because hunting clothes interfere with the shot. When a hunter is in full uniform, they too can feel uncomfortable or awkward when making a shot at a deer. Instead of always shooting in cool summer clothing, dress in long sleeves, jackets, or whatever you might wear while hunting to protect yourself from the cold. By practicing in hunting gear, the hunter learns how to get into a shooting position and the feeling of the gear they will experience while hunting.
SHOOT FROM AN ELEVATED POSITION
One of the most significant factors that cause more bowhunters to miss their shot each year is not practicing from an elevated position.
Often, hunters spend the summer shooting from a standing pose in the yard or range. Then, the first time they get in a treestand to hunt, they are immediately in a different stance than they have become familiar with while practicing. The elevation change can affect aiming points, and arrow flight, resulting in missing or wounding the animal being hunted.
To ensure you do not miss your shot, set up a mock treestand, shoot from an elevated porch or deck, or any other solid object that is safe, yet resembles the same height as what you will be hunting from.
PRACTICE WITH BROADHEADS
Another reason hunters experience a different flight pattern, or hitting point when hunting, compared to practicing is because they have not practiced with broadheads.
It is vital to use the same weight of field point as you will be using when hunting with a broadhead. Even then, it is still important to shoot with broadheads to witness any changes or adjustments that will be needed. Several target manufacturers have invented broadhead-safe targets with easier arrow removal without damaging the broadhead itself. The same has occurred with many broadhead companies, having made heads available with practice blades or settings on the broadhead that can be altered to allow shooting into targets without dulling blades or damaging the broadhead before hunting.