Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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Bowhunter Keeps It Real
Practice for the real thing using actual hunting conditions.
By Pete Daugherty
Originally published in the September 2017 issue of AON
Pete Daugherty dresses in full camo—including his hat and facemask—and shoots from an elevated position to get ready for the Oct. 14 Bama bow opener.
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As the summer days become shorter and shorter, many of us find ourselves dreaming of cool, fall mornings and deer season. Most of us have probably already got our bows out of the case and started shooting to help scratch that itch. Preseason bow practice is one of many things that you can do to help prepare you for the upcoming season. Having the confidence in your equipment and shooting ability will not only make you a better archer, it will make you a more successful hunter.

Let’s take a look at some of the simple things you can do now that’ll lead to a more successful deer season.

Mental Prep

I would bet most bowhunters think the physical preparation of shooting a bow is the most important piece to being successful, but most overlook mental practice. Anyone can simply pick up a bow and fling a few arrows downrange. That’s pretty easy.

Now, ask yourself how having a big buck in range makes you feel. Is your heart racing? Do you get buck fever? Does your breathing get heavy? All of these things can create a drastic effect on a hunter and could be the difference in making a good shot or a bad one. Mental preparation is vital to being a good hunter.

One of the best techniques I have found to help with mental preparation is to picture each and every shot—3D targets are great for this. You can really visualize the shot on a real deer and see where your arrows are hitting in relation to the vitals. Make it a habit to talk yourself through each shot, and it will come as second nature when you’re presented with a real shot.

Keep a positive mindset at all times. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not shooting as well as you would like to be. Keep a routine going, even if you are only shooting a dozen arrows when you do. A quality practice is paramount to success and mental preparation. Remember quality over quantity. If you start getting tired and your form starts to suffer, stop shooting for the day.

Physical Prep

In addition to mental preparation, you have to be sure to be physically ready, as well.

Most hunters don’t shoot their bow year-round. When you start back shooting, make sure your bow poundage is turned down. This will provide you with a more comfortable draw and will help you from fatiguing easily. Set a target up at 5 or 10 yards, and shoot a dozen arrows. Don’t focus on a specific spot on the target. Simply aim, and release with proper form. Take the time to concentrate on shot execution and duplicating every shot with good form. Your release hand and the bow arm should complete the steps in the same position at the beginning and end of every shot.

Once you’ve done this for a few weeks, increase your range, and start to accurately shoot spots on the target. When you are aiming, let the sight pin float on the target. If you try and hold the pin steady, you will cause your bow arm to shake and not make as accurate a shot. Again, talk yourself through the shot, and try to duplicate it every time. You will be surprised at how much more accurate you are.

One of the best ways to replicate buck fever is to shoot your bow while you are breathing heavy and your heart is racing. Take a few shots at your target, and then take a moment to do some push-ups, sprints or jumping jacks. Really get your heart rate up and breathing hard, and then grab your bow and shoot a few arrows as accurately as possible. Master this technique, and there’s no doubt you’ll be ready.

Through this type of preseason practice, you can obtain an effective form, conditioned muscles and the strength and stamina needed to be a successful archer.

Practice Like You Hunt

I am guilty of shooting my bow wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops most of the time. Summers here in Alabama aren’t the best time to be in long sleeves and pants. I shoot a lot from the ground and at a 20-yard target, too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with practicing like this; however, I don’t wear shorts and a T-shirt in the woods. I hunt from a tree stand predominately, and the deer don’t run in and stop at 20 yards often. I say all this because you need to take some of your range time to practice like you hunt.

A bowhunter should be prepared for any type of shot that they may encounter while they are in the woods. If you have perfected shooting from a standing position on the ground, move to a sitting position in a chair. Ground blinds are very popular. Practice with just the chair first, and once you become comfortable with it, move to inside the blind. There won’t be much difference shooting out of the blind other than the windows and the amount of light.

A tree stand is by far the most popular method to use for bowhunting. Shooting from one is very different than shooting from the ground. I’ve practiced from decks, platforms and porches. By elevating yourself, you create a totally different scenario for shooting. You won’t be able to use the same form as you did on a level surface.

When you are practicing or shooting at a deer from an elevated position, you have got to always remember to bend at the waist. If you bend your arm, then you will change your sight picture, anchor point and peep alignment. Practice a few days each week from an elevated position, so you can perfect this method, as well.

Dress For Success

Wearing your hunting clothes when you shoot is a very important part of preseason practice. You will want to know exactly how you’re going to shoot when you’re in the woods. If you take time to practice in your hunting clothing a few days a week, then you will know you’re prepared for the shot when it presents itself. Wear your hat, facemask, gloves and safety harness when practicing. These can all make a difference in your form and how you shoot.

3D Courses

A 3D course provides an excellent place to practice. You can shoot this course with or without a rangefinder. I would suggest two rounds, one with the rangefinder and one without. Utilizing a rangefinder on the course helps you to build confidence in making the shot at a known distance. Shooting without the help of a rangefinder helps you develop the skill of range estimation. This can be a great skill to have if you have to make a quick shot or can’t get to your rangefinder when a deer shows up.

When shooting the course, don’t worry about scores. Just focus on hitting the target in the vitals.

Shoot Your Broadheads

A common mistake I see a lot of hunters make every year is they do not practice with their hunting broadheads. A lot of hunters take them out of the pack, screw them on their arrows and hit the woods. I would contribute this to a lot of broadhead manufacturers advertising that their broadheads fly just like field points. For the most part, they do. However, I would suggest that you still shoot your broadheads or a practice head to see exactly how they fly. 

Don’t just shoot them once. Shoot them at different yardages, from the ground and from an elevated position. By doing this, you are going to get an accurate assessment of how they fly and if you need to make sight adjustments. Replacement blades aren’t that expensive, and some heads can even be re-sharpened. You’ve spent a lot of money on your equipment and invested a lot of time practicing. You don’t want to throw all that away because you didn’t shoot a few times with your broadheads.

Hopefully you can take these preseason techniques and put them to use. They aren’t the only ones that are out there, but they are the ones that I have always found to help me be successful as a bowhunter. Good luck this season, and with any luck, you’ll be following blood trails soon.
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