If you’re an avid waterfowl hunter but shoot your shotgun only when a flock of birds descend on your decoys, you won’t be on your game. Rifle hunters who don’t spend time at the range will lack the confidence or ability to hit a target in the field. With archery, there is even more to being prepared and practice is everything.
Modern bows are easy to shoot. Technological advantages mean you can shoot faster and flatter than ever before. No longer do we have to pull ridiculous weight to have superior arrow speed, and hunters shooting low poundage are no longer at a disadvantage when it comes to overall performance. Still, you must be able to draw your bow quietly, smoothly and without detection to hunt effectively. It’s called developing your “archery muscles.”
In a perfect world, we’d be out shooting every day to build our strength and skills. But pulling a bow dozens of times—when you haven’t done so in six or more months—will usually leave any of us feeling sore. Even if you aren’t, you’ll notice that your ability to draw and hold any weight can be a shaky experience after the first dozen shots. We need to remain consistent, working on our shooting muscles until we can draw a bow over and over without fatigue.
Do you have good hunting friends? If you’re serious, try getting together to shoot all spring and summer. You can start by simply shooting a target butt at 30 meters. This builds consistency and accuracy so you can maintain form when you’re not shooting under the perfect circumstances. After several practice sessions, you might find your arrows centered on the target! Consider yourself ready if you no longer pull the odd shot or have an unexplainable flyer. Practicing allows you to reestablish your anchor point and form to draw, acquire the target and release your arrow the same way, every time.
Shoot at separate targets to ensure you’re not breaking nocks or damaging vanes with tightly clustered arrows. At this point, you can set up 3D targets to get ready for hunting situations. Shooting targets at varying distances and through or around obstacles will challenge you to maintain your form—more like what you’d experience hunting.
Judging distance is crucial to overall accuracy, so it’s important to find ways to do it correctly. Try comparing the target distance to something you’re already familiar with, like the depth of your backyard or the width of a road. Breaking down the distance into thirds or quarters can also be helpful—judging shorter distances is easier.
Before you start, or if you’re purchasing a used bow, check the equipment. Look at the limbs for stress cracks. Make sure everything is aligned. If your string needs replacing, don’t put it off. See if all screws and bolts are tight. With the shock and vibration modern bows absorb, loose parts shouldn’t be a surprise.
If you need to start from scratch and get your bow sighted in again, you may as well start right from the beginning. If you leave it and have to change it just before the season opens, you’ll lose confidence you’ve worked so hard to build. Find the time to practice, and you’ll be more prepared than ever before. It will put you in a positive frame of mind that could change your game this season.