How is it that bowhunting season seems to creep up on us every year? You look at your calendar, and you have seven months to practice – then six, then two, then bam! The season’s open.
It’s easy to fall into the “I’ll start shooting next week” trap. But don’t. You owe it to yourself and, more importantly the wildlife you pursue, to consistently make well-placed shots. And how do you do that? With practice – and lots of it.
But don’t worry, with these short and effective practice routines, you’ll still have time to enjoy summer bonfires, pool parties, backyard barbeques and days at the beach. It’s the best of both worlds.
Great. At the very least, that’s all you need. However, the less time you spend shooting, the more often you need to shoot. If you have enough space in your backyard to shoot safely, set up a target (with a safety backstop) and shoot one arrow every day.
Squeezing in one shot shouldn’t be too difficult, especially if you make a DIY bow hangerand set it near your door. Then, you’ll have a visual reminder each time you enter or exit your house. Try shooting before breakfast, after dinner, or when you get home from work or school. It doesn’t matter when you shoot; it matters that you shoot.
Taking one shot per day simulates the one-shot opportunity you’ll have when bowhunting. It forces you to slow down and focus on your technique to hit the bull’s-eye. Try shooting at different distances, positions and shot angles each day. If you have another few minutes to spare, shoot two arrows per day – one in the morning and one in the evening. You’ll be surprised by how much you improve over a few weeks.
If you can’t shoot in your backyard, dedicate one hour a week to practicing and visit the “I have 1 hour” section.
If you have 15 or 30 minutes, you can become extremely accurate shooting a few times each week. If you’re free on the weekend, shoot on Saturday and Sunday. If you like to keep your weekends open, shoot Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
During these practice sessions, you’ll send many arrows downrange, which allows you to quickly identify patterns and adjust accordingly. Try shooting at least 10 sets of three arrows. That means you’ll shoot three arrows, retrieve them and shoot three more until you’ve done that at least 10 times. Giving yourself short breaks prevents you from getting tired faster. Plus, a reset ensures you’re using consistent form. If you’re not, it’ll show in your sets.
To improve, focus on each aspect of your form, including the draw, anchor point, sight alignment, release and follow through. Repeating the same actions, motions and techniques develops muscle memory and consistency. Use these sessions to judging shot distances. Practice by walking back from your target, stopping at random intervals, and shooting while estimating the distance. Confirm your estimate by ranging the target after each shot. These sessions should be fun and productive. (If you get bored, try these creative ideas.)
It’s easy to say you’ll shoot two or three times a week, but it’s also easy to forget, especially since it’s more sporadic than a daily routine. Make a practice schedule to stay on track. It’s best to set the alarm on your phone or create an event on your calendar.
If you have an hour, you have options.
One strategy is to drive to an indoor or outdoor archery range. Once you’re there, divide your hour into 15-minute blocks and focus on different shot elements. A few examples include your form, release, breathing technique, mental process, shot distance, and timed or high-pressure shots. Click here to find a nearby archery range. Be sure to click the range symbol to narrow your options.
Also, most outdoor archery ranges have elevated platforms that mimic treestand hunting scenarios. These setups allow you to practice like you would hunt, which is an added benefit to any pre-season practice session.
If you have an hour, you can also take archery lessons. Even if you’re a fairly advanced shooter, a certified instructor can help you improve. They can provide tips, identify bad habits, and correct your shooting form and technique. Plus, private lessons provide more individual feedback, which usually ensures faster, more impressive results. Remember, mastering a skill isn’t only about logging hours of practice. It’s also about the quality and effectiveness of your practice.
Lastly, if you’re a proficient shot, spend one hour shooting 3D archery. Shooting life-size 3D targets helps you practice shot placement and shooting angles on deer, bears, elk and other game. It’s an enjoyable and effective practice session! Read the Bowhunting 360 article “The Bowhunter’s Guide to 3D Archery” for more information.
Make practice a priority. Yes, life is busy and hectic, but if bowhunting is important to you, you must make time to practice.
Use the routines above to hone your shooting skills. Focus on one technique or try all three. The more arrows you shoot, the better you’ll be.