Most bowhunting seasons are over. Bowhunters are winterizing equipment and evaluating their seasons. During that process, some might think: “How did I miss that deer?” or “That shot should have been lethal.” Before you shell out $100 for “problem-solving equipment” like brighter sights or deadlier broadheads, consider spending your money on archery classes, leagues, lessons or tournaments.
Ken Otis, 56, from Kansas City, Missouri, bowhunted for 20 years while dealing with target panic, and became increasingly frustrated. That’s when a friend suggested getting help at an indoor archery range. They analyzed Otis’ bowhunting setup and critiqued his shooting form.
Otis quickly realized offseason indoor archery was the key to bowhunting success. In the controlled environment—while surrounded by advanced archers, certified instructors, and knowledgeable bow technicians—Otis learned more about archery, his equipment, and proper form than he had from reading articles, watching videos, and listening to his buddies’ tips.
“I never got proper archery instruction, so I developed quite a few bad habits, and almost gave up on bowhunting,” he said. “Indoor archery gave me the confidence and calmness I need when I’m in the treestand. Plus, shooting year-round helps me stay familiar and comfortable with my equipment so I don’t have to relearn everything in August.”
Since his introduction to indoor archery six years ago, Otis has done it all. He’s taken lessons, shot leagues, participated in local tournaments and, more recently, shot in the Midwest Open Indoor Archery Tournament, which had over 415 competitors. Those indoor events taught him to be a better archer and, most importantly, a better bowhunter.
Otis hopes all bowhunters will put their ego aside, recognize indoor archery’s benefits, and try it.
“Most hunters haven’t taken a class from a certified instructor,” Otis said. “But everyone I know who has [received instruction] learned a lot from it. Instructors can help you no matter where you’re at. There’s always something to learn.”
Consider these many benefits of indoor archery:
– You continually check to ensure your equipment is tuned and working correctly.
– You can test and try new equipment to find a setup that works best.
– You can focus on form without distractions like wind, rain and sun glare.
– You’ll maintain your shooting skills during the offseason.
– You’ll strengthen your mind and body.
– You’ll learn how to perform under pressure.
– You’ll meet new people who share your archery passion.
– You’ll watch and learn from other archers.
– You’ll learn about archery’s many equipment options.
– You’ll still enjoy hunting’s camaraderie outside of deer camp.
– It’s lots of fun!
Indoor archery options vary. Bowhunters can participate in classes, lessons, programs and tournaments. Plus, most archery organizations have a “hunter class” so bowhunters can use and shoot their hunting setup during competition.
“Anytime you practice more consistently, and learn more about the equipment and how it relates to your body, the better you’ll be,” Otis said. “All athletes train in the offseason. And bowhunters, as archers and athletes, can train in the offseason by shooting 3D or indoor archery. Bowhunters shouldn’t go from the couch to the treestand.”
There’s no quick fix to better shooting. It takes time, dedication and hard work. Buying new equipment probably won’t fix your problems, but investing in yourself likely will.
George Ryals IV of Last Chance Archery said it best: “Tightening the ‘loose nut behind the string’ is often the best fix for exasperating issues.”
Click here to find a nearby range to start your offseason training.
You can also watch the ATA’s video “Bowhunters: Archery Tournaments Welcome You” to learn how to start competing in the bowhunter class at tournaments. Popular tournaments include those by USA Archery, the Archery Shooters Association, the International Bowhunting Organization, and the National Field Archery Association.