Take a minute to reflect on the last shot opportunity you had on a hunt. Was the result a well-placed arrow and a short blood trail, or a swing-and-a-miss followed by a walk of shame back to the truck? Whatever the outcome, now is the time to elevate your practice regimen so you’re ready for even the most difficult shots before opening day.
Practice and well-tuned gear are important, but the best way to prepare for the shot of a lifetime is by practicing the same routines you use while hunting. Get started by sighting in your bow on small circle or bull’s-eye targets to confirm your sight is accurate and your groups are consistent. Once you’re sighted in, swap your sandals and T-shirt for insulated camouflage. Bulky clothing, gloves, a face mask and a safety harness all affect the way you draw and shoot your bow. Remember, your clothing will change based on weather and season, so test the core garments you’ll be hunting with in different situations. All those factors dictate accuracy, which is why it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the gear you’ll hunt with before opening day.
Consider the hunting situations you’ll encounter in the field and do your best to replicate them. If you’re bowhunting whitetails primarily from a treestand, set up and practice from an elevated platform. If you’ll hunt from a ground blind, set it up and practice shooting from inside it to ensure your bow limbs don’t hit the blind’s roof or inner walls when you’re at full draw. This practice also lets you know whether your bow sight is bright enough for use inside the blind’s dark confines. Likewise, spot-and-stalk bowhunters should get used to shooting while wearing a backpack, and while kneeling, standing or tucked tightly into a thick pine.
Finally, it’s important to test your broadheads before heading to the field. Broadhead blades add wings to the front of your arrow, and any tuning flaws magnify their flight inconsistencies and hurt accuracy. Whether you’re shooting mechanical or fixed-blade broadheads, denote one in your quiver as your practice broadhead. Ensure all of your arrows spin properly with broadheads, and set aside any arrows that don’t yield consistent performance.
Now that your bow is dialed, it’s time to transition to a 3D archery target. These lifelike targets prepare bowhunters for the shots they’ll encounter in the field. Add realism by quartering the targets toward or away from your shooting location, and adjust your point of aim and impact accordingly. Remember to keep the exit wound in mind when considering your shot placement.
Navigating dense brush and other obstacles is another great way to get the most out of your 3D target practice. Position something like a bush or tree limb between your shooting location and the target with roughly equal distance between the locations. Experiment with your arrow’s trajectory by aiming through the obstacle and into the vital section of the target. You’ll quickly learn that in some circumstances, an arrow’s arcing trajectory will fly over the obstacle and impact the vitals.
Steep angles on uneven terrain add another realistic element to experiment with using your 3D target. As the angle gets steeper, the importance of maintaining proper form and anchor points is magnified. Remedy this by bending at the waist to get on target, rather than adjusting the position of the string on your face.
Real-world bowhunting doesn’t always go as planned, and sometimes you need to adjust your shot to make the most of the opportunity you’re presented with. Two of the most common instances you’ll encounter are holding at full draw for an extended period of time and shooting with a high heart rate. Here are a couple of drills to consider:
Get creative and have fun with your summertime shooting regimen. You’ll become a better archer, learn more about your favorite bowhunting gear and be ready to go when the moment of truth finally presents itself this fall.