July 05, 2012
By Terry Wunderle
Imagine yourself sitting in a treestand, anxiously awaiting the arrival of that handsome whitetail buck that has been frequenting the area. Abruptly, the crackling of twigs and leaves signals a doe passing swiftly under your stand. Thirty yards away she halts and peers down the path she just traveled. Then the rustling of underbrush gives warning that another deer is approaching.
The seconds tick away, but soon the "king-sized" deer emerges and stops 20 yards to your left. Any moment he will resume his pursuit of the doe. Can you remain calm, focused and cinch the deal with a clean shot?
As you picture this scenario, what is going through your mind? Are you thinking about how this deer will look on your wall? Are you nervous? Do you want to hurry the shot? Are you afraid that you might not harvest this impressive trophy? Or are you focusing on shooting with perfect form? Your thoughts will play a vital role in whether or not you score.
Every year capable hunters squander thousands of shots executed at 20 yards or less, simply because they are not mentally or physically prepared for the moment. With training and diligence, these shot opportunities can be transformed into success stories.
The physical practice of shooting the bow is necessary for any archer to become effective. Some hunters rationalize that they do not have the time to work with their bows. If this is true, then they should not have the time to go hunting.
Imagine someone offering you a thousand dollars if you could toss a penny into a five-gallon bucket, ten feet away, ten times in a row. Would you practice? Would you concentrate to make sure you tossed the penny the very same way every time? That type of effort and focus is what it takes to be a successful archery shot.
When practicing, totally focus on shooting the same, precise form with every shot. Make sure you pull the bow apart and drive the bow arm directly at the target. Talk to yourself to ensure that you are doing the same thing each time.
Mentally walking yourself through every shot will give you the self-control needed when attempting to take a deer. The mind can efficiently process only one concept at a time. If it is focused on making a shot with perfect form, anxieties about the deer will be reduced.
While working on the practice range, occasionally select a shot and designate it as a trophy whitetail. Picture the big buck standing at the target.
Let yourself feel the anticipation. Then concentrate on producing a shot with perfect form. When attempting to capture a deer, most hunters try to either fine-tune their aiming or else completely forget to aim.
Consider the situation logically. The kill zone on a deer is as big as a volleyball or larger. Now, how hard is it to hit a ball of this size at 20 yards? If you can't do that, you should not be deer hunting. You should still be on the practice range.
The mental rush when a huge buck appears can be difficult to handle. While sitting in the deer stand, imagine yourself going step-by-step through a perfect shot.
Your mind does not differentiate between mental imagery and the actual event. This practice will help stabilize your thinking if and when the opportunity arises.
We once had a world champion archer join us for a deer hunt. He could obviously hit a softball at 70 meters. One evening a nice buck walked up and stopped at 25 yards. When he released the bow, his arrow placement was nearly 10 inches from the desired point ofimpact. A long tacking job followed to recover the animal. This young man was a great archer, but he lost his concentration when shooting the deer.
The practice range prepares a hunter for the big shot. Such exercise stabilizes one's form by producing muscle memory that is needed to shoot accurately and consistently. In turn, the archer's confidence builds.
As you practice, occasionally picture the targets the biggest buck you have ever seen. Pump yourself up with anticipation. Then refocus on your shot execution and release the arrow. At other times, imagine a deer that is moving into range while you are holding the bow at full draw. Rehearsing a variety of scenarios will mentally prepare you for the actual situation.
Few hunters have had the opportunity to observe big bucks in the wild, so their first experience can be a bit unnerving. Recorded hunting shows are real events that can help a hunter with that first encounter.
When watching the clips, put yourself in the actual situation. Try and determine when you would draw and make the shot. Read the animal's body language and calculate what he is going to do. If the animal should happen to bolt and you never expected it, replay the recording and decide where the body language indicated that this was going to occur.
As you view the show, focus on when and where you would make the shot. You will probably find that you wish to take the shot long before the hunter on the program. This is normal. Video recordings require that the shot opportunity is good for the hunter and the cameraman, and producers want to include as much footage of the hunt as possible.
When a much-anticipated buck walks into your shooting lane, making the shot is easy. Merely focus on using the same form that you have mastered on the practice range. Most deer hunters can his a softball sized target at 20 yards. Hitting a volleyball-size target on a deer's heart and lung area is a piece of cake.