August 31, 2021
It is essential to practice like you hunt, and summer provides an excellent opportunity to get outside and shoot your bow in preparation for the upcoming hunting season. You never know what the circumstances will be when you get a chance at an animal. Therefore, it's best to be ready for any situation or shooting position. While practicing the various positions below, be mindful of the fundamentals of form. During these situations, try to limit your overall movement as much as possible. After adding these techniques to your practice routine, you should feel confident in your experience during the next archery season!
Tree Stand - Standing Shot
I am from Illinois so, between October 1st through mid-January, you will find me in a tree stand. This is the number one practice shot that I make because it is very likely that I will be shooting from one in the Fall. It's good to remember with these shots that angles come into effect. While standing, don't forget to bend at the waist to account for those angles. In addition, it's important to be quick and quiet. I can replicate this by trying not to make a sound as I grab my bow from the hanger and stand up in the tree stand.
Ground Blind - Sitting Down Shot
Another realistic shot that I like to practice is sitting down and shooting in a ground blind. Drawing your bow while sitting down can feel more challenging than drawing it while standing. Make sure that you're practicing that shot beforehand, so you're ready when the time comes. Remember that form is still important. While sitting, I also practice rotating at the waist while drawn back. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the openings in the blind so you can quickly turn to shoot out of all the windows.
Spot and Stalk - Shoot from Your Knees
For spot and stalk situations, I practice shooting from my knees. It can also be more difficult to draw from this position, so it's necessary to practice. ;Additionally, I practice shooting around the edge of a tree or diverse cover. This is very realistic when you spot and stalk because you're trying to stay concealed rather than shooting in the wide open.
Shoot in Your Hunting Gear
It is important to shoot with the same gear and clothing you'll use during your hunt. Shooting in casual summer clothes in the yard will be much different than in a heavy hunting jacket. If you haven't done it in a while, a coat can feel a little restricting so make sure that you practice with it on. Ensure that your sleeves don't interfere with your release and that the collar or hood doesn't affect your anchor points. You may even end up having to shoot with your backpack on; it doesn't hurt to try a couple shots like that so you know how it would feel.
Shoot in Various Weather and Temperatures
Don't forget to get some practice in bad weather and variable temperatures. This could be wind, rain, snow, or even the cold. However, if you do this, be mindful of your bowstrings and the effect that the precipitation could have on them. The chances of perfect weather on every hunt are slim, so it's good to prepare for unfavorable conditions. When you're cold, it can be harder to draw your bow so verify that your poundage isn't too heavy for you.
Shoot in Low Shooting Light and Full Sun
Similar to the weather, the lighting will hardly ever be perfect during your hunt. Typically, the best times for animal movement will be dawn or dusk, which means low light. Prepare for those low-light situations where you can still ethically and legally shoot. Your pins and the light through your peep will look much different than it would with more daylight. The same applies with full sun; it's wise to be ready for both.
Shoot with Broadheads
Once I get closer to hunting season, I switch out my field tips and shoot with broadheads to ensure that my full equipment setup is accurate. Putting the broadheads on your arrows at the last minute and expecting them to hit precisely where your field-tipped arrows do can be detrimental. They will fly slightly different than your field tips, so account for that ahead of time.
Shoot at the Same Species
Shooting spots on a layered foam or bag target is great for sighting in your bow and making sure that your bow is still sighted in, especially after travel. However, I get my best practice on a 3D target that is the same species I am hunting. This gives me a realistic idea of where my arrow placement needs to be and increases my chances of a successful shot. 3D targets are also the best way that I have found to practice various angles.