September 08, 2021
If you have bow hunted for very long, you know that tough shooting scenarios are inevitable. Often, you can't avoid them, and I know I don't want to limit myself when I get an opportunity. Therefore, I prepare to be ready for that moment so that I can confidently make an ethical shot.
Practicing various angles on 3D targets is one of my favorite things to do. I find it fun to switch up the usual ways of practicing. While broadside shots are the most ideal, you won't always be presented with that opportunity. If you practice more angled shots, then you will have the skill to make a legitimate shot in the field.
Practicing long-range is essential. If you practice these shots, it will build your ability to take those longer shots. After practicing for long-ranges, it makes the closer ranges much more manageable. I've always practiced long-range in case I needed to make a follow-up shot on an animal. Extending your range can be one of the most beneficial things you can do as an archer.
Elevated shots are great to prepare for hunting from a tree stand or elevated blind. If I cannot practice from a tree stand in the off-season, I sometimes shoot from my elevated deck. You can also use hills to simulate more elevated shots. In turn, it prepares you for potentially steep terrain.
Long Hold and Letting Down
Additionally, I like to practice shooting after drawing back and holding for a long time. This is a very realistic exercise as I've had several deer move behind something as I've pulled back only to have them stop with their vitals hidden behind a tree. If you can maintain your composure during this time and stay drawn back without tiring, that may make a difference in the success of your hunt. However, sometimes it is just too long, and you can't make the shot. It is good to practice letting down slowly, quietly, and with as little motion as possible. Practicing this will give you more control when letting down.
It is beneficial to practice shooting different yardages. My pins are set at 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 yards. However, I can move the entire sight to shoot further distances if I need to. I practice to ensure that each pin is accurate, but I also shoot where it forces me to split my pins so that when a deer isn't at an exact yardage, such as 33 yards, I can confidently shoot it. Lastly, don't forget to practice the closer yardages too. While it may seem easy, there could be an opportunity for a shot under 20 yards, so I practice at 10 and 15 yards as well.
I always bring my rangefinder while hunting, but sometimes things happen quickly and you don't have time to range. Then other times, the rangefinder might not work. I practice my range-finding skills year-round so that I can confidently estimate yardage. I practice this by simply judging my target first then ranging it to see how close I am to the actual yardage. I also do this while I'm in the tree stand. I'm constantly guessing and then ranging to build that skill. One exercise that I did to prepare for competitive archery was to throw a ball and then guess the yardage at which it landed. I would either range it or step off the yardage and then throw it in another direction. I would try to spend some time every day doing that until my estimations got more precise.
High Heart Rate Practice
High Heart Rate Practice is another one of my favorites and truly is beneficial in any situation. I can't think of one hunting encounter where my heart hasn't been pounding out of my chest. Not to mention during spot and stalk situations where you're actually out of breath from the stalk. Controlling your heart rate builds your confidence and enables you to take an ethical shot when the opportunity presents itself. I practice this a couple of different ways. One way is to go for a run and then immediately go shoot. Another way I do this is by setting up several shooting stations in my backyard. Each station is set at different yardages. I jog from each station to shoot the targets. This exercise combines the last three shooting points: various distances, judging yardage, and high heart rate practice.
Never Skip a Step in Your Shot Process
The pressure can be high when the scenarios mentioned above arise, but it is still crucial to never skip a step in your shot process while practicing for them. Between maintaining your shot process and preparing for tough shooting scenarios such as these, it should be a successful Fall!