Deer season is over, and for an avid hunter it's a very long wait until the next one begins. But don't mope about it — improve. Take this opportunity to hone your skills and strengthen your focus.
Recall if you've ever lost your concentration and made a poor shot at a deer from close range. Most of us whitetail hunters will confess we have. Perhaps equipment problems were to blame, but likely not. What puts venison in the freezer for the top archers is their mastery of mental focus.
This spring and summer, 3-D tournaments will be held within driving distance of most of us whitetail bowhunters. These offer excellent opportunities to improve your skills in the woods, as well as enjoy spending time with your hunting buddies.
Years ago I was a champion 3-D archer, but the main reason I participated in these competitions was to become a better bowhunter. Don't worry about trophies, prize money or recognition. Instead, finish the 3-D season winning the biggest prize of all: becoming a better bowhunter.
The Right Routine
Do you find it challenging to remain calm and focused when a buck sporting a handsome rack marches into bow range? You probably will have the same problems with nerves when attempting to hit the 10 ring on a 3-D animal target as people are watching, or when a tournament trophy is at stake.
If you follow a set routine in your shot sequence, you'll find hitting the mark on 3-D targets and coveted whitetails is rather easy. The steps I teach my archery students might vary a little, but usually there are three simple components to follow:
The Aiming Process
Let's examine these one by one, starting with the aiming process. Don't try to hold the sight pin on a small aiming point, as you'll begin to lose forward pressure with your bow arm. Most archers have difficulty because they don't let the sight pin float. Instead, they try to over-aim the shot. If responses of "shoot" and "don't shoot" take over the aiming process, you'll be in deep trouble.
Believe it or not, aiming is overrated. Most archers put too much emphasis on it, and as a result, the shot process breaks down. One of my training routines has been to take 5-10 shots at a 5-spot target to establish a shot with good form. Then I remove the sight and shoot the same shots while staring at the X ring. My personal record with this exercise is 21 Xs in a row.
When you practice, stare at the X ring and let the pin float on or around it. Then shoot with your best form. As long as you maintain steady pressure at the target, the arrow will find its mark.
To prove to yourself that aiming is overrated, produce 15 to 20 shots at the 5-spot target from a distance of 30 yards. Aim at the X ring the way you normally shoot and then score your arrows. Next, shoot the same number of shots for points, but this time let the pin float while concentrating on using good form. The results will convince you which method is better.
The second key to shot focus is maintaining pressure at the target with the bow arm. As forward pressure decreases, sight movement increases.
Most archers don't realize that when they see too much sight movement, it's usually due to a decrease in forward pressure. This can be corrected instantly by adding about a pound of extra forward pressure.
Of course, this additional force with the bow arm has to be directed straight at the target.
Pull the Bow Apart
The final step is to pull the bow apart, pushing with the bow arm while simultaneously pulling with the release arm. This ensures a strong shot that is easily duplicated time after time.
I realize the majority of hunters punch the release when shooting at game. If you do and plan on continuing to shoot that way, be sure you pull the bow apart and punch the release at the same time. You might be surprised at how much more accurate you become.
When you shoot at a deer or 3-D target, does everything seem to happen in fast motion? Do you even shoot with good form? By forcing yourself to follow a step-by-step routine, the event will seem to slow down, putting you in control of the situation.
"Thinking aloud" will help you remain focused on your best form and not the results. By following these steps during a 3-D tournament or when facing the "real deal" in the woods, you can have the focus and technique to come home a winner.
For Your Information
For more of Terry's shooting tips, get yourself a copy of Archery: Think and Shoot Like a Champion. It's available for purchase through his website.