Quality Range Time
Summer is in full swing now, which means we are only a couple months away from the start of hunting season. While we are enjoying our BBQs and time spent at the lake we cannot forget to put in the work on the range to keep ourselves in top shooting shape for when opening day comes. Now is the time to tune up our shooting skills and make a regular practice schedule that we carry all the way through hunting season. It’s also very important that we make our practice sessions test our shooting limits and help us replicate hunting situations as close as possible. Setting up a ground blind or treestand to shoot out of as well as going to local 3D archery shoots are great ways to get our hunting skills tuned up.
Change it up
If you’re like most people you spend most of your practice sessions shooting the same targets at the same distances and while this is great for developing good shooting form and technique, it isn’t teaching us to make shots when they count in a hunting situation. We need to start by switching up our shooting sessions and this includes both the targets we shoot at and the distances and locations we shoot them in. I like to have 3 or 4 different targets to shoot at during a practice session and I place these targets at different distances, sometimes known and sometimes unknown. I have a large deer target, a wild boar target, a block target, and a bag target. Using 4 targets of different shapes and colours makes me concentrate on every shot and forces me to focus on aiming for the spot. Many bowhunters only purchase a large 3D target to practice on and while this is replicating shooting at a deer it becomes repetitive to shoot at. Remember, our practice sessions are trying to help us make a single shot whenever and however it presents itself. Instead of the large single target I would suggest buying a few smaller targets and keep changing up the shot presentation. In no time you will notice how much better you become and making that first arrow count no matter what the target or shot are.
Support your local 3D shoot
Many archery clubs will host 3D archery shoots throughout the spring and summer months and these are great opportunities to practice those different shot presentations. 3D archery consists of foam animal targets, between 20 and 50, placed in realistic hunting scenarios at unknown distances. You would walk a course with a group of other archers and shoot one arrow at each target .The great thing here is you have no control over the distance you shoot at or the way the target is setup, forcing you to make it count with whatever you’re presented with. Not only will you get some great practice you’ll get to spend a day hanging out and socializing with fellow bowhunters and archers. If you want to add a little more pressure to your shots try competing in some higher level classes or money divisions. Putting yourself into a competitive environment really plays with your nerves and your “mental game” when it comes to pulling off the shot. Shooting under pressure of competition is the closest thing I have experienced to shooting at a live animal and I believe it is the best practice for getting control of nerves mentally while shooting.
Replicate hunting situations
I am sure most of you have heard this before but practice in as close to a hunting situation as you can. If you hunt out of treestands, shoot out of an elevated position. If you hunt in a ground blind, set up your blind and practice out of it. If you do a lot of spot and stalk for elk and other big game, make sure you are practicing shots from kneeling positions and positions where you are using the terrain to help conceal yourself. The other thing we can’t forget to do here is practice with out hunting gear on, this includes backpacks, clothes, boots, and gloves, even having your calls around your neck. We need to make sure we can make the shot when the time comes and we need to identify any issues we have when we shoot with our gear on. We can have string clearance issues with clothing or other gear as well as anchor point issues when we put on gloves and a facemask. Now is also the time to test your shooting limitations from these scenarios and not all will be the same. For example I always feel I can shoot about 15 yards further when I am elk hunting on the ground and wearing less clothes that when I am setup to shoot whitetails out of a treestand. If you are in a groundblind I am sure you will find shooting from a sitting position to be more difficult that when you are standing and you’ll need to adjust your maximum shooting distance accordingly. We owe it to the animals to know our limits and stick to them.
Remember to make your practice sessions fun and as realistic to a hunting situation as possible, you’ll be confident you can make the shot when the opportunity presents itself.