Bow Ac­cu­racy

Shape up your pre-sea­son prac­tice reg­i­men with th­ese chal­leng­ing drills.


Shape up your pre-sea­son prac­tice reg­i­men with th­ese chal­leng­ing drills.

How many shoot­ing-im­prove­ment ar­ti­cles have you read? Prob­a­bly dozens. Most cover equip­ment, shoot­ing form, mus­cle me­chan­ics, and re­lease op­er­a­tion. They’re ex­cel­lent top­ics, and I’ve writ­ten my share of ar­ti­cles on them; how­ever, I be­lieve far more con­trib­ute to bowhunt­ing ac­cu­racy than th­ese con­trolled-en­vi­ron­ment ex­er­cises. Or­di­nary back­yard prac­tice ben­e­fits shoot­ing form and mus­cle mem­ory but doesn’t repli­cate what you’ll en­counter while hunt­ing. In fact, it’s far from the real thing, and your back­yard shoot­ing form doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally carry to the tree­stand ei­ther. Bowhunt­ing in­volves var­i­ous un­con­trol­lable fac­tors, and if you’re se­ri­ous about be­com­ing dead­lier than ever, you must pre­pare for them. Let’s re­view sev­eral down-and-dirty ex­er­cises you can im­ple­ment to make your pre-sea­son prac­tice more like bowhunt­ing.


Un­clut­tered bowhunt­ing shot op­por­tu­ni­ties are rare. Brush, limbs and other ob­sta­cles of­ten ob­struct your tar­get to some ex­tent. This in­evitably flus­ters un­pre­pared bowhunters at crunch time, and they blow the shot. They haven’t prac­ticed such sce­nar­ios, and fear of miss­ing prompts a dark out­come. I’ve heard nu­mer­ous ac­counts where bowhunters thought they could thread their ar­row through limbs but cen­ter-punched one in­stead. In fact, limbs have robbed a few tro­phies from me. Pon­der this ques­tion: How of­ten do you prac­tice shoot­ing through limbs and brush? If you an­swer “never” or “rarely,” you’re des­tined to fail. Go one-on-one against your 3-D tar­get. Move it around to dif­fer­ent spots. Place it in the brush. Shoot it from dif­fer­ent an­gles. If you hunt from a tree­stand, shoot it from one. If spotand-stalk is your method, stalk your tar­get from mul­ti­ple an­gles, hit­ting it with killing ar­rows. Al­ways add dif­fi­cult di­men­sions to your prac­tice ses­sions, al­low­ing ob­sta­cles to stretch your shoot­ing skills to their limit. I al­most guar­an­tee you’ll lose ar­rows here and there, but you’ll learn to thread them home with­out game-crip­pling de­flec­tions as you con­quer chal­leng­ing shots. You’ll also learn to de­ci­pher whether an ob­structed shot is eth­i­cal to take. One ex­am­ple of this de­ci­sion mak­ing is my first white­tail buck. I was 15 years old, and I prac­ticed dif­fi­cult shots of­ten. I was pre­pared when the buck I rat­tled-in paused, quar­ter­ing away at 30 yards with a 15-yard branch com­pletely ob­struct­ing his vi­tals. I cal­cu­lated where his lungs were, set­tled my 30-yard pin on the branch, and re­leased a per­fect ar­row. My top pin had been above the branch, and my ar­row arced cleanly over it, de­flat­ing his lungs as planned. De­spite my ex­cite­ment during the en­counter, I men­tally re­hearsed the out­come be­fore I launched my ar­row. I had prac­ticed stuff like this be­fore, and I shot know­ing—not hop­ing— my ar­row would clear the branch. Prac­tic­ing ob­structed shots sharp­ens your marks­man­ship and helps you make bet­ter shoot­ing de­ci­sions. There are many cases where ob­structed shots are un­eth­i­cal, and you need to rec­og­nize them be­fore you launch ar­rows. It’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to only take shots you know you can make.


Draw­ing your bow from a tree­stand wreaks your form if you don’t prac­tice it be­fore you hunt. If you don’t have a spare tree­stand to hang in your yard, shoot from an­other safe, el­e­vated plat­form, such as a deck. Many bowhunter lift their bows high into the air to lever­age the bow­strings back, drop­ping their bow arms to ac­quire their tar­gets. This flubs form and hin­ders ac­cu­racy. In­stead, draw your bow straight back. Make sure your form is great, and then bend at the waist to ac­quire your tar­get. This ap­proach helps main­tain up­per-body form and proper mus­cle me­chan­ics. You might ar­gue this is too much to re­mem­ber at crunch time. I agree, but only if you haven’t prac­ticed the ma­neu­ver re­li­giously be­fore head­ing afield. If you spot-and-stalk, you’ll even­tu­ally be caught ly­ing down— on your back or stom­ach—when your prey presents a shot op­por­tu­nity. If you rise up be­fore draw­ing back, you’ll lose pre­cious shot-clock time, and per­haps squan­der the shot op­por­tu­nity you worked so hard to or­ches­trate. To avoid this, prac­tice draw­ing back and ris­ing up in one fluid mo­tion. A rock-solid core makes


Rangefind­ers are great, and I rec­om­mend every bowhunter use one. How­ever, cer­tain cir­cum­stances re­quire quick shoot­ing with­out time to op­er­ate it. This was the case during my 2007 Kansas white­tail hunt. It was my last morn­ing to hunt, and the ac­tion around me was dead. That changed sud­denly when grunts and slosh­ing wa­ter jolted me from my mid- morn­ing siesta. My in­stincts im­me­di­ately kicked in. I grabbed my bow as a doe and fawn raced my way with a pretty good buck in tow. I mouth-grunted and hit full draw as the buck coasted to a halt. I es­ti­mated the dis­tance was 30 yards, set­tled my pin and sent my ar­row on its way. The buck backpedaled when I shot, caus­ing the ar­row to strike for­ward but made it only 60 yards be­fore fall­ing. Only eight sec­onds elapsed from the time I heard the grunts un­til I took the shot. I know this be­cause my mother video­taped the hunt. When all was silent, I used my shaky fin­gers to op­er­ate my rangefinder, which read 30 yards to where the buck had

“Or­di­nary back­yard prac­tice ben­e­fits shoot­ing form and mus­cle mem­ory but doesn’t repli­cat what you’ll en­counter while hunt­ing.”

been stand­ing at the shot. My yardage-es­ti­ma­tion prac­tice from sum­mer helped me snipe-off a nice rut­ting buck at an un­known dis­tance with only a mo­ment’s no­tice. Prac­tice for fleet­ing shot op­por­tu­ni­ties by shoot­ing your tar­get from un­known dis­tances. Stick it in the woods or on the prairie where you don’t nor­mally shoot. Walk to random spots, guess the dis­tance and shoot. Again, you’ll pos­si­bly miss and lose ar­rows when you’re off on yardage, but you’ll sharpen your marks­man­ship for light­ning-fast bowhunt­ing en­coun­ters.


Game en­coun­ters cre­ate an adren­a­line rush, and or­di­nary back­yard prac­tice doesn’t repli­cate the phe­nom­e­non. How­ever, there are sev­eral ways to recre­ate it. Sprint 40 yards away from your bow, then sprint back, grab it and shoot. This sim­u­lates a bowhunt­ing rush, adding re­al­ism and dif­fi­culty to your prac­tice. You can also uti­lize other ag­gres­sive ex­er­cises to boost adren­a­line, such as a se­ries of pushups. An elk hunter once shared an ac­count of a blown op­por­tu­nity where a 6x6 bull came within 6 yards. Ev­ery­thing went as planned, un­til he tried draw­ing his bow. Again and again he tried but couldn’t get it drawn. By the time he tugged the string back, the bull was leav­ing. He ad­mit­ted he was com­pletely un­pre­pared for the en­counter, com­pletely los­ing his com­po­sure. If you’ve never been close to a mon­ster bull elk, you must pre­pare for such an en­counter in or­der to close the deal with a per­fect ar­row. Im­ple­ment adren­a­line rushes into your shoot­ing ses­sions, and you’ll han­dle the real thing like a champ.


How of­ten do you see pic­tures of archers shoot­ing 3-D tar­gets from ab­nor­mal an­gles? Al­most never. I shoot my 3-D tar­gets from every an­gle. Some an­gles I prac­tice wouldn’t be eth­i­cal shots on real game—such as the straight­away an­gle, also known as the

Texas heart shot. How­ever, I prac­tice such an­gles, so I’m ready to fol­low-up a mar­ginal first shot with a fin­ish­ing ar­row if nec­es­sary. Two con­tro­ver­sial shot an­gles are the fac­ing and quar­ter­ing-to­ward an­gles. Many vari­ables de­pict their eth­i­cal­ity—wind speed, shot dis­tance, ki­netic en­ergy, an­i­mal alert­ness and hunter pro­fi­ciency. If you’re fol­low­ing-up a mar­ginal but mor­tal first shot, you should shoot the an­i­mal again if pos­si­ble, re­gard­less of the an­gle. When tak­ing your first shot, though, the vari­ables I men­tioned above must be con­sid­ered. Even then, they’re still con­tro­ver­sial shot an­gles, and each bowhunter must make a choice that they’re con­fi­dent will pro­duce deadly re­sults. If you de­cide it’s within your eth­i­cal bound­aries to take the shot, it had bet­ter be an an­gle you’ve prac­ticed.


I’ve fre­quently writ­ten about broadhead prac­tice, but I’ve heard enough hor­ror sto­ries to con­tinue writ­ing about it. Never be­lieve broadhead pack­ages that read, “Flies just like a field point.” I’ve al­ways prac­ticed with broad­heads be­fore hunt­ing—my el­dest brother taught me this long ago. Broadhead- tipped ar­rows that


the ma­neu­ver more man­age­able, so you’ll want to con­sider Pi­lates or an­other work­out that builds a strong core.

Add dif­fi­culty to your prac­tice ses­sions by plac­ing your 3-D tar­get be­hind brush or ob­sta­cles. The more of­ten you do this, the bet­ter de­ci­sions you’ll make on which shots are eth­i­cal.

Prac­tice every pos­si­ble sce­nario you can imag­ine be­fore hunt­ing. This pre­pares you for dif­fi­cult bowhunt­ing shots.

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