-By Brandon Wikman
We’ve all come to the conclusion that practice makes perfect, but taking your archery skills to a higher level takes perfect practice. In the field, there’s no telling what scenario you’ll face. Unfortunately, the endless dream of having a buck walk past your stand broadside at 10-yards and pose for your arrow doesn’t come often! It’s the immediate quartering-away shot before he scampers. Or the all too familiar nail-biting last second before he vanishes behind the brush shot that occurs more often than not. Practicing different situations and tossing realism into your arrow flinging will make you a wiser archer, while building your diversity in any given hunting situation.
It’s no different than a football team sliding in a new play before their first playoff game. It takes visual, mental, and physical rehearsal before fully initiating the play successfully. From the chalkboard, into a brief walk through, to full-fledged contact training, it takes a bit of experience to fully grasp the moment of truth. We as hunters must do the exact same in preparation to evolve our shooting skills to their maximum capabilities.
Shooting my Magic Stop bag target at 20-yards isn’t going to make me any better of a hunter. Especially when I’m standing straight up, feet squared to the target, and waiting for the last gust of wind to mellow. Instead of always shooting the ‘average shooter’ way, don’t be afraid to change it up and set your pins and goals on different styles and techniques that will pose more of a challenge to your shooting and hunting abilities.
Off the Deck - Before I hunt out of a tree stand, I sight my bow in from an elevated position. Personally, my bow shoots different from ground level to limb level, as yours probably does also. Shooting from a deck or gentle angled rooftop will mock your average tree stand shot. It gives you a chance to realize the severe angle and perspective you’ll be shooting from once fall season begins.
Oftentimes, I place animal targets in several different standing positions. Broadside, quartering away, and several other positions we face in a life-like situation, are just some of the angles we must get used to. This will give you a chance to slip your arrows into the correct crease or pocket that will soon determine your fate once season dawns.
Take a Knee... or Two - I never thought to practice shooting from my knees until I ventured to Eastern Colorado last fall and stalked monster mule deer with my bow. This tree-less prairie of muley paradise was my wakeup call and proved impossible to take a simple standing shot. Belly crawling hundreds of yards, inching through tall wheat fields en route to a nearly hidden tine was an experience never to be forgotten. There was not one time we stood up and walked toward deer.
Once we got within range, it was time to forget how cold and wet your hands felt from the snow, or how much your knees ached from clomping through the fields. It was time to make the kill.
It takes a smooth draw from the ground with your back hunched over to win 25% of the battle, then another 25% popping up from the field. Once you managed to do both within a 5-second time frame, it’s time to align your pin on the buck’s vitals and let carbon fly before he busts you! Tough? You’re darn right it is! As I found out with numerous blown chances...
Sitting Down - Shooting a bow while sitting down is difficult, because of several factors that may deter your shot. The bottom cam kicking up dirt, weeds, or your kneecap will toss an arrow off course. Not to mention the extra strength it takes to crank the string back and hold the bow steady. Sitting against a tree and using it as a natural blind while turkey or elk hunting is a must when using a bow.
Last spring I shot a turkey using my bow while playing peek-a-boo with a gobbler behind a huge oak tree. As the gobbler walked into my decoys, which were placed off my left shoulder, all I had to do was draw and quickly slink an arrow into the back of his tail fan. He pompously strutted into my subordinate Jake decoy and once he turned away, I killed him. I’ve had as many good hunts go bad and some just turn raw, but you’ll never know when you may have to take this awkward shot at an animal.
I’ve been taught by many professionals throughout the years that making the most realistic practice ultimately will build enough confidence and experience to make your shot count when the moment of truth surfaces. Practice these different kinds of shooting forms to help you on your next hunt.