A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Practicing for bow hunting season is part mental, part muscle memory

If it has been months since the last time you shot your hunting bow, now is the time to start practicing for the upcoming archery deer season.

Before you start practicing make sure your foam target is in good shape, to prevent damage to your arrows.

The best practice strategy is to take it slow. Don’t shoot too many arrows at first. Ease into it, shooting just a few arrows every other day. At first, practice at short range, about 20 yards, then slowly stretch out the distance as you get into hunting form, and the pre-season progresses.

Proper practice and preparation can make the difference between success and failure during bow hunting season (Photo By Art Lander Jr.)

Sloppy practice is bad practice. Concentrate. Get back into the rhythm of archery. Over the weeks of pre-season, your mind and body will eventually go on auto-pilot. Archery is part mental, part muscle memory.

Older archers might consider turning down the poundage, the draw weight of their compound bows, until muscles are built back up.

Bow hunting accuracy is all about repetition, doing everything the same way every shot, a series of events that must be duplicated in practice, to be perfectly executed in the field.

Here’s some advice on pre-shot routines that will help you shoot more accurately with compound bows:

• Proper stance is important.

Face the target at about 45-degrees, with feet parallel and spread 18 to 24 inches apart. Toes should be pointing towards the target, not at 90 degrees from it.

This so-called “open stance” has two advantages, the archer is facing more towards the target, and this stance moves the bowstring away from the archer’s bow arm and chest.

In a hunting situation, when the archer is likely wearing heavy clothes for warmth, stance and shooting form can make a big difference in accuracy. If the string even slightly brushes your clothing during the shot, the arrow will veer off target.

• Draw the bow straight back in one smooth motion.

Foam targets are and excellent tool for pre-season archery practice (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

If the bow must be raised high to get the string back past the let-off point, you might consider cutting back on the draw weight.

Not only can the extra movement of having to raise the bow spook game, but when you reach full draw, you will not be close to being on target.

At full draw you should be beginning to concentrate on fingering your mechanical release and getting your sight pin on target, not having to swing the bow to get on target.

Many archers find that they shoot more accurately when they have to raise the bow slightly to get on target, rather than lowering it.

• Once the bowstring is drawn, push your string hand against the side of your face. This is called the “anchor point.” Right-handed shooters anchor on the right side of the face behind their dominant, right eye.

Find a comfortable anchor point that more or less aligns your aiming eye with the string.

No matter if you choose a high anchor point, on your cheekbone, or a low anchor point on your chin, it should be the same every shot. This is critical to accuracy.

If achieving a consistent anchor point is a big problem, there’s a small solution — a kisser button.

Made from soft plastic, a kisser button is a small disk that attaches to the string, and is positioned so that it’s in the corner of the archer’s mouth at full draw, at the desired anchor point.

You know your anchor point is correct when you can feel that “kiss” at the corner of your mouth.

• If you shoot with sights on your compound bow, and most hunters do, good visibility when lining up the sights on target is critical to accuracy.

Cobra EZ Slide Extreme Bow Sight (Photo courtesy of Cobra Archery)

That’s why a larger diameter rear peep sight is recommended when bowhunting — a peep that has an aperture of 3/16 to 1/4-inch. Small aperture peep sights are more suited to target shooting.

The first advantage of a larger diameter peep is improved visibility of the target (deer), but more importantly, a larger aperture enables the archer to line up the peep with the round frame of the bow sight. This creates a sight picture similar to what you see with a peep sight on a rifle, with the bow sight pin, acting as the rifle’s “front” sight.

Line up your bow’s peep with the round frame of the bow sight and put the pin on the target, and you’re ready to release the arrow.

• If you are going to be hunting from a ground blind, make sure you practice shooting from the chair you will be sitting in while hunting. A swivel chair is a good choice because you can quietly and easily pivot your body, to shoot through the blind’s many windows.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

• Target panic is something that all archers have to deal with at some point.

It’s basically caused by not being able to relax. You’re rushing the shot, trying to get the sight on the target as fast as possible and jerking the trigger on your mechanical release.

A common manifestation is the archer who keeps his (or her) finger off the release until the last second, then triggers it in one instant.

When shooting a mechanical release correctly, the trigger finger should be placed onto the trigger as soon as full draw is attained, with pressure applied slowly as the sights are aligned. It’s hard to do effectively, but can be mastered with determined practice and concentration on every shot.

• Don’t let bad habits creep into their shot sequence.

A common problem is grabbing the bow’s grip upon the release of the arrow.

When you grab the grip the flight of the arrow is altered from that second prior when the sights are lined up and the decision to shoot is made. Whatever grip you choose, it must be maintained exactly the same from anchor right on through the shot and ultimately until the arrow hits the target.

Grip your bow with a relaxed, closed hand. A tight, white-knuckle grip will tense your entire bow arm and severely degrade accuracy. Lightly touch your thumb to forefinger and a middle finger (or two) on the front of the grip.

If you are worried that a light grip might cause you to drop the bow, instill a wrist sling on the grip for added stability and control.

Weeks of practice pre-season, and staying sharp by shooting a few arrows during the season, will pay big dividends.

You’ll be physically ready, mentally relaxed, and confident when a shot opportunity happens. Stay focused by following a winning pre-shot practice routine.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment