Handling Awkward Bowhunting Shots
October 28, 2010
The two types of shots that get most bowhunters in trouble are shots that require twisting and shots...
The two types of shots that get most bowhunters in trouble are shots that require twisting and shots made while sitting, kneeling or crouching. Whether you face them in a treestand or on the mountain, I'll cover the subject of awkward shots and try to teach you how to make them seem routine.
Many bowhunters spend the majority of their practice sessions shooting flat footed. Awkward shots are the norm in spot-and-stalk hunting. Practice these shots during the off-season to be deadly in the fall.
Twisting Shots Are The Worst
The hardest shots I face are those that require me to twist my upper body to the right to bring the bow into position. This type of awkward shot usually starts something like this: You're sitting in your treestand and a deer surprises you by approaching on your right side. It's acting wary, and you feel that if you try to turn on the seat, you'll make too much noise and spook it. For a right-handed archer, this is a very difficult shot. This type of situation is exactly why I always try to set up stands to the extreme right, so that shots will always be to my left. This is also the main reason I rarely sit during peak activity hours when on stand.
However, sometimes deer do the unexpected and you find yourself twisted up like a pretzel, trying to shoot in front of your body from a sitting position.
If you are stalking an animal, you may be caught with your right foot forward when a shot presents itself (again, this is for a right-handed archer). The deer may be looking your way so you can't move, or there may be no convenient place to advance your left foot.
When you have to turn your upper body toward your release side, you will tend to twist back at the instant of the release. Your body will begin to recoil as soon as you release the string, even before your arrow clears the bow. As a result, you will tend to shoot to the left if you are a right-handed archer or to the right, if you are left-handed.
Practice this type of shot until you are comfortable with it. Increased core flexibility through stretching exercises will greatly aid your range of motion and reduce the chance of hurting yourself when trying to make this shot.
A steady follow-through is the second key to success when making a twisted shot. As uncomfortable as it may be, you need to hold that awkward position until the arrow hits. As with everything related to archery, regular practice from this position will make you much better at handling the shot. At the very least, you will learn your tendencies and know how to compensate for them. You will also learn what your true maximum range is under these conditions.
It is surprising how many whitetail hunters achieve the necessary downward shot angle by simply lowering their bow arm. This changes all the relationships among the body, bow arm, anchor point and dominant eye and will cause you to miss.
To shoot down accurately and consistently, you must maintain the 90-degree angle between your bow arm and your upper body. Granted, from a tree, most sharply downward shots are going to be short -- with a seemingly large margin for error. Yet, bowhunters still tend to miss these close shots more often than mid-range shots. That is partly due to a lack of concentration on these seemingly easy shots. But a breakdown in shooting form is the major factor.
The affects of this shooting flaw become very apparent when you attempt long downhill and uphill shots in the mountains. Using correct form is critical. Again, the key to success is no different -- maintain the 90-degree relationship of bow arm to torso. As with any difficult shot, you have to practice if you are going to execute well when shooting at game.
Most of us rarely, if ever, practice from a kneeling position. Yet if you are a spot and stalk hunter, I wager that the majority of your shots will be made from this position. Stability is paramount.
Once you start practicing from this position, you'll eventually arrive at the best way to remain steady. Ideally, you can rest your backside on your heels for stability, but if not, focus on positions that don't require muscular involvement -- you want bone on bone stability. In other words, a crouch or half-squat is a very bad position, because flexed, unbraced joints and quivering muscles support it. Instead, drop onto one knee or both knees or spread your legs as wide as possible to lower your trajectory to fit openings in the brush. Unbraced positions are not the foundation on which to build accurate shooting.
It is all about practice and common sense. Keep these fundamentals in mind as you practice the most awkward shots you are likely to face this fall.