By Taylor Pardue
You can’t grow as an archer if you don’t challenge yourself. Here are four ways to do just that, each of them geared toward making this hunting season your best one yet!
Stop Shooting Repetitively
Repetitive shooting can help you develop muscle memory, but you’re never going to get half a dozen or more shots at the exact same yardage and angle when hunting. So, why practice that way?
Instead, shoot one arrow at a given yardage, one arrow at another yardage and so on. This will teach you to make every shot count, and it will give you experience with your rangefinder because you won’t be relying on yardage markers.
Don’t just change the distance you’re shooting at, though. Shoot at different angles to prepare for shots other than the ideal broadside offering. Targets with multiple shooting sides are perfect for this type of practice. A 3-D target can be helpful, too, because it will cause you to think through your shot placement in relation to an animal’s vitals.
Check Your Watch
As the saying goes, timing is everything. That’s true in bowhunting, and it should be true in your off-season practice. Why stand around shooting in broad daylight when your quarry will most likely walk out at dawn or dusk?
Shooting at twilight — especially shooting 3-D targets — will help you make accurate shots on game in lower lighting conditions. It will also show you whether your pins are bright enough to be useful when a last-minute shot presents itself. There’s no worse time to realize that you need a sight light than when you’re in a treestand trying to aim at a game animal.
Don’t Warm Up
Flinging a few arrows before getting serious about your practice session can be detrimental to your hunting accuracy. What benefit is it to you if your last 99 arrows all touched but the first one missed the mark? The first arrow is the most important arrow in bowhunting.
To avoid this, hang your bow in your garage with a target placed out back and within range. When you walk to your vehicle each morning, shoot an arrow and then hang the bow back on the hook. Do the same when you get home in the evenings. That’s realistic practice, as you’ll probably only get one shot at a game animal without any warm-ups beforehand.
Leave the Land Below
Many bowhunters never shoot from their treestands until the moment of truth arrives. That’s a mistake, and a big one. Use the stand you’ll actually be hunting in if possible, or buy one just like it as a dedicated practice prop. Place a target or targets around your stand and then make the climb, bringing plenty of arrows along so you don’t have to come down and retrieve them so often. If a friend or family member can stand safely nearby, have them retrieve the arrows when you’re done and then send them up to you via a pull rope.
This is the ultimate form of off-season practice because you can use your hunting quiver, rangefinder, safety harness and other gear just like you would in hunting season. You can also practice shooting from a seated position and, if applicable, over the stand’s shooting rail.
However you choose to practice this off-season, the important thing is, practice! If you work to improve your shooting abilities now, you’ll find that arrowing a trophy this fall will be much easier.