June 30, 2022
Archery is a game of consistency and concentration — if you ignore the small details, chances are your arrow will miss the mark downrange. Well, the best way to ensure the little things become second nature is through practice.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a vertical or horizontal bow enthusiast; practice makes perfect. This rule holds throughout the hunting world. For example, the best wingshooters often shoot clay targets when bird season isn’t open. Long-range shooters become proficient at ringing the gong at extreme ranges by paying attention to the environment and knowing their equipment. There is a misnomer that crossbow enthusiasts do not need to practice, and anyone can pick up a bow and head out hunting, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Shooting any bow regularly helps you use the equipment like it’s an extension of your body. A crossbow should shoulder smoothly, and when you bring your eye to the scope, it should be a clear sight picture, with little or no adjustment.
Take things a step further and practice shooting through limbs and obstructions, so you intuitively learn the arc of your bolt in flight. Will the bolt clear an overhead branch at 30 yards, or will it foul your shot? You are far better off figuring out the tough lessons while practicing than on a hunt where you could miss a big buck, or worse, wound it.
Wingshooters often shoot sporting clays to practice realistic targets that mimic real birds. Similarly, setting up targets in the back forty allows you to practice shooting different angles, distances and through possible obstructions.
Rehearse like you are on an actual hunt and it can teach you essential lessons before you add antlers and a heartbeat to the equation. To this end, it’s important to practice the four shooting positions to know you can master them before hunting season.
Crossbows are often heavy and can be a challenge to hold still for any length of time. While vertical bowhunters can drop their elbow to give their muscles a break, a crossbow will continue to fatigue your muscles the longer you hold it. Hence, whenever possible, use a rest and practice shooting off it — shooting sticks, whether monopod, bipod or tripod, are adjustable and easy to tote along on a hunt.
Many variables can challenge a shooter standing straight. Any wind will catch you and the bow, making it hard to hold the crosshairs on target. Practice offhand shooting and follow it up with shooting from a support. Hold the reticle steady on target and control your breathing. It may sound like a strange exercise, but it will make you a better shooter. Moreover, the more you work on muscle strength, the steadier you will be whenever you pick up a crossbow.
When standing, foot position is vital for stability and support. Hold the crossbow stock on your shoulder and point your foot at where you intend to aim; place your feet shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other. If you’re right-handed, for example, your left foot would be slightly ahead and pointed towards your target. In addition, you should bend your front knee slightly to stabilize yourself.
It can be challenging to find a rest for a crossbow, as the moving limbs need to clear the support. Another option is to try supporting your arms with your sling by wrapping your arm through the sling before grasping the forestock to create tension and stability. In most cases, you’ll need to adjust the length of the sling to get maximum benefit.
The sitting position offers a stable platform with your butt and both feet firmly planted on the ground. To maximize the advantage, place your forearm over your knees and use it as a rest for your forestock. You can also place your elbow on one knee to create stability for the arm holding up the bow and extend the height if needed.
The more stable you are, the steadier you can hold the bow and the more accurately you can stay on target. Try supporting your back or shoulder by sitting against a post, tree or rock. An additional rest will provide an extra point of stability to hold still for a longer time.
There are a couple of things to pay attention to in the prone position, including limb clearance, keeping the crossbow level and proper hand placement for safety.
Snipers and long-range shooters prefer the prone position to maximize stability and support. With this technique, it’s essential to lay down so that your leg and your trigger hand line up; basically, your crossbow and leg should form a line to the target. Lying on the ground means you need to pay attention to limb and string clearance.
Most hunters carry a backpack and it can provide a solid rest, clearance off the ground and keep your bolt above any grass or debris that might knock it off track.
Kneeling is a natural position for shooting when you are looking to stabilize your crossbow. The best technique is to keep one leg tucked underneath you on the ground. You can then bring the other knee up and use it as a brace for your elbow like you would in the sitting position. For a right-handed shooter, your left knee would be up. A stable knee used for support also provides elevation to keep a clear view of the target and avoid obstacles in the path of your bolt. Getting closer to the ground reduces environmental factors such as wind and uses your body for support to help hold the bow steady.
Practice makes perfect. Use the advantages of a crossbow by practicing for stability. Not having to draw your bow is only beneficial if you have the proper support to stay steady and hold your reticle on target when game arrives. Hunting on foot, whether chasing deer, small game, wild hogs or other game, is a great way to hone your skills and find new ways to succeed.