June 07, 2021
I was that guy. You know, the curmudgeon who loved to shoot 3-D tournaments but felt the need to chastise shooters for toeing the line with a target bow and not their bowhunting setup. Why? It was an excuse, mostly. These guys and gals kicked the crap out of me on a regular basis. There also was a part of me that didn’t see the point in owning a target bow with a special target rest, moveable sight and a stabilizer that looked like it was made for a tightrope walker. Then, my eyes were opened.
The more I practiced with my bowhunting rig, the more I realized I had a growing obsession. That obsession was with accuracy. I longed to shoot a 300 indoor score and stack arrows at extended distances when shooting outdoors. Of course, both can be accomplished with a standard hunting rig. However, when you take a deep dive into the world of target archery and the accessories needed to complement a target bow, you’ll realize just how much a true target setup can up your accuracy. Not only that, but setting up and tinkering with a target rig will put a few new tuning tricks up your sleeve. Finally, when you’re shooting 300 indoor scores and moving up the rankings at 3-D shoots, your shooting confidence will grow. You’ll learn just how lethal you can be, and this inspires a mindset that will carry over into the bowhunting woods come fall.
It’s for these reasons, and those offered on the following pages by top-tier target shooters who are also assassins in the bowhunting woods, that I honestly believe every bowhunter needs a target bow.
He’s my archery coach and one of the deadliest men on the planet when his Hoyt is in his hand. His name is Yhasti Perkinskiller, and his list of accomplishments in the bowhunting woods and the tournament trail is long. But none of that matters. What matters is what he had to say about the topic at hand.
“There are so many benefits to target shooting and having a designated target bow,” Perkinskiller said. “Target shooting is exact. You start to really focus on a spot — whether that spot be an X on an indoor target or a slight discoloration in the 12-ring on a 3-D target. You learn to aim and execute. You become a much more precise shooter.”
Perkinskiller went on to note that when an archer is shooting indoor winter leagues and participating in spring and summer 3-D tournaments, the mindset of that archer changes for the better.
“You develop so much discipline, and before long you’re subconsciously floating that pin in an exact location,” he said. “This carries over into hunting season. One of the biggest issues bowhunters face — and I hear it all the time — is rushing a shot. A pin hits hide — anywhere on hide — and the arrow is gone. When you’ve picked an exact spot thousands of times and worked tirelessly to put every arrow on the mark, your mind is that much more prepared. You develop a sense of confidence that will really help you be more efficient in the woods.”
Brandon Reyes is the marketing/staff shooting coordinator for T.R.U. Ball. In addition to that, he’s a stone-cold killer and an accomplished tournament shooter on Mathews’ Pro Staff. I’ve leaned on Reyes a lot over the years. Why? Because his knowledge is sound and can be trusted.
“The more you get into target shooting, the more obsessed you become with accuracy,” Reyes noted. “You start to learn that your 38-inch target bow fitted with a forgiving brace height and cams built for maximum efficiency rather than speed will help you put more arrows on target. Plus, you start to tinker with the gear you put on that bow. Stabilization is a big one. Target shooters play with different lengths and weights of the front and back stabilizer. In addition, many will experiment with brackets and disconnects that allow the bars to be positioned at certain angles. These bars, brackets and disconnects allow the shooter to create a fit and feel that is to their exact liking.
“All this knowledge goes right in the memory bank, and when setting up your hunting bow, many of the little nuances you learned while tinkering with your target bow resurface and help with your hunting bow build.”
Reyes also noted that many target archers experiment with different releases, and this experimentation typically pays off in spades when bowhunting.
“Too many bowhunters buy any old wrist strap, slap it on and call it good,” Reyes said. “Target archers take any release they use, whether it be an index, thumb or hinge, and learn the settings of that particular release. Much like a bow, they tune the release to their liking — to the desired feel they want. This helps them master release execution. Many target archers bowhunt with the same release they use in tournaments and leagues. Some don’t, but if they do make a switch, it’s guaranteed they will fit their new bowhunting release to their liking and master it.”
When it comes to consistency — in target archery and bowhunting — few do it better than Tim Gillingham. Tim has been winning checks and punching tags for a very long time, and when it comes to overall archery savvy, not many are held in higher regard.
“One of the biggest reasons to jump into a target bow and start shooting indoor and outdoor tournaments is the great shooters you get to be around,” Gillingham said. “You will be rubbing elbows with the best shooters in your area. Recently, I started getting involved in some competitive rifle shooting. I’ve gone to a few shoots and had my butt kicked, but while at these shoots, I developed a relationship with some guys that really helped boost my knowledge. I learned more visiting with them at these two tournaments than I ever could’ve reading articles and watching YouTube videos. You will experience the same when you start going to archery tournaments and entering leagues.”
In addition to rubbing shoulders with top-tier archers and picking their brains about things such as shooting form, you’ll develop an intimate relationship with your gear and better understand what it takes to be incredibly accurate.
“I remember the first time I used a draw board,” Gillingham continued. “It was laughable how far off my draw length was. In fact, there were a bunch of us who used the board that day, and none of us were within 3⁄8 of an inch of where we thought we were. You learn to become finite when you’re tinkering with your target bow and the accessories you use. I see so many bowhunters with sight pins that are Christmas tree bright. Most of the time, when I’m target shooting, I take light off my pin. This crosses over into bowhunting. There have been times when I put a piece of Scotch tape over my pin to help with light control. You pick up little accuracy tips that really help when bowhunting.”
Gillingham also pointed out that building a heavy target bow that requires more holding weight will show a willing-to-practice archer just how accurate they can be.
“My target bow is heavy,” he said. “My holding weight is 22 pounds, and I put serious emphasis on my stabilizer setup. Everything is about balance and efficiency. When hunting, I often match pieces of my target bow setup to my hunting bow, especially if I’m climbing in a whitetail stand or sitting in a ground blind. You will shoot a heavier bow better, and if I’m not lugging a bow around the elk mountains, my hunting rig closely resembles a target bow setup. It’s these types of details you learn when shooting a target bow that really help you become a more proficient bowhunter.”
Cool Under Pressure
Donnie Thacker got into target archery in 2009. His competitive nature sent him flying up the ranks, and by 2014, he was a pro. Today, Thacker continues to live his dream. He is an accomplished tournament archer and bowhunter, and a member of Hoyt’s elite Pro Shooting Staff. His advice about why a bowhunter should dabble in target archery was, well, perfect.
“Target archery and bowhunting go hand in hand,” he said. “You can’t practice nerves. We owe it to the animals we hunt to be as lethal as possible. Whether I’m shooting for big prize money or toeing the line against a few buddies in a league, the nerves spike. There are no mulligans in competitive archery or bowhunting. When that arrow is fired, there is no calling it back. When you’re shooting year-round, you’re constantly putting yourself in these gut-wrenching situations, and over time, you learn how to handle them. This is one major reason every bowhunter should get into a target bow and start doing some form of competitive shooting. Doing so will make you better in the woods. That’s a fact.”
Thacker also touched on the fact that if you’re a competitive person and miss doing things that spark your drive, you should absolutely jump into target shooting.
“You’ll start shooting, and pretty soon, a pie plate is no longer good enough,” Thacker said. “When this happens, it’s awesome. You want more. You want to know you can pick a finite spot and send an arrow into that spot.”
There you have it. Great advice from amazing bowhunters who often find themselves on the podium. My advice: Listen to them. Snag a target bow and become a more proficient bowhunter.