In my opinion, bowhunting is way more fun than rifle hunting. I’m not going to say that one is better than the other, because I do both, but I find bowhunting more fun.
To be a good bowhunter, you need to practice. While you don’t have to practice that much to be able to shoot 20 or 30 yards accurately, once you start pushing 40+ yards, you’ll need to take time to practice your archery skills.
While shooting long distances is cool, if you’re a bowhunter there is more to it than just shooting for distance. At the end of the day, you’re shooting at wild animals not still targets, and they don’t care that you want to fill your freezer.
As a hunter, you need to practice different things than what a target archer will need to practice. Here are the 5 things I wish I knew before my first season.
You Need to Be Able to Hold Still for A Long Time
What you see on the hunting shows is a huge buck walks out of the woods, the person takes their time to pull back and line up the shot, and then BAM! A perfect broadside shot.
While this may happen to you, I can tell you that it hasn’t happened to me yet.
By the time you pull back, that animal might walk in front of a tree or turn to a position that you can’t get a ethical shot on.
You have two choices, 1) slowly let off and try not to make any noise or move too much, then try to get back into position when the next shot arises. 2) Keep holding.
If you’re trying not to get busted, holding is the best option. But if you haven’t practiced holding your bow for 30, 60, or even 90 seconds, your shot is going to be shaky.
As the season approaches, start incorporating holds where you do a 30-60 seconds hold before firing. Do these for each range you’re going to hunting at (20, 30, 40 etc). These days won’t be a high volume day where you shoot 100 arrows, you only need to do these 5-10 times in a single day.
Shoot the Gap
You have your pins dialed in and you feel like you’re unstoppable with 20, 30, 40, and 50 yard pins.
Then the deer pops out and it’s 37 yards away.
If you use your 30 yard pin, the shot will be low, but the 40 yard pin will be high. So, what do you do?
This is called shooting the gap, you should practice with the yardages in between each of your pins to know exactly what your arrow is going to do in flight. To train for the above example, you should be shooting at 35 yards and aiming “in between” the pins.
You can also use the other pins and know what your drop off is going to be, like shooting a rifle. If you know that at 35 yards, the arrow is 4 inches high off the 40 yard pin, you can aim low. But you better practice shooting this way.
Shoot from Weird Positions
Chances are, you’re probably not going to be standing out in the middle of an open field when hunting, especially here on the east coast.
You need to practice from different positions and know what your arrow is going to do at the ranges you’re hunting at.
Going to hunt in a tree stand? Practice shooting from different positions in your stand so you can familiarize yourself with how to change your shooting mechanics.
Hunting in a ground blind? You might be shooting from a seated or kneeling position, so practice those positions. Also practice shooting in the blind because you run out of space quickly in them.
Maybe you can spot-and-stalk, in that case, you might want to practice shooting with objects in from of you. If there are grasses or tree branches at 20 yards, and the target is 45 yards, do you have a shot?
That’s something you’ll need to practice so your arrow hits the target instead of getting stuck in a tree branch. Knowing what the travel path of your arrow is will be essential on knowing if you have a shot where you are or if you need to move to get a better shot.
You can set this up easily by placing some branches in trash can between you and the target. You can change your distance or the distance of the trash can to change your shooting conditions. If you really want to increase the difficulty, set up two trash cans.
Going in the opposite direction of the first point about holding for a long time. You might get an animal that’s just passing through and you won’t have much time to get in position and shoot.
Practice coming to full draw and taking a quick shot. They’re not going to be accurate at first, but over time, you’ll get much better.
I like to do this on a target with vitals on it rather than a regular target as the season gets closer. A small regular target might make your shots look terrible, but when you practice shooting on vitals, they’re all in the kill zone and the frustration of missing a little target becomes way more fun.
As you get better, you’re going to be able to hit smaller and smaller targets and then you can switch to a regular target instead of vitals.
Practice in Low Light
When you start out, you’re probably going to be shooting in the middle of the day when it’s nice and bright out. But there is a good chance your shot opportunity will be either early morning or late evening.
If you’re hunting in the woods of the east coast, like I am, it gets dark really quick when that sun starts to set, and all the twigs between you and your target become invisible.
Not only that, but just because you can see something with your naked eye in low light, doesn’t mean you can see it through your peep sight. For me personally, I know that shortly after sunset, I have to reel my range in from 50 yards to about 30 yards, and then 20 yards towards the end of legal light.
Practice either early morning or as the sun is setting so you can familiarize yourself with your ranges under different light conditions, especially in the type of environment you’ll be hunting.
For example, I have a stand up in the middle of the woods and it gets dark very quick after the sun sets, I can only see about 15 yards when legal light ends. My other hunting locations are more open, and I can see out further at the end of legal light.
To wrap things up, if you’re new to bowhunting, this can seem like a lot of information. Don’t get overwhelmed, take it one step at a time. Right now, at the time this article is being posted, it’s spring and you’ll have plenty of time to get ready for fall.
Start with getting accurate first, that’s the most important thing, all the other stuff is extra over accuracy. Then add the holds and the fast shots as we get closer to the season openers.
Finally, as you start checking on your stands, putting blinds up, and everything else to get ready for the season, start shooting from different positions. As for the low light conditions, you can practice that at any time.
Hope this helps you!
If you need more help, click the button below to jump on a 10-minute call or email me at: Chris@Protect-and-Provide.com