Archery can be a lot of fun, but it can also be extremely frustrating. Although being a good archer and a bowhunter are two completely different things, they go hand-in-hand. Many people enjoy shooting targets and the sport element of archery. Bowhunters, however, are motivated not just by the sport of archery, but also by the desire to make a good shot on an animal. To become an experienced bowhunter, you have to first become an experienced archer. After all, archery is the core aspect of bowhunting.
I love both. Each season, I fine-tune my archery equipment and attempt to become the best shooter I can be. I like 3-D shoots but have never had much desire to do any serious competition. For me, and I’m sure for many of you, the competition comes in the fall when I’m faced with controlling my emotions and adrenaline when my quarry steps into range. You won’t become a pro overnight, but you can gradually gain experience. As we’ve all heard before, practice makes perfect. During the summer, I use as much available time as possible to prepare for fall. I don’t have an extremely specific practice regimen, but I do have a few tips that I live by.
I. Only make adjustments between shot 1 and 20
If you are a perfectionist, or just love shooting this is likely one of the most difficult things for you. You go out on the range and you shoot awesome for your first 15 – 20 shots. After that you start shooting a little left, maybe a little low, just a hair right. Whatever it may be, if you shoot enough it will likely be a group and likely be consistent. This may convince you to adjust your sight. You will tell yourself, I am a good shot. My last 3 groups I have been an inch low, my sight has to be off. You then come back a day or two later and shoot again to find you are hitting an inch high. This causes extreme frustration and sometimes a lack of confidence in yourself or your equipment. At this point, you must force yourself to hang up the bow and come back another day!
When you return, shoot your first five arrows one at a time. Shoot an arrow, go to the target and pull it. Repeat. Why would this be beneficial? If you are not telling yourself that you have four more arrows, it will force you to give your full focus and attention to each shot. I will often do this and if all five arrows are off, I will then make an adjustment. When we are in the woods we only get one shot. So it’s vital to make sure the first shot is where it needs to be every single time. I personally shoot a Trophy Ridge React Pro. I absolutely love it, because I can sight in quickly. Also, thanks to the react technology, it makes it mathematically impossible to hit different spots at separate yardages once you sight it in. This gives me another way to make sure I am doing everything the same at each distance.
II. Shoot at random yardages
If you hunt enough, there will be a time where you don’t get the chance to range an animal. It only takes a split second for a buck to come charging in chasing a doe and go from 10 yards to 35 yards. Or maybe you are elk hunting and a bull comes screaming in. He almost runs you over, sees you, and spooks — wheeling to 27 before he stops. I’ve had that happen to me personally on many occasions. The point is, we want to be as prepared as possible. Practice shooting those random yardages without ranging it.
If you are really uncomfortable with your judging ability, at least guess the yardage before ranging it. Do this in places where you are not familiar with the yardages. If you shoot in your backyard all the time this probably wouldn’t be the best location to try this. You likely have a good idea what the ranges are in most locations. Also make sure to shoot odd yardages. It gets really easy to shoot 20,30,40,50. Take time to practice at 22, or 33. Yardages that are a little more odd. This will help you get a good understanding of your equipment and how to apply it when the time comes. For instance, if you practice at 27 yards, maybe you split pins and are a little low every time. You may need to use your 30 yard pin. Find out where that is going to hit. Can you hold right on? Do you need to hold an inch low? You would be surprised how much these little things can make a big difference in the moment of truth.
III. Mess with your equipment
Most of us are gear junkies to an extent. The time to mess with your equipment and try new things is during the summer!!! Don’t wait until August to decide you want to try a new sight, or that all new rest. I love trying new things and altering equipment on my setup. Once the season starts approaching my only goal is to be as confident and accurate as possible. I want my setup to the point that I don’t have to adjust anything. I want to be able to go out and practice, shoot one arrow and put it exactly where I want each time. What are some things we may want to mess with during the summer? Maybe you want to try a new sight, or the newest rest. For me I have found 2 major things that really improved my shooting.
The .010 pins.
Most sights typically come with .019 pins, which is larger than .010 pins. It may seem like a small thing (pun intended) but it can make a big difference! Smaller pins will allow you to pick a spot when aiming. Have you ever noticed the further out you get the larger your pin is on your target? Smaller pins can help alleviate that, allowing you to pick a spot on your target. This was a game changer for me and immediately made me a more accurate archer.
For the longest time I was always the guy that thought that a sidebar, backbar, whatever you want to call it was stupid! In my head that was a target archer thing, real bowhunters don’t need something like that! That’s just more weight and something to get hung up on brush. Well let me tell you, I was wrong! A buddy of mine convinced me to try it, and as soon as we got adjusted to where I needed it I was blown away. It instantly tightened my groups and made my bow feel like a completely different machine.
If you find yourself fighting your pin, or having a hard time holding your pin on target, a side bar can likely make a world of difference for you. Instead of fighting your pin, you adjust the stabilizers until the pin WANTS to sit where you are aiming. This allows you to focus more on where you want to hit and make a great release. In terms of bowhunting it is a small price to pay for the accuracy you gain. I use the Trophy Ridge Hitman Stabilizer Kit 8” on the front and 6” on the back. It hardly adds a pound to my setup and the quick disconnect makes it quick and easy to take off if I am packing my bow a decent distance.
In every off-season, take the time to become a great archer, and the practice can help you have your best hunting season yet! For more information on hunting gear and hunting tips, you can follow us on Facebook, or become a Raised Outdoors member and stay connected with us all year long.