The weeks leading up to hunting season are some of my favorite times in the Outdoors. I love the preparation – love getting to put in the work, and we’re hopeful that work will pay off in the weeks or months to come. We’re putting our new Rocky boots and apparel to the test, running trail cameras, getting our stands hung and setup, breaking ground to get Tecomate food plots planted, and shooting…. A lot.
We’re starting the season of with opening week of archery in Kentucky, hoping for a Bluegrass giant, and in less than 2 weeks I’ll be in a tree. I’m a firm believer that preparation on the front end will lead to big smiles when the moment is on the line, and can keep you from that agonizing feeling that you could have had that wall-hanger if only you’d been prepared. With archery, there’s not a lot of room for error and everything is important, including practicing with the broadheads you’re going to use in the real deal (with the exception of some mechanicals that fly the same as field points), picking the right gear so that you’re comfortable and concealed, scent elimination, the list goes on and on. Any free time in the past week has been spent looking through Reconyx pictures, making sure my bow is fine tuned, and shooting. I make mistakes just like anyone does – that’s part of hunting, but I believe the more prepared you are, the more likely it is that you will be successful. Knowing what you’re up against is the first key to being able to prepare for it. Most people practice in comfortable conditions – standing up, shooting from the yardages they expect to shoot from at a whitetail (20-40 yards), with the same exact posture and position every time and with good light, and comfortable temps. If you’ve bow-hunted long enough, you know that in the real thing, that big buck is likely to come in somewhere other than you think he will – and it’s usually going to be in the last 20-30 min of legal light, other than during the rut. Practicing from a variety of positions and for a variety of situations will greatly increase your confidence and your odds. I like to vary my pre-season practice sessions – I shoot a lot right before dark – trying to perfect my anchor point consistency, because I know it’s probably not likely to happen in broad daylight and I may not be able to see my peep perfectly. Sometimes I’ll shoot as many as 200 arrows, which helps develop muscle memory and enhances endurance, but I would not recommend shooting a lot of arrows every time you practice. Keep in mind that in most circumstances with a bow, you’re only going to get one shoot opportunity at that buck you’ve been waiting for since mid-summer. As a result, sometimes I’ll only take one arrow with me and try to visualize in my mind that moment of truth.
I ALWAYS make it harder on myself in practice than it will ever be in the real thing, shooting from much further than I ever would at a game animal (sometimes from awkward positions), and many times I only take one shot, so that I’ve got to make that one shot count. This is a great way to practice on the weekend if you’ve got a target handy and you have other chores going on throughout the day. Shoot only one arrow, visualizing that it’s the only chance you’ll get, then go back to the chores for 15 min to a half hour before doing it again. A lot of people can shoot their 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th shots accurately, but you need to be able to get it done on the first shot, and without having warmed up. Get good at that, and you’ll get it done when it counts – it’s a lot like playing in a big ball-game, it’s different when it’s all on the line than it is in practice and you rarely get do-overs. We’ve got to know what we’re up against…. And then train for that!
Written By Jordan Shipley