For some, the word summer conjures up images of vacations, fishing trips, swimming and relaxing in the shade. However, to the die-hard deer hunter, the word summer paints an entirely different picture, an image that includes hard work while preparing for the upcoming fall season. It is during the summer months of the year that tasks such as putting in food plots, moving tree stands and running game cameras are done without hesitation.
Another summer prep activity that many hunters do is practice shooting a bow. Even though many hunters shoot during the summer, there is argument as to how much shooting is the right amount that will lead to a better prepared hunter once fall arrives. One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing a bowhunter say, “I shot my bow, it was good so I’m not touching it until season.” For everyone that is wondering if it is required to shoot all summer to reap the benefits once season arrives, the quick answer is yes, it is necessary.
I like to compare my preparation for hunting to that of an athlete. How often does a professional athlete practice before it is game time? The most successful athletes would agree that the training never really ends; the strive to get better is always there. This is the same frame of mind that I have when trying to become a better hunter. Specifically, when practicing shooting with my bow. Practicing throughout the summer rather than a mere few times before season can drastically improve one’s skills as a hunter.
The main reason that many bow hunters practice throughout the year is to become better marksmen. The only way to achieve this is to practice continuously. I can recall the year after I graduated from high school, when a good friend of mine and I purchased new bows at a local pro shop. Throughout the summer, we shot twice a week indoors at the shops shooting range. We would then meet 2 or 3 other nights at each other’s homes to shoot for an hour or two each time. Towards the end of the summer, I can recall taking pencils and sticking them into the burlap bag style targets while at the shooting range. We would proceed to shoot the erasers off the pencils at 20 and 30 yards. Without sounding like I am bragging, we were good. The reason we had gotten so good at shooting our bow was due to the fact that we practiced religiously. Shooting became such a routine that every time we shot, we hit our desired mark.
A sad realization hit me the following summer, as we both became busy with families and furthering our careers, it left us with no opportunity to practice. With the same equipment that we had the previous year, we seemed to have lost our touch as I could not shoot as good as I had the previous year. That was all the proof I needed to see how practicing often can make a such a huge difference.
Since that experience, I have learned to take advantage of the entire off season, especially during the summer, to spend time with my equipment and take advantage of every spare moment to do something to prepare for the upcoming season. For example, the late spring or early summer is a great time to start with new equipment. It may be a different size arrow shaft, new sights, a new release or maybe even an entire new bow itself. No matter the case, this is a great time to start using anything one has acquired since the past season. By doing this in the early part of the summer, the hunter has time to become familiar with his or her equipment, thus allowing time to make proper adjustments months prior to hunting. This ensures that by the time season rolls around the hunter will know how everything works, which allows for a sense of preparedness when hunting.
This spring, I decided to switch to an entirely new setup. I started with an Elite Ritual 30 bow, in which I was able to order online and custom build to all of my measurements as well as the ability to pick a camouflage pattern. I selected Mossy Oak Mountain Country. Once I received the bow in the mail, I equipped it with a TruGlo HyperStrike sight, an NAP Apache Drop-Away rest and changed to a different size arrow shaft than what I normally have used in the past. This time, I chose the Easton FMJ size 340 in a 5mm diameter. After putting this entirely different setup to the test, even though I was getting great results immediately, it took a few weeks of shooting to gain a familiarity with all of my new equipment. Becoming familiar with any new equipment is key in making one a better hunter and the way to do this is to practice all year long, even during the summer months.
Another reason that I like to spend a lot of time throughout the summer practicing shooting my bow is because it is a way to have fun with my family and friends. As a kid, it was always a summer tradition to spend the evenings with my dad and my brother shooting our bows. It is a great way to socialize while still practicing. It also enables friendly competition amongst each other. In the past, we have kept score while shooting a 5 dot style target. We have played tic tac toe in which one had to hit the mark with their arrow to mark their spot. As the season would get closer, we enjoyed bringing out a 3D style deer target and proceed shooting with different distances, angles and shooting positions while still trying to hit the kill zone. All this fun is still practice, yet it might take some of the repetition feeling out of shooting day after day all while still making one a better shot.
In conclusion, one doesn’t have to be the best shooter in the world to harvest a deer. However, in order to become a better and more ethical hunter, the act of making sure that all equipment is working properly and practicing enough so that everything comes naturally and without hesitation can be accomplished by spending the summer months in practice mode. This will result in the hunter being able to have higher confidence when in an actual hunting situation and will make the hunt clean and ethical every time.