The steamy hot days of summer are quickly closing in on the fall hunting season, and hunters across the country are beginning to shake the dust off their gear. Bowhunters are shifting to an evening regimen that finds them spending the last light of day slinging arrows in the backyard in preparation for the soon-coming bow season.
In many parts of the country, bow seasons will begin in less than 60 days. It’s the time we dream about all year long. The question is, will you be ready? The practice and prep work, or lack of, can make or break your opportunities for success come fall.
If you’re looking for a better practice plan, we’ve got you covered. Below is a look at how to develop a summertime practice routine for bow season.
Dust Off Your Bow
If you’re not among the bowhunters that like to shoot their bow year-round, now is the time to knock the dust off your bow, inspect things from top to bottom, and take inventory of what needs to be replaced.
Do you need a new bowstring and cable? Check things out for any nicks, fraying, or abuse that you may have forgotten from last year. Is your bow tuned, or are there adjustments to be made? It’s time to get your gear in order, and step up to the target.
If your bow has been hung up all year, you’ll need a few days to get back in the groove. It’s time to start sending arrows down range. Don’t worry about precision shooting at this point. Just begin to work on getting your body back in shooting shape. Shoot plenty of arrows in those first 3-5 days as you stretch those muscles once again.
Form & Function
After spending some time stretching your muscles and getting back into the groove of your shooting routine, it’s now time to begin focusing on your shooting form and how you and your gear will function at the moment of truth. Bad habits always try to creep in, regardless of your shooting experience. And if you’ve yet to experience target panic – get ready. It’s coming.
Target panic really doesn’t care whether you’re a pro or a rookie. It just wants to mess with your life. Pay attention to your form in this second week of practice. Don’t focus simply on shooting, but focus on shooting right. After having sent countless arrows down range in the prior days or weeks, it’s now time to consider quality over quantity. Concentrate on shooting perfect arrows. It’s all about proper form and follow-through at this time.
The reason bowhunters carry a bow with a quiver full of broadheads is to accomplish the mission of killing critters and punching tags. Hunters have to perform differently in the woods than on the range. That’s why it’s important to do your best to simulate the hunting scenario as much as possible.
Practice maintaining proper form, yet doing it in the midst of simulated hunting scenarios. Begin to work on maintaining proper form when shooting fast, while sitting, kneeling, in the rain, while your hands are sweating, with gloves, and while you’re wearing a face mask. Know how you and your gear will perform in a wide range of circumstances.
Increasing Your Range
After several weeks of building your form and finding your groove on the range, it’s now time to stretch things out, and make sure you’re dialed in with all your sight pins. Are your 30, 40, and 50-yard pins where they need to be? It’s time to confirm these distances are solid and your arrows are finding their mark at any range you’ll be shooting during the hunting season. Whether your target animal is standing at 5 yards, or 50, you need to know how your bow will perform. There’s no room for surprises here.
This is also a great time to work on your distance judging skills.
Regardless of whether you rely on a rangefinder or not – far too many opportunities are blown each year as hunters fumble to get a range on a deer. Distance judging is a skill. Build that skill, and you’ll punch more tags.
With your pins dialed in, you’ll likely be feeling pretty strong about your abilities with the short game. But now is not the time to slack off. The next step is to beef up your confidence with long range practice. Start spending some time launching long bombs at even further distances to build confidence.
Keep in mind these are not hunting distances. These shot distances are strictly to help you build confidence in your abilities to handle the shots at closer range. If you’ll spend a week shooting targets at 80, 90, and even 100 yards, your confidence and ability to hold on the target at 30 - 50 yards will go through the roof. Practice long to make your short game strong.
Again, the bottom line is building it in to your brain that you and your gear are ready and able to make the shot when that animal steps out.
Simulate Shots in the Hunting Scenario
You’ll often hear bowhunters boast of stacking arrows tight in the target at 60 or 70 yards on the practice range. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find these shots were taken from a standing position on level ground, with perfect conditions and no wind. That’s great, but it’s not very realistic.
Far too many bowhunters climb into the treestand each year without ever having practiced shooting from an elevated position. Or what about the ground blind? Have you attempted drawing your bow and shooting from a seated position? Sadly, many hunters miss opportunities every year because of their inability to draw their bow when the opportunity arises.
Be sure to round out your shooting regimen by shooting from these real-life positions, or other scenarios you’ll find yourself in come hunting season. Steep angle shots can quickly become a deal breaker when it comes to accuracy. Place a target 5 yards from the base of your tree, and see how difficult it is to place an arrow in the kill zone when shooting from an elevated position.
The same goes for shooting from a ground blind. Pop a blind up in the yard, and go through the routine. Can you make the shot at 5 yards? Will your arrow even clear the window at this distance? What chair will you use when hunting from a ground blind? Is it tall/short enough to allow you to shoot out the window system of the blind? Answer these questions ahead of time so you don’t find yourself in a mess on opening day.
The key is to eliminate any surprises ahead of time, and you’ll be better prepared for success when the shot opportunity comes your way.
It’s an exciting time of year as we close in on hunting season once again. Will you be ready? Be sure to spend the next 30-60 days developing a summertime practice routine that’ll help you draw with confidence when a deer walks into bow range on opening day.