As the buck that I had set my eyes on, a hit-list buck, had maneuvered himself into archery range, I knew this was it. All the time I had spent practicing and improving my shot during the hot summer months was about to be tested.
As the buck made it to the 25-yard mark, I drew back my Bear Archery Redemption EKO bow and settled myself to make a good shot. When the buck turned broadside, I squeezed my shoulder blades together while simultaneously pulling on my Apex Gear Surge release with my thumb. My shot was in slow motion as my arrow made its way toward the buck's vitals. Praise God; my arrow hit right where I had aimed. The buck didn't make it 50 yards before crashing to the ground.
Every time I successfully harvest a deer with my bow, a wave of excitement washes over me, comparable to when I was a senior in high school, hitting my first home run in a game. That feeling presented itself once again as my flashlight beam glistened off my buck’s antlers for the first time. All those days spent practicing had paid off, and I was now reaping the excitement of success. I was instantly transferred back to a time when I was welcomed back into the dugout with many high fives and congratulations.
To be ready to make a harvest while bowhunting whitetails, one must put in the time during the summer off-season. Here are five archery drills that can be performed to increase any bow hunter’s chance of a successful shot when the opportunity presents itself.
1. 2-Minute Hold
Bow hunters can lose their shooting technique when staying at full draw for an extended period. After a long hold, hunters can become fatigued, causing them to become shaky and miss the shot entirely. The hunter should do the 2-minute hold drill to train themselves to overcome a more extended period at full draw.
When practicing over the summer months leading up to the fall season, hunters should set a timer or have a partner time them for two minutes at full draw before shooting. After the two minutes, the hunter should then make the shot. Repeat this drill periodically when practicing.
2. Jumping Jacks & Shoot
Another common reason bow hunters miss the shot occurs when the adrenaline rush, or what many refer to as "buck fever," sets in, causing the hunter to become too excited to make a successful shot. When a mature buck makes his way into bow range, it is not uncommon for the hunter's heart rate to skyrocket. To simulate this excitement rush and prepare for the next time the adrenaline kicks in, hunters can do jumping jacks and then shoot.
When practicing, to increase the heart rate before the shot, one can do 20-25 jumping jacks, then immediately pick up the bow and shoot. This simulation teaches the hunter to calm themselves, breathe, then make the shot.
3. Practice In Hunting Gear
Most bow hunters practice throughout the summer by shooting in their backyards or at a local archery range. Both are great ways to improve shooting techniques. However, many hunters make a mistake by shooting in shorts and a t-shirt while practicing because it is much more relaxed. Yet, when hunting, they are in their full hunting attire. The slight difference is enough to cause their practiced shooting techniques to be altered, resulting in a missed shot.
Instead, periodically throughout the summer, practice shooting while wearing all the gear worn while hunting, even if it causes a bit of sweat. Plus, it gives you a chance to clean and properly store your hunting gear before fall.
4. Shoot From Treestand or Blind
While still on the theme of practicing differently than while hunting, it is vital to practice while shooting from a treestand or a ground blind. Many hunters practice throughout the summer while standing on a flat, even surface. When hunting, the shot is often made from an elevated treestand or sitting inside a ground blind. To be fully prepared for the fall hunting season, the hunter should practice from a similar setup to which they will be hunting.
Try setting up a makeshift treestand in the backyard or an open area to shoot from the same height and angle you will be hunting while in a treestand or blind. If a ground blind is the preferred hunting style, try practicing while sitting inside a blind. This drill will prepare the hunter for actual hunting scenarios and allow them to make the proper adjustments to make the right shot.
While most of the suggested archery drills listed above are designed to simulate in the field scenarios, hunters need to spend time shooting.
The key to preparation is getting in numerous shooting reps to become a better bow hunter.
All the drills listed above are designed to be done periodically throughout the summer, not every time the hunter practices. It is imperative to practice multiple times each week, throughout the entire summer, if not the whole year, to improve as a shooter.