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Off-Season Bowhunting Practice


Bob Humphrey

bowhunting from tree stand
Many hunters prefer to shoot from a standing position but you should still practice from a sitting position in case you get caught sitting down with game at close range.

You all know that old saw that practice makes perfect. Well it turns out there’s some real science behind it. One of the key elements to accuracy in archery is muscle memory. By repeating the same physical maneuvers over and over to train your body to “learn” them. Then under stressful situations, like when that big buck is standing just yards away, your body automatically performs those movements leaving you to concentrate on other things like estimating distance and aiming. And that’s why it’s a good idea to practice shooting year round. Or if you’ve taken some time off after the season, get back into a routine now, well ahead of the coming fall bowhunting seasons. What follows are a few ideas on how to get and stay in shape.

Simulate Field Conditions

Most folks practice by shooting at a square target on an open range and level ground. That kind of practice will only go so far in helping you in the field. Substitute a 3-D deer target (or whatever species you’re hunting). If you hunt from a tree stand; practice shooting from an elevated position. The same for a ground blind. And whether you intend to or not, practice shooting from both sitting and standing positions. You never know when you might get caught out of position and you’d be surprised how much difference it can make.

Practice Estimating Distance

Range finders are useful but we don’t always have the time or opportunity to use them when we need to. You still need to be a good judge of distance and just like shooting, practice makes that easier. Have someone toss out four-inch-square blocks of styrofoam, or ethafoam around your practice stand at various random distances; then shoot at them. Or, shoot from various, random locations. Adding a little friendly competition puts more at stake making you focus harder.

Practice in Your Hunting Clothes

Practice with your face mask, if you hunt with one. You’d be amazed how much your shots can differ with and without. Also be aware of how bulky clothing could affect or even interfere with your shooting. You don’t want to shoot in your winter clothes when it’s 90 degrees, but if you have a chance to shoot on a cold morning or evening, take that stuff out and find out if it interferes with your shooting now rather than when it’s too late.

Don’t Forget Fundamentals

Practice makes perfect but you can also learn bad habits. Remember the mantra: pick a spot, breathe, squeeze and follow through. Squeeze the trigger on your release aid. Like a gun, it should be a surprise when it goes off. And concentrate on holding your sight on target after the shot. Don’t try to look around the bow to see where you hit.

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