Practice Every Day (Especially Right Now)
It’s amazing that a Major League Baseball pitcher can consistently paint the outside corner with a fastball, catching just enough of the plate to earn a strike without giving the batter too much of a meaty target to smash over the center field wall. The pitcher puts it exactly where he wants it. But it’s ludicrous to think he could do that without touching a baseball for a month.
The same could be said of archers. Bowhunters would obviously rather spend their time in a tree than on the range, once hunting season opens. But if your archery practice ends after opening day, you’re hurting your chances of ending the season with antlers on the wall and meat in the freezer. Bow seasons are long, and your shooting needs to be in top form throughout, whether it’s opening day or the late season.
Shooting during the summer months leading up to archery season gets you dialed in so you can hit the bull’s-eye, but there’s more to it. Whether you realize it or not, every time you shoot, you’re toning your muscles. Think about how hard it was to draw your bow the first time you ever shot one, versus now. You have built and conditioned your muscles through repetition. That’s great, but now’s the time to keep it up!
You’ve also been training yourself mentally to hit your target. To consistently hit the 10 ring, you need focus and concentration. Again, whether you realized it or not, you’ve been developing mental focus all summer long. And now, with archery season finally on the horizon, it’s critical to maintain that focus. Can you imagine that major league pitcher trying to throw his first pitch for a strike after several months off? Of course not! So don’t stop shooting because hunting season has arrived.
It’s important to keep your muscles toned and concentration sharp, even when you can’t actually visit the shooting range. Using stretch bands to keep your muscles toned is a great option for conditioning practice that you can do just about anywhere. Visualization is a good way to keep your mental focus sharp. Find a few minutes every day on your lunch break, before you pick up the kids from sports or whenever you can to imagine yourself drawing, aiming and firing your bow. Concentrate on every step and make sure everything you do is perfect in your mind. Mentally picture yourself making a perfect shot through the vitals on that big buck.
When you go to your hunting area, bring along a target and some practice arrows, and take a few shots before entering the woods. Or leave a target where you park if you’re hunting on private property. You don’t need to fire a lot of arrows; just make sure you take a few shots every day and concentrate on what you’re doing. Try to make every arrow a perfect one. If you can do that while wearing your hunting attire, so much the better.
Another idea: Practice shooting at longer distances than you would ever shoot at a live target. If you would never shoot at a deer beyond 40 yards, practice shooting at 50, 60 or even 75 yards. That way, when you get an opportunity at 20 yards, it will feel like a chip shot. Imagine how slow and easy a softball would look coming at you if you’ve been to the batting cages all summer hitting baseballs. You’d be ready to hit it out of the park. Practicing at longer ranges and smaller targets helps your confidence soar when you finally get that one shot you’ve been waiting for.
Your dedication will be rewarded the first time a buck takes his sweet time lollygagging behind a tree, forcing you to hold at full draw for an extended time. Keeping your muscles toned helps ensure you can make the shot when the buck finally steps in the clear. In fact, holding for several seconds before firing during practice helps ensure you can make the shot in a real hunting situation.
You obviously want to make good of your opportunity so you can be successful, but you also owe it to your quarry. When the time comes, you want to make an ethical shot and put your deer down quickly. Wounding a deer because you were too lazy to practice regularly is unforgivable.
Archery is a unique sport. It takes physical strength and mental concentration that hunting with a firearm simply doesn’t require. Practicing throughout the season will ensure that you’re both ready and able to make that once-in-a-lifetime shot when it finally arrives.