By Curt Myers – Western Illinois Recreational and Farm Land Professional
As an archery pro shop owner and avid hunter, I feel hunters simply do not practice enough, myself included. If you’re reading this article thinking it is going to be another one of “Dad’s Lectures” regarding how you should shoot your bow more, you’re right, and wrong. With some constructive criticism, I would like to give everyone some tips, pointers, tricks as well as things to try this off season to help you become a better shot. This may ultimately help to avoid the gut-wrenching agony of wounding or missing your target next fall.
For starters I would like to say there are no excuses as to why we cannot shoot more (i.e. I don’t have time, I’m too busy, It’s too late). In my opinion there is always time, we just have to make a point to put in the work. Although it may not be in the cards for all of us, practicing at home if available is the easiest. If shooting at home is an option, take 10 minutes to make 10 great shots. I would rather see a person take a dozen shots that feel good while hitting their mark over an individual who find themselves twenty shots in causing the loss of strength from spraying arrows. Doing so is not only devastating for your muscle memory it can ultimately cause you to create bad habits (i.e., poor form and shot placement) plummeting your confidence into the dirt.
If shooting at home is not an option, try joining a league at your local pro shop this winter. For years, the highlight of my week was going to Crooked Creek Outdoors (here in my hometown of Macomb, IL.) to shoot with my buddies! The comradery, the razzing, the fellowship that is involved in joining a league is something I miss doing and hope to get back into this year. I am admitting my own faults here, but also have targets at my house to shoot. If you are one of those people that say you aren’t a “paper puncher,” I would like to hear your reasons as to why. Maybe you don’t like shooting paper targets because you fear the outcome. Perhaps, shooting paper exposes some target panic, or other minute flaws that you have. If any of these are the reasons, embrace them and learn from them! Shoot in a league this winter and get over that target panic or fix slapping the trigger. Not only can you work on your shooting it also keeps you mindful of the proper care and upkeep of your equipment. Just remember complacency will come back to haunt you. You do not want to find as hunting season approaches the excitement quickly fading because your bow string has mysteriously broken. Had you been practicing and properly maintaining your equipment, more than likely, this would not have occurred.
Off- season shooting keeps us in tune with our equipment and techniques. If you pick up your bow next September and your group is eight inches high and four inches right, you’re not doing something that you were doing last year. Immediately you start to wonder what is wrong, which is not a confidence booster. This winter I encourage you to take that leap and committing to your passion. I don’t know about everyone, but I know I personally put a lot of time and effort into hunting. Shooting is something that a lot of people take for granted. It takes the smallest effort and the least amount of effort. Yet can cause you the biggest heartache of your life. Don’t get me wrong, don’t think that shooting year around will solve all your problems. If you hunt with a bow long enough, things will happen, you will miss, you will wound a deer. It’s the nature of the beast. As an archery hunter we owe it to not only ourselves but to the animals we are hunting to make a quick, clean, ethical harvest.
In closing I would like to give some tips that I have found useful over my years of shooting. Comfort is the biggest thing. If the bow is not the right draw length, you are sacrificing accuracy. If you feel a little scrunched and find yourself “leaning to your string” your draw length could need extended. If you feel a little over extended or have to lean your head back to get your anchor, your draw length could be too long. A good tip for proper draw length is to grab a buddy and have them stand behind you while drawing your bow. If your rear arm is not in a straight line with the string coming off the top cam, you could potentially have a draw length issue. If you experience this, take it to your local shop and have them take a look at it. After comfort comes mechanics. If you have poor mechanics, there is no way to get consistent impact on the target. Slapping the trigger, target panic, inconsistent anchor and sight alignment are all intricate parts of your form. If they are not consistently executed, they can throw your shot placement off by six inches or more. Any multitude of the above mistakes while you’re at full draw on your target buck, could possibly make your worst nightmare become reality.
Practicing all year around keeps you in tune, your mechanics fresh, and always striving for perfection to be a great shot. Muscle memory is also key in archery. We all have a checklist we go through when drawing our bow. My personal list is as follows: “Anchor, knuckle right behind the jawbone with the kisser button in the corner of the mouth. Concentrate on peep alignment with the sight housing, check the level while finding the correct pin for yardage. Next, settle the pin on a spot, when the pin settles squeeze until the shot goes off.” Make your own checklist and go through it every time you pull the bow back. Burn it into your brain, take hundreds of shots while executing your checklist. Say it out loud in the beginning if you need to. Shoot everyday if you can, it will only benefit you. When the weather gets nice, round up some buddies and go hit a 3D shoot. Be competitive, be confident. As the sun’s setting, you’re the only person to blame when the shot hits where the pin wasn’t!
Thanks, and don’t forget to support your local archery/pro shops!!!