Practice makes perfect, especially when bow hunting. Every summer, good bow hunters launch thousands of arrows during practice sessions. Muscle memory and confidence build with every shooting session.
No matter how much we prepare, sometimes we miss. Whether you miss a shot or an opportunity, you go home hungry.
After walking 3 miles in the mountains of Montana, I had a great bull answer my bugle. My compound bow went to full draw at the first sight of “dancing antlers”. The bull stopped broadside at about 45 yards. It was a much longer shot than I normally take.
My release, peep, and sight were aligned…but which sight pin do I use? I was sitting on a log and shooting at a range I was only estimating. Should I call again to try for a closer shot? That moment of hesitation cost me that bull. He turned away and was gone. I missed an opportunity.
I have never shot a critter with my bow at over 20 yards. Yeah, I know there are a ton of guys that tag critters at 100 yards…but be real, why are you taking a bow shot better served with a rifle? Isn’t bow hunting about getting close?
Closer shots have higher odds for success. We all practice at longer ranges, but…things change in the field.
Judging distances takes practice, and I am always amazed at how often I’m wrong. Today I use a range finder to accurately determine distances. Trees, rocks, light, or open areas change with the position of the sun.
Practicing at a range, or in your mowed back yard from a level position, is not a realistic hunting shot. There are no play sets, picnic tables, and flower gardens in the hunting woods.
Most of us hunt from a seated tree stand position. Do you practice from a seated position as well?
When still hunting to your stand, buck encounters are common. Your first instinct is to get small and stealthy behind cover. Often, I find myself shooting from a kneeling position or behind a tree or rock.
Tree stand hunters are often sitting 10-20 feet off the ground. The shot’s angle is steep and must be adjusted. Do you practice shooting from an elevated seated position?
Try practicing in more realistic settings that match what you are likely to encounter.
I enjoy hunting large white mushrooms that grow in the area I bow hunt. These Frisbee-sized mushrooms explode when hit with a judo point tipped shaft. Use brightly colored older arrows for retrievable shots.
As I am scouting the area I plan to hunt, I spot an elusive giant mushroom and take a shot. This on-site practicing conditions me to range, adapt, and adjust shots accordingly. Mushroom whacking is also fun and trains you to locate your arrow after the shot.
Everything about practicing makes you a better and more ethical hunter. No one wants to be a crappy shot or hunter, so head outdoors and practice your art of hunting.
(Written by Montana Grant; Photo provided by Montana Grant)