Three Great Ways to Make Off-Season Shooting Practice Fun

Change your angles and distances when practicing during the off-season so you'll be ready for almost anything.

Change your angles and distances when practicing during the off-season so you’ll be ready for almost anything.

Deer season is right around the corner and despite the summer heat, most hunters already are thinking about getting things in order, prepping mineral sites and getting bows or rifle scopes dialed in at the range.

Florida’s South Zone deer season opened July 30 — yep, you read that correctly! — so the season actually has arrived. It’s hotter than blue blazes down there and about as humid as can be, but the bucks are chasing does and the season is open. Yippie!

The rest of the country is still getting geeked for their season openers, though. If you’re getting ready with your bow or gun, make your practice sessions more fun with these tips.

Shoot Exploding Targets
When I was a youngster my father would fill milk jugs full of water, cap them and put the on the table or hay bale at 50 and 100 yards. When the .308 bullet hit, the explosion was big and fun to see. Kids like that kind of stuff. To make it challenging, he’d lay the milk jug on its side and put a black dot on the red lid. “Shoot the dot,” he said, and the old mantra of “Aim small, miss small” was reinforced. I still do this today, too. Even at 50 years old it’s still fun to see them explode.

Use milk jugs with water, cheap cans of soda (shake well!), or smaller targets such as eggs or old fruit like oranges or grapefruits. Ask at your local grocery store to see if they have any old fruit or vegetables. Shoot a beet or avocado at 25 or 50 yards and see what happens!

Try smashing targets with a slug gun, too, like this awesome Ithaca Deerslayer:

Practice With Your Season Gear
This may be tough to think about with apparel with the summer heat, but you can use your other gear such as releases, quivers, stabilizers and such on your bow. If you’re shooting a rifle, slip on your hunting jacket for a few shots. Give everything a good workout. If your buddy has a release or broadheads you’d like to try, now is the time.

In-Ground Blinds has a cool selection of accessories for ground hunting, bows and rifles.

In-Ground Blinds has a cool selection of accessories for ground hunting, bows and rifles.

If you enjoy hunting from the ground, check out the In-Ground Blinds products for gun and bow hunters. In-Ground Blinds has a cool shooting rest for guns, a nifty stabilizer and bow stand for compound bows (with an extension arm, too), waterproof winter blanket, and a cool hunting blind seat that goes in the ground.

Now is the time to use these products to get accustomed to them, install the in-ground blind, or practice with any other accessories you’ll be using this season.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
if you’ve always practiced with your bow from a standing position in the yard 20 yards from a square Block target, that’s all you have in your mind. That may be good for muscle repetition and consistency but for variety, it’s not helpful. Not every shot in the woods will be 20 yards, broadside, perfect with nothing between you and the deer.

If you can, find a 3D range with elevated platforms or stands (wear your harness!) or maybe join a 3D club. Where I live, the Alabama Society of Traditional Bowmen have a few trad bow events every year and a walking course. These recurve and stickbow guys are doggone good. They shoot small peccary and beaver targets to big deer, but from different distances and angles. It’s good practice. Search for your state bowhunting association or 3D events or check at your local archery store.

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