|Practice is essential for hunting accuracy. However, after a while, shooting the same target, the same way, day after day, can get boring. If your practice time has gotten stale, try these offbeat tactics to tighten your groups and put a bit of spice back into your shooting sessions.
1. Shoot the Dots
I cringe every time I hear a bow-hunter say, “I ignore the antlers and pick out a hair.”
Really? You pick out a hair?
In reality, most bow-hunters have a “pie plate” mentality. If they can hit a pie plate at 20 yards, they’re happy. Sure, I agree with the principle of picking a hair. But unless you practice correctly, you’ll never pull it off.
Next time you’re at the local mega-mart, pick up a roll of ½-inch fluorescent stick-on target dots. Place several on your target and shoot at these instead of the large bullseyes. Shooting small dots increases your ability to narrow your focus on a much larger target.
2. Practice in Pairs
Next time you shoot, invite a buddy over (make sure they’re a competent archer). Then, take turns watching each other shoot. Check for a smooth of draw, relaxed grip, consistent anchor point, solid stance and proper follow-through. Stand to the side of the shooter, watching them, not the target. The idea is to analyze form, not where the arrows hit.
3. A Long Shot
A great way to improve accuracy is to increase your practice distance. While you read this often, it’s rare I meet someone who has given it a try.
If you’re comfortable to 20 yards, move your target to 40. If you’re confident to 40, move your target 80. Exponentially increasing your practice distance exposes your shooting ills. At 20 yards, torquing the grip usually isn’t noticeable. Move back to 40 and torque it. You’ll know.
When you are confident at longer distances, you’ll be amazed at how confident and consistent you will be for closer shots. You might also find yourself adding another pin to your sight.
4. We’re Stumped
When things get boring, I like to grab a handful of judo points and head to the woods with friends for some stump shooting.
Stump shooting is exactly what the name implies. Your targets are stumps, dead trees, rocks, pine cones, knots and whatever else tickles your fancy. The rules of the game are simple: Each participant calls a target and each person takes a turn shooting. Oh yeah, don’t use your range-finder until everyone has shot.
Stump shooting breaks the monotony of shooting the same old target, and it sharpens your ability to judge distance.
5. Shoot Some Foam
When foam 3-D targets first caught on, I read somewhere that they were the cure for buck fever. I’m still skeptical about that, but I do know shooting 3-D tournaments will aid in confidence and accuracy. Much like stump shooting, life-like targets staged against real hunting backdrops will help practice distances and prepare for real-life situations.
6. In Your Face
Although shooting long distances will help increase your accuracy, so will shooting exaggeratedly short distances. I know an ASA Women’s World Champion who shoots nothing more than a 5-yard bag during the off-season.
This up-close practice is designed specifically to build muscle memory, so concentrate on every aspect of your shot sequence. Plus, short distance practice sessions allow you to keep shooting when the weather outside isn’t cooperating.
7. Release Me
Try this: Next time you’re out practicing with a buddy, shoot a couple arrows using your friend’s release. This technique will often reveal a shooting ill or two.
Very few of us set our release tensions the same. So, using a friend’s release — with a different trigger tension — will quickly reveal if you’re punching the trigger or flinching at release. While this tip may sound very odd, give it a try.
One Day at a Time
Archery is a sport much like golf. It takes a significant time commitment to become proficient. There isn’t one world champion archer out there who doesn’t pick up a bow and shoot every day. The best in the world spend a part of every day practicing their craft. Take time each and every day to practice your shooting, whether it’s indoors, or outside in the back yard.
— Dr. Todd Kuhn is an avid bow-hunter from Maryland.
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