Archery Hunting Part III
I hope you all enjoyed my April Fool’s Day post about squirrel hunting, I enjoyed writing it. I actually had over 4,000 people read that story so far, and I still laugh thinking about it.
As we are now into April, the clock is ticking for fall hunting seasons, they will be here before we know it. I recently wrote two articles about getting started with archery hunting, Selecting Clothing for Archery Hunting, and Selecting a Bow, you can read those articles by clicking on the titles. Tonight I am going to write a final article in this series, and it’s about what to do next. You have your gear, now how do you get ready.
The most important thing you can do is start practicing now. Start at a range or somewhere else where you can shoot at a known distance. Start at 10 yards to get your mechanics working properly, meaning how you hold the bow, your draw action, your hold of the bow string at full draw, your anchor point on your cheek, your sighting of the target, and your release. As you begin, remember that you will do a lot of things wrong, but don’t be discouraged, instead learn from your mistakes and be patient. If you don’t have a mentor to teach you the basics, either go to an archery shop for advice, take an archery class, watch videos, and read. There is way too much to write to teach you detailed shooting instructions in this article, plus you will learn more effectively by watching or have someone show you.
Once you have the basic shooting motions down, it’s time to sight in your pins (shooting at 10 yards is pretty simple with a single pin in the general area). Begin shooting at 20 yards using your top sight pin. Don’t make any adjustments until you can get a consistent grouping of arrows, unless you are so far off the target that your pin is way out of alignment. Once you can get a grouping, you will begin to see how you need to adjust your sight. If you are shooting low, raise your pin a little bit at a time. If you are shooting high, lower the pin. If you are shooting to the left or right, move your pin in the direction you want to move your shots. Basically you move your pin in the direction you want your arrows to fly.
When your first pin is set accurately, keep shooting at 20 yards for a few practice sessions. One thing I should mention about your practice sessions; don’t overdo it, especially when you are just starting. Pulling a bow string back and holding a bow at full draw will use muscles that you are not used to using, and fatigue will affect your shooting. What is really important at this point is building confidence, and shooting when you are tired will destroy any confidence you have built to this point. Once you feel confident at 20 yards, move on to 30 yards and repeat the process of sighting your pin, and then again at 40 yards, all the while still practicing at the lower yardages. Those three pins should be good enough for you in your first few years of hunting, and you should be able to get all of your arrows within an 8 – 10 inch diameter target consistently before you consider yourself competent.
To this point, all of your shooting should have been done from the standing position. If you are confident in your shooting ability, it is time to try shooting from a kneeling position, and from a chair. Whether you hunt from a tree stand or not, it is good to be able to shoot from a sitting position as you may be sitting on a log having a pop tart when a big bull or buck comes into shooting range, and you don’t want to make a lot of movement.
After you are proficient at the different ranges and the different positions, it’s time to move away from shooting at known distances and practice at targets where you have to judge how far away they are. This can be done in a few ways. First, I always have my own target, and I will take it to a safe area with a safe backdrop and shoot from various distances that I have not measured off. This is good, but the best method for this is a walk-through 3-D range that has life-size animal targets that you come across as you walk the path of the range. This simulates hunting, at least the shooting part of it, as accurately as anything. If you don’t have a 3-D walk through range, stump shooting is another good way to practice this. Stump shooting is walking through the woods and shooting at stumps (or other objects safely) as you come across them. All of these methods will hone your ability to judge distance, shoot with the effects of wind, and adjust to elevation shooting uphill or downhill.
At this point, and it should be about three or four months, you should be shooting accurately from various distances, positions, and elevations. The next thing is to practice with broad heads that you will be hunting with. It is important throughout this process that you have practiced with field tips that match the weight of your broad heads so that your arrows fly the same. Shooting with broad heads is slightly different, so you need to be proficient just as you have become with field tips. Don’t stump shoot with broad heads though, it will destroy them.
The final thing to do is prepare yourself, both physically and mentally. Bow hunting is tough work, especially if you are going after elk or mule deer in the mountains; you have to be in excellent physical shape. But more importantly is how you think about the hunt itself; it is very different shooting at a living animal than it is shooting at an inanimate target. Your adrenaline will be rushing, you may be breathing hard after just climbing a ridge to intercept an elk, it may be raining or snowing, and yet you absolutely cannot take a shot that you are not 100% sure of. You owe it to the animal, and you owe it to yourself to only take a shot that you know you can make. It may be tempting to take a shot at a big buck that seems a little too far, or try to thread an arrow through some thick trees at a monster bull, but don’t do it, you will regret it if it ends poorly.
The main thing to remember about mental preparation is why you are there in the first place. Archery hunting is not for someone who just wants to fill the freezer; it’s for someone who wants to really experience the thrill of hunting up close with the animals, to build their hunting skills in a manner that allows them to get that close, and to hunt in a more primitive manner than shooting an animal 300 yards away. For me, those things are what I have enjoyed the most about archery hunting; it’s the experience more than the harvest. It’s the challenge, the internal determination, the endurance, and the sense of adventure that make archery hunting exciting for me. I hope you find the same experience.