As bow hunting came to and end here in Maryland on 31 January I started my routine of practicing with my bow in preparation for the next hunting season. Although I don't consider myself Robin Hood by any stretch of the imagination, I have improved at hunting whitetail deer hunting with a bow over the past 10 years.
I’ve gone from having to track most of the deer I’ve shot with a bow to actually seeing them expire in front of me as close as 30 yards away. I equate hunting whitetail deer with a bow to golf. I don't think I’ll ever perfect it, but I have a lot of fun trying. It requires a lot of planning and forethought, preparation both mental and physical, and practice throughout the year. A good friend of mine taught me the basics of shooting bow about 10 years ago. Although I had been hunting for more than twenty years before, I had never been taught the correct way to shoot or the importance of practice.
He first taught me to shoot with my eyes closed about 5 yards away from the target. It's amazing the difference between shooting a bow with your eyes open and your eyes closed. At first it is a bit awkward but you get use to it, you learn balance and the feel of the bow while you’re drawing and releasing the arrow. I draw my bow by squeezing my shoulder blades together while relaxing my arms. After I come to full draw I focus on squeezing the release and following through before I open my eyes. I practice this every time I shoot.
Next I shoot with my eyes open at 10, 20, and 30 yards. I only shoot until I start to feel tired or start shooting larger groups. I find that it is counterproductive and a blow to my confidence when I continue to shoot when I’m tired.
I try to practice shooting in different positions and simulate situations that may occur while I’m hunting. Keep in mind it won't always be possible to shoot from a text book stance. You may have to shoot around trees, under limbs, up or down hills.
Most of my practice occurs from February to June. July and August can be extremely hot. I look for indoor range opportunities these two months, which results in less practice opportunities. I pick up the pace in August at which point I break out my broadheads and fine tune my skills and my bow for the start of the season on 15 September.
Once the season starts practice doesn't stop. I shoot at least once a week to make sure I’m still hitting the 10 ring and as cooler/colder weather sets in I practice wearing heavier gear. You’d be amazed by the noises your extra clothing might make or the difficulty drawing your bow with all your cold weather gear on.
Make no mistake, successfully shooting at a motionless target in no way shape or form insures success in the woods. I know people that can shoot the 10 ring at 50 & 60 yards with a bow but have missed deer at 10 yards. I’ve always said if you haven't missed, you aren't shooting or you’re lying. I sincerely believe the success I’ve had over the past 10 years can be directly contributed to my commitment to practicing throughout the year. We all owe it to ourselves and the game we hunt to be as proficient as possible with our weapons of choice. Remember practice almost makes perfect!!