Are you a bow hunter by heart? Do you dream of killing a Pope and Young class animal with the weapon that provides the most challenge? How do you prepare?
I started bow hunting at the age of 14. And for the last 25 years, bow hunting has been my passion. I've hunted with firearms. But nothing gives me the thrill and satisfaction like harvesting an animal with my bow and arrow. I've been privileged enough to go to Canada and kill a black bear with my bow. I've traveled to Illinois, Missouri, and Pennsylvania in search of Whitetails with my bow. I've even been to Colorado chasing after Mule Deer and Elk with my bow.
One thing I've learned over the years is, to be a successful bow hunter, it takes dedication and commitment. It's one thing to go out in the yard and fling a few arrows at the target and get to where you can hit the broad side of the barn with no one watching. But how good is good enough? I am amazed each year at how many people that bow hunt don't pull their equipment out of the closet until a few days before the season opens and hardly practice at all. I remember a few years back going with some buddies hunting on opening day of bow season. We pull up to the farm and get out and start getting our gear together. One of my buddies opens his case and to his surprise, his string was broke. With discouragement, he just looks at us and says 'Wonder when that happened? I guess I should have pulled my bow out to practice before now huh?'
One thing that drives me batty is when I hear people talking about their practice and then hearing them say 'it's a good enough shot to kill a deer.' Forgive me if I offend you when I say this, but how can you know its good enough? I've seen deer shot straight through the heart with a 300 Winchester Magnum run for a country mile because of adrenaline rush. And then, I've seen deer shot in the gut that may have only ran 100 yards. Who are we to say what good enough is? I say that good enough, is placing a shot consistently in the vital area to insure a quick and ethical kill. We owe it to the animal to be as accurate as we can be. There's enough trouble with anti-hunters in the world already today. Why would we want to empower them with any more ammunition to attack us with by not being at the top of our game?
As I stated before, I've been shooting a bow for a long time. And for a number of years, I just practiced in the yard, hoping to keep my shots in a coffee can sized group when shot anywhere from 10 to 40 yards away. Occasionally, friends or family members would join me in the yard for a little friendly competition and would give a little 'under pressure' training. I mean, what better way is there to prepare you for when the moment of truth arrives and your about to make the shot on the buck of a lifetime.
Depending on where I plan to hunt, determines how I want to practice. For whitetails here in the south, I hardly ever would take a shot over 30-35 yards. For Whitetails on the edge of a corn field in Illinois, the range might be 50 yards. For Elk and Mule Deer I may push myself to practice at ranges up to 80 yards away. I remember playing sports as a kid and one my coaches said this 'practice like you play.' It rings true in so many aspects of life, but definitely so in bow hunting. If you shoot from an elevated tree stand, it would be beneficial to practice from an elevated position some of the time. If the weather is cold when your hunting season is in, requiring you to bundle up in extra clothes, then it would be helpful for you to practice in heavy clothing.
Now there's tons of ways to practice and train you, but one way I like best is to simulate what I will be doing with my bow. I am a bow hunter. I'm not an Olympic archer. I don't shoot Indoor Vegas rounds. FITA and NFAA isn't quite my niche. I give those men and women that participate in those forms of archery huge credit though. For me, however, 3D archery is where I feel at home. It's friendly competition that pushes and drives you to be better. It causes you to shoot for that quarter or silver dollar sized spot rather than just aiming at the side of the animal. Its something you can do, either as a group of friends or as a family.
Here in the state of Georgia, from January to August I can just about find a local 3D archery shoot on most any weekend. These shoots are hosted by local archery clubs and pro shops and are great ways of getting to know people and sharing in the sport of archery. You don't have to be a professional level shooter to shoot 3D either. Most 3D shoots follow either ASA or IBO rules. Whichever organization the club may follow, there are different classes that you can enter based on your age, gender, experience level or equipment used. For those who really get caught up in it and love to shoot and compete, there are also National level shoots that one can attend.
Hope to see you on the range one day!