Perfected Archery Technique For Every Bowhunting Shot

June 1st, 2010 / Posted by David
Perfected Archery Technique For Every Bowhunting Shot

Bowhunting is not a game of inches, it is a game of fractions of an inch. Getting yourself in position for a shot takes a lot of hard work. What happens next can affect the outcome of your whole season. Beyond woodsmanship, your ability to handle your tackle with proficiency is the most important.

It takes many hours of practice to become a top of the food chain predator with a bow and arrow. But practice alone isn’t enough, you have to reinforce the right techniques – the ones that have been proven to produce success. Eventually your natural shooting form will take on these qualities and you won’t have to think about it. When the moment of truth comes, you’ll be able to act quickly and decisively.

Relaxing Through The Shot

Concentration on a single small aiming point is the aspect of shooting that brings all the other elements together.

Many archers go wrong by grabbing the grip when they release the bowstring. It is an involuntary reaction that naturally creeps into the shot and destroys consistency. Focus on keeping your bow hand relaxed throughout the shot. Use a bow sling so that you don’t have to worry about dropping the bow while working on this important skill. Don’t force your hand to stay open, just keep it relaxed and let your fingers hang naturally.

Tension in the bow arm makes steady aiming difficult. Any tension in your body is transmitted through a rigid bow arm right to the bow, as if it were a hyper-sensitive antennae. If you can keep your bow arm very relaxed throughout the shot your accuracy will improve greatly. Consider bending it slightly (just enough to unlock the elbow) so it be softer and act as a tension insulator instead of a tension transmitter.

Many bowhunters have the bad habit of dropping their bow arms just after they release. Eventually this creeps into the shot earlier and earlier until it becomes a chronic problem. My buddy Dan does this, and it has cost him two really nice bucks during the past two seasons. On both bucks he shot just under the deer’s chest at less than 20 yards!

The shot isn’t over until the arrow hits the target, so hold your form with a steady bow arm until impact for optimum accuracy. Increased strength is the key to relaxing at full draw, so maintain a regular practice schedule. Your maximum bow weight can make a difference here too. It’s impossible to hold your aim steady if you’re straining with too much poundage. Sometimes being over-bowed even prevents you from getting a shot. Being involved in the warranty department at PSE, Terry Ragsdale hears many strange claims, but he remembers one in particular.

“A hunter sent back his bow, claiming that the cams were freezing up,” he said. “With absolute sincerity, the hunter told of a nice deer approaching his stand, and of his inability to draw the bow. Even though they worked fine before and after that incident, he honestly believed the cams had somehow locked up. Cool weather and excitement got the better of him, and he didn’t have the strength to draw.”

Letting Go
Because the timing of the shot is often more important than pinpoint accuracy under many bowhunting conditions, your release method is likely to be a bit more abrupt than if you were focusing on target shooting form. Don’t get jerky, however. When shooting a release aid, keep the trigger pull smooth, but don’t get too hung up trying to squeeze off a surprise-release. With fingers, get into the habit of relaxing the back of your string hand to trigger the shot rather than trying to voluntarily open your hand.

Focus Brings It Together

Ragsdale is widely regarded as one of the world’s best bow shots, and he is quick to point out that there is no such thing as perfect shooting form. “Walk up and down the line of any major tournament,” he said, “and you’ll see people shooting with all different kinds of form, but they all shoot very well. Consistency is more important than any particular form.”

On the other hand, Terry is a firm believer in “aiming hard” when shooting at targets, as well as game animals. Aiming hard is his term for focusing undivided attention on the small spot he wants to hit. He feels it is one of the most critical skills for the bowhunter and surely the one element that brings everything together for a great shot at game.

Realistic Practice

Just as you wouldn’t expect a professional football team to head into a big game without at least a certain amount of full-dress scrimmaging against the “scout” team, you shouldn’t enter the bow season without a few dress rehearsals of your own. Duplicating the conditions of the hunt during practice pays some very important dividends, as I found out (once again) a few seasons ago.

The grip should be relaxed. Let your fingers hang naturally without forcing them to straighten. Avoid grabbing the grip when you release the string.

The big 10 pointer was following the line of does past my stand toward the unharvested bean field beyond. With only a few minutes left in legal shooting time, I was glad they were walking quickly. Just before he got to my shooting lane I drew my bow and aimed through the peep sight. I was shocked to find that the buck was about as well defined as a drifting shadow. The pin was a fiber optic model, but not one of the brighter styles on the market. I could barely see the pin as I aimed. Thrown off by the situation, I failed to concentrate well enough. OK, I panicked. As the buck passed less than 20 yards away, I rushed the shot – sending an arrow right in front of his chest.

I had gotten lazy in my preparation for the season and had skipped my usual low-light practice sessions. I should have discovered the pins weren’t bright enough, and the peep too restrictive for optimal hunting. It was a painful lesson I won’t soon forget.

Not only should you practice in low light, but you should also wear your hunting clothes a few times. What you find out in late summer and early fall may prevent your string from catching a loose flap of cloth, or a chest pocket, ruining your shot at a giant buck. If you’ll be hunting from a tree stand, practice from an elevated position. For many bowhunters, arrow impact changes when they shoot down at the target. Make sure you find this out before the season.

“Consistency is more important than any particular form.”

Practice at unknown distances in order to improve your range estimation skills. For most experienced bowhunters, getting the correct range is the hardest part of any accurate shot in the field. The more you can practice this important skill, the better you’ll perform this fall. 3-D shooting is the perfect tune-up for hunting. You’ll become better at judging distance, and you’ll have a great opportunity to debug your hunting bow. Everyone seems to be using customized tackle in an effort to score higher in this summertime sport. That’s great, but if you do that, just make sure to switch to your hunting rig as you get closer to the season.

When practicing, focus all your attention on each and every arrow. According to Terry Ragsdale, “As the season approaches you need to bump up the practice regimen. Shoot 75 to 100 arrows each day, for the last week or two, to gain the strength needed to hold the bow steady. Don’t get lazy on a single shot; shoot each arrow with intense concentration. Find something small to aim at with each shot and focus hard on it.”

There are few things more exciting than making a tough shot when the chips are down. But the satisfaction comes with a price tag attached. To be a consistently deadly bowhunter, many hours must be spent during the off-season perfecting technique.

If you are shooting downhill at 20 degrees treat a 40 yard shot as if it were 36 yards.

Handling Uphill And Downhill Shots

Whether your shot is sharply uphill or sharply downhill, the challenge is the same. Unless you remember to compensate by aiming low, you’ll miss high.

Downhill: When shooting down a 40 degree slope you must use your 30 yard pin to hit right on the mark at 40 yards. Most bowhunters wouldn’t allow for this much compensation – a factor that has, no doubt, contributed to the longevity of more than one bull elk or wide-racked muley. If the downslope flattens to 20 degrees, you must treat a 40 yard shot as if it were only 36 yards.

Uphill: Intuitively most bowhunters wouldn’t expect the same situation when shooting uphill as downhill, but from an aiming standpoint, they are nearly identical. Your arrow will hit high unless you aim low. A 40 yard shot up a 40 degree slope requires you to aim as if the intended target was only 31 yards away. If the upslope is a more gradual 20 degrees, aim as if the target were 37 to 38 yards away.

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