Randy Ulmer’s Guide To Field Shooting Success

February 2nd, 2009 / Posted by David
Randy Ulmer’s Guide To Field Shooting Success

By Bob Robb

There are few things in this world that you can really count on. Death. Taxes. The wind switching at just the wrong moment. And Randy Ulmer making the shot.
Whether it be in the final round of a high-dollar professional 3D tournament, a big money “dot shoot” against the world’s very best archers, or an weird-angle, wind-howling, through-a-hole-in-the-brush shot at a small piece of a monster bull elk’s chest, Hoyt USA Pro Staff member Ulmer makes it look easy. He’s also one of the classiest men you’ll ever meet, someone who’s always accessible and willing to help others become a better shooter.

Here’s a typical Ulmer bowhunting scenario:
“A couple of years ago I shot a really nice bull elk in Arizona,” Ulmer said. “I got into his herd at first light on opening morning, but things just weren’t right and I couldn’t approach them. So I had to follow the herd for maybe a half mile through the thick junipers. Pretty soon I could hear the bull start to violently rake a tree. When this happens, it’s generally a great time to make your move, so I slipped in on him really quick. I got to within 12 yards, but I couldn’t find any shooting lanes in the thick brush. Finally I got down on my knees and looked down below the brush, and found was one small opening. By then I was sitting down, and had to cant my bow significantly to the side to make the shot through that six-inch hole. I was actually shooting uphill at that point. Even though I was shaking like a leaf, I concentrated, and my arrow found its mark.”

Realistic Practice A Must
Ulmer tells the story to illustrate the key component for consistently accurate shooting at game — practice under simulated field conditions. “For bowhunters, it’s very important to practice to be a good target shooter, but both bull’s eyes and 3D are not all the practice you need to have ,” Ulmer said. “In those games you shoot most all your shots from a standing position from flat ground. As a bowhunter it’s very important to practice all sorts of off-balance shots, including uphill, downhill, kneeling, sitting, torso twisted around, off-balance, and so on. You have to learn to let your bow make the shot even when you’re in an awkward position.”

First, however, you have to build an equipment base upon which to take your shooting to this next level. “First and foremost, you have to have good equipment that’s well tuned and functioning properly,” Ulmer said. “Most bow makers make a good product today, if you buy at the mid-price point or above to ensure you have a quality bow. You need to make sure your bow-and-arrow set-up is well-tuned, because even if you make a good shot and it isn’t properly tuned you probably will not hit your target.”

The Mental Check List

Randy Ulmer is one of todays most accomplished archers. As one of the top 3-D shooters in the world, his tips are valued by bowhunters and tournament archers.

Randy Ulmer is one of todays most accomplished archers. As one of the top 3-D shooters in the world, his tips are valued by bowhunters and tournament archers.

Ulmer begins his shooting regimen with a mental check list. “When I’m shooting in a tournament, I try and let my subconscious take over,” Ulmer said. “But during practice I do go through a mental check list. Archery is a sport that if you forget to do one little thing during the shot, that shot is going to suffer. It’s a sport that requires a lot of maintenance on yourself, meaning you always have to be working on your shooting form, etc . I actually carry a written check list with me, and look at it all the time during practice sessions.”

Ulmer concentrates on relaxing his hands and shoulders. “I take a deep breath as I nock my arrow and hook my release up,” he said. “Before I draw the bow I take another deep breath, and as I let it out I try to relax everything, but especially my hands. I draw back, anchor, as I anchor I make sure I’m looking through the peep’s center. I check for relaxation in my hands again, and also my face . I’m trying to allow the bow to shoot itself. My only job as a shooter is to point the bow. If I do this my equipment will do the job. One thing you should always remember is that if you have well-matched and properly-tuned equipment, if you don’t do something wrong during the shot, the equipment will hit where you want it to every time, assuming your yardage guess is right.

“It’s also important to let the bow ‘float’ — that is, don’t try and make it hold still on the exact spot you’re trying to hit,” Ulmer said. “No one can hold a bow totally still. The key is to not decide when to let the arrow go, but be a bit surprised when the arrow does finally take off. It’s a lot like squeezing the trigger on a rifle. I figure that as I’m aiming my bow I have somewhere between 5-10 seconds when the arrow will leave the bow, I’m just not exactly sure when. Now, in a hunting situation you obviously have to control that release moment sometimes. But when ‘building a base’ to learn to shoot well, it’s important to learn to shoot a surprise release.”

Proper Shooting Form Critical
Ulmer is a stickler for proper shooting form. “Without good form, you’ll never reach your full potential as a shooter,” Ulmer emphasized. “To simplify good form, think of your body as a capital ‘T.’ As you stand you want your shoulders over your hips, which are over your feet, so your entire body is straight up and down. Don’t lean back. Your arms should form almost a perfect ‘T’ with your torso when you’re shooting, with nothing out of alignment. Your release (trigger) arm elbow and forearm should be in perfect alignment with the arrow shaft, and on the same level as the bow arm.

Keep the feet comfortably spread, about shoulder width. The bow hand should be placed into the bow so that it won’t torque the bow at the shot. Also, there should be no interference with the bow string on it’s entire path, whether it be face, nose, chest, or forearm. The string must be free, which allows the bow to perform without interference from the shooter. And in everything, make sure you have ‘light’ touch, with no overbearing heavy-handedness.”

The key to perfect shooting is to release the arrow exactly the same way, every time , Ulmer said. “By using proper form, it will make it more likely for us to repeat every shot the same each time,” he said. “Really, shooting a bow is very simple. We just often try too hard to make it happen by grabbing it and forcing the bow, rather than relaxing and letting the equipment do the work for us.”

Controlling Buck Fever
If you don’t get buck fever, you shouldn’t be bowhunting, Ulmer said. The key is controlling it. “The best way to control buck fever is the same way we control the rest of our shot — through realistic practice ,” Ulmer said. “The more you do something, the easier it will become, over time. You learn to deal with it. Of course you’ll still get nervous, that’s part of the game, but that’s OK if you can make it a positive, not a negative.

“The way I do that is during practice sessions at home,” Ulmer said. “Conjure up a situation, make yourself nervous. That’s a positive, if you maintain your shooting form and concentrate. I like to practice with friends, and find that really helps, too. We have little competitions where we can say anything we want to each other when at full draw and aiming. It’s very tough to keep from losing composure when you’re trying not to laugh or they’re making fun of your chicken legs, but that helps you keep your composure when you’re thinking about something else or when your concentration has been broken.”

Tree Stand Shooting Success
“When shooting from a tree stand, remember the ‘T’ form,” Ulmer said. “Bend from the waist, and try to maintain the relationship between arm and torso. Even though you’re bent at the waist the arms should still be a 90-degree angle from the torso. Bending from waist is the key to consistent shooting from elevated stands. Remember, we’re trying to maintain the same form as it relates to the bow on every shot. And it’s the same for uphill shots.”

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