So you are getting better with your archery equipment. You are now shooting consistent groups out to 50 yards and the center of your target is getting a little worn and your confidence is rising. Are you feeling ready to hunting season and for that final kill shot on your quarry? You should only be feeling ready if you have been stepping out of your comfort zone and practicing shooting from a wide variety of shooting positions, elevations, terrain features, and lighting conditions that will be present out in the field.
The truth of the matter is, any shot on live animals is likely going to leave you shooting from or into less than ideal conditions. It is easy to condition yourself in your yard or at the range to falling into the routine of getting your feet set properly in a standing position, obtaining proper yardage, going through the motions, and releasing your arrow into your tight groups. If you are not finding yourself training to shoot outside of these ideal conditions into more realistic scenarios, you may be doing yourself a disservice when that one shot on your animal needs to count.
In order to best prepare yourself for your upcoming hunt, let’s go over different conditions to find yourself practicing under so that you may best prepare for the unexpected and when it really counts. So let’s jump into ways to improve your next practice session.
Practicing Shooting Positions
Surely, the most comfortable and likely most accurate shooting position may be a firm standing position built out of consistent practice. But have you thought about real life hunting situation shot opportunities? The reality of getting a shot on game in real life scenarios from a proper standing position may be limited.
To best prepare for the unexpected, try to practice shooting from a large variety of shooting positions. The first and easiest position to try shooting from may be a kneeling position. Often, when putting a stalk on your quarry, you will find yourself low to the ground in the final moments and will not be able to stand for the final shot without totally scaring off your quarry. Even when sitting in a ground blind, it may often be necessary to stay concealed and shoot from a low position on your knees.
Another more challenging position you may find yourself in and needing to make a shot from is a fully seated position. While this position is less accurate and comfortable to shoot from, you may very well find yourself seated against a tree with legs fully extended when that trophy animal walks in front of you, leaving you no option but to shoot from where you sit. Be sure to practice for this uncomfortable shot.
On your next practice session, incorporate a variety of shooting positions into your shooting routine. Within the same batch of arrows, try to make shots from standing, kneeling, and sitting positions to better dial in your shot consistency when the shot scenario may not be so consistent.
Practicing Shooting Scenarios
Although the shooting lanes at the archery range are clear and free from physical barriers or obstructions, scenarios in the field will rarely lead to such conditions. The fact of the matter is when hunting, you may find yourself shooting over, under, around, and between an infinite variety of obstacles between you and your quarry. To practice for this, set up obstacles or utilize existing obstacles to simulate real life scenarios.
Try setting up scenarios such as shooting around an object and imagining the animal walking past it to present you with a final shot. Also try shooting under and over objects to determine what kind of path your arrow may take. Don’t fall victim to not practicing for this and having your arrow strike an above branch and burying into the dirt because you didn’t have a full understanding of your arrows path of trajectory. In some situations, the vitals of an animal could be completely obscured, but if you have practiced and are knowledgeable in your arrow’s path of trajectory and your distance, you may be able to thread your arrow over the obstruction and into the vitals if you have practiced for it. I also like to do these archery workouts and it significantly helped me to improve my accuracy.
In addition to practicing for a variety of shot positions and scenarios, also take into consideration additional variables that may complicate shots. Take ambient lighting for example; many shots on game are made at the dawn and dusk hours of the day when game is most often active. If all of your practice occurs during the day or under artificial light, you may not be well prepared enough for making that early morning shot on your trophy.
This is a very easy one to practice for though. If you have not already, consider trying to conduct some practice sessions at dawn or dusk hours if you are outside, this will allow you to determine your accuracy and comfort level in those twilight conditions. If all you have access to is an indoor range, see if there isn’t a way to dim the lights to simulate those natural conditions.
In addition to ambient lighting, there are a number of other different scenarios that may affect your ability to shoot accurately that most people don’t prepare for. One of which is shooting in bulky clothing that you may be wearing in cold or rainy conditions. It is always a good idea to practice in the clothes you will be wearing while hunting, and especially so for bulky clothing that has a higher likelihood of negatively affecting your shooting ability. So get out there, practice in your cold weather gear even if it is blazing hot; practice in your rain gear under bright sunshine and be the best-prepared one for the final shot in the field.
If all of your shooting practice happens at a level surface with your target and you plan to hunt out of a tree stand later in the season, you may be setting yourself up for failure. The key is to practice for the shots you plan to take. If you plan on hunting from an elevated surface, it is absolutely paramount to practice for such. Arrow trajectory and relative yardage become much different when large elevational differences come into play. If you don’t have a tree stand practice area, try parking your car near your target and shooting from the roof of it. If that isn’t possible, try to practice shooting from the roof of your house or any other elevated surface.
Even if you don’t plan on hunting from a tree stand, it is still smart to practice varying elevation shots. You never know when you will have that steep downhill or uphill close-range shot that you are confident you will be able to make; only to find a clean blood-free arrow in the dirt because you weren’t aware of the different flight trajectory characteristics that may come into play in these scenarios.
If you are new or old to archery hunting alike and plan on getting out in the field to harvest some game, be sure to incorporate variability into your practice routine. Conditions in the field are variable and every changing, and to practice shooting for anything other than variable conditions is doing yourself a serious disservice. When the final moments come down between you and your quarry that you plan to harvest, you want to be confident that the shot which presents itself is one that you have already prepared for. It’s a simple concept really; practice for the shots you plan to take.