No athlete shows up on game day simply relying on their performance last game to get them through.
They do strength exercises and skills sharpening.
As a bow hunter you should do no less.
There are many drills to try – an endless number, no less, some of them more worthwhile than others but all of them aimed at improving your performance.
To get the most out of your training sessions you should try to give it some structure. Don’t simply stand in front of your target and simply start firing arrows at it.
Practicing over a series of set distances will benefit you in a couple of very important aspects that will be crucial when you’re out in the field.
- You will develop a good feel for recognizing the distances
- You will understand how the arrow will fly over these distances
Distance estimation is an art that becomes easier the more shooting you do.
Setting up your target and then moving your shooting position to a variety of distances such as 10 yards, 20 yards and 30 yards will start embedding those distances in your mind. It will soon become second nature to recognize when you are at the 10 yard distance every time you reach it.
This will work with any type of target, of course, but bag targets are the easiest to pick up and relocate when you need to move them.
The type of practice you do will differ depending on whether you use a fixed pin or an adjustable pin bow sight.
Let’s look at both where we will set out a few basic drills that will provide great training in preparation for your next hunting trip.
One of the best ways to toughen up your shooting is to practice blind-baling.
It involves shooting at a target butt with no target on it with your eyes closed. Obviously, you’re going to stand quite close to the target so you don’t miss.
The idea is to forget about hitting a certain spot on a target and instead focus solely on your form. Getting your feet into the correct position, properly spaced apart. That you have a relaxed hand placement with a smooth draw. You’re trying to achieve an easy, repeatable action and a clean release.
The purpose is to concentrate on your body and not the target and where the arrow hits.
It’s a great way to eliminate problems such as target panic, hand torque and the like.
Bow Sight Familiarization
Training With A Fixed Pin Bow Sight
The key to successfully hunting with a fixed pin bow sight is being comfortable with your distance estimation as well as using all pins in your sight housing.
If you know for certain your 10, 20 and 30 yards (or whatever you’ve got your pins set to) you’re on your way to hitting your target where you’re aiming.
Set your shooting stations up at the known distances you have set your pins as.
Move from one station to the next, perfecting your shot on each pin.
The other important skill to nail with your fixed pin sight is the ability to hit the gaps with great accuracy.
In other words, to estimate the odd distances and then compensate by shooting just over or under your pins.
Assuming you’ve marked out your shooting stations as described above, practicing gap shooting should just be a matter of moving to a spot between the stations and making your shot.
Determining a hit or a miss will be a matter of personal choice, but it really should be a small window of around 8 inches.
Training With An Adjustable Pin Bow Sight
For the purpose of this conversation we will assume that you have already sighted in your bow and your pin is set at 10 yards.
The aim of your practice session is to become more comfortable with adjusting the sight and getting the new distance right.
One of the perceived faults of adjustable pin bow sights is they are too slow for hunting. The process of dialling in a certain distance just takes too long and the deer will either have move again or has long gone.
With the sharpening of your skills with your adjustable bow sight comes the confidence to quickly and accurately make the adjustment without losing too much time.
So, to the training drill.
The ideal situation is that you have 3 targets set up at 3 different distances, for example at 10 yards, 12 yards and 17 yards.
Start off at the 10 yard mark and take your shot.
Next, the scenario is that your target has wandered away a further 7 yards to 17 yards. Make the adjustment on your slider sight. Set up and take your 17 yard shot at the furthest target.
Finally, the target has come closer to the 12 yard mark. Again, make the necessary adjustment and take your final shot.
There is a dual goal of speed and accuracy at play here.
You’re trying to develop your ability to quickly adjust your sight pin to the correct setting and then take your shot and hitting the spot every time.
Each training session, the targets should be placed at a different sequence of distances giving you the benefit of having to make a different set of adjustments each time.
In no time at all your ability to rapidly adjust the pin will make it seem like second nature.
Similarly, your ability to gauge distance will also improve.
Real Life Target Training
Training With 3D Targets
It’s the closest to shooting the real thing and gives you the vitals and size reference of the animals you will be hunting.
And don’t just practice on the flat ground. If you are a treestand hunter, make an elevated position and start shooting from there.
If you have a 3d deer target with vitals displayed this will give you a chance to work out just how difficult some shots are.
Shooting from an elevated position will help you to understand how the flight of an arrow is different than shooting on the flat.
This should actually be a mandatory part of your training process if the majority of your hunting is done from a tree stand.
Train With Broadheads
When you go out hunting it is highly unlikely you will be using field tips. So why would you train with field tips?
Your training should use the same broadheads you plan on using when you’re hunting. In fact, the entire arrow set-up – insert, outsert, nock, fletching…everything, should be as it will be when hunting.
This means you will need a target that will stand up to the trauma of broadheads.
Training with broadheads gives you the exact performance over distance you’re going to get while hunting.
You will become comfortable with the flight of the arrow set-up with your chosen broadheads. This translates into greater confidence when it’s showtime.
The best targets to use when shooting broadheads are the big chunky block style targets. They're designed to accept the punishment and will last for a long time.
Don't Stick With Round Numbers
It would be lovely if deer would stand exactly 10 or 20 yards away every single time, wouldn’t it?
Unfortunately they don’t.
Because they have a habit of popping up at odd distances it is important to have practiced over a variety of distances. And I mean all distances between 10 and 30 yards.
If you are a fixed pin shooter this will give you the opportunity to shoot the gaps between the pins.
It will quickly allow you to gauge just how accurately you’re estimating distance.
If you’re shooting with a slider sight this type of practice will be of huge benefit as you go through the process of changing the pin to match the distance.
The more often you make the adjustment and confirm with the shot at the target, the better the muscle memory and the more fluid the shot.
Practice From A Height
The type of training you do should depend on the type of hunting you do.
The idea is you want to replicate the conditions you will be hunting in as much as possible.
To be specific, we are thinking mostly about tree stand or saddle hunting and shooting down to the target from a height.
The ideal scenario is that you have the space and layout on your property to hang your tree stand or a ladder stand and do your practice from there.
Alternatively, if you have a raised deck you could set up to shoot from there.
Whatever way you set up your practice range the majority of shooting should be done from an elevated position so you can go through your stance and shooting routine.
It will also give you the all-important chance to use your sight, making the appropriate adjustments for shooting at a downward angle.
Practice From A Chair
A completely different scenario but one that requires just as much training is the ground blind hunter shooting from a chair.
If you’ve only ever used your bow from a standing position, the first time you sit in the confines of a hunting blind and attempt to take a shot is going to be…hectic.
The obvious solution is to spend regular sessions shooting at targets from a seated position.
Angles are going to be drastically different, your form is going to change and the stresses on different parts of your body – your back and your core – are going to be severe.
Reasons to Train Regularly
Get the repetition and muscle memory down
It’s all about maintaining the correct form. By repeating the good habits over and over again it will be easier to shoot with a higher level of consistency.
As hunting season gets closer reduce the number of arrows you shoot in a session. Go for quality over quantity and put everything you can into those few arrows.
Keep It Fresh
The most important thing about your training should be to mix it up to keep it both challenging and interesting.
Once you have dialed in your bow sight and confirmed that there are no issues with the bow you should be set to go through as many drills as you like.
It’s not necessarily about the number of arrows you shoot as it is how you shoot them and whether you’re learning as you go.
Making the most of every practice session should leave you supremely confident as you head out on your next hunt.