Do you like to bow hunt? Me too. I enjoy everything about archery hunting; the challenge, early seasons, close-range encounters with deer, and the preparation. I believe every hunter should be extremely proficient with the weapon they go afield with, so I shoot my bow a lot. My Big Green Target is full of holes, and I know many guys and gals who can consistently hit the 10-ring on targets in their backyard or at the range from 30, 50 and even 70 yards. This shooting is important, and I routinely practice at distances greater than I’d shoot a deer from. Long-range shooting is excellent for developing and maintaining proper form. However, if you’d like to enhance your bow “hunting” abilities, then I have a new practice technique for you.
In addition to accurate shooting, one of the most important skills you can have as a bowhunter is the ability to consistently judge the distance to your target. I know everyone has a rangefinder, myself included, but if you hunt much you’ll find yourself in situations where you have to quickly judge distance without your electronic friend. Standing on level ground, judging distance in your mowed yard is easy. Judging distance in uneven terrain in woods and fields is different, so a little practice can pay big dividends.
I’ve spent plenty of time shooting at ranges and 3-D courses, and 3-D courses come the closest to real hunting situations, but I’ll describe something that’s even better. Get a target that you can throw, grab your bow, and get ready for some action. The included photos are of a Rinehart Field Target, and I like this one because it is durable, has an attached rope, and a flat spot on the bottom so it (almost) always ends up in an upright position.
Start by going for a walk with your bow and target, and enhance your practice by taking along friends or family. The added pressure of having someone watch you shoot forces you to focus harder, and this really helps in actual hunting situations. I’ll tell you from experience that having a young son or daughter along who repeatedly asks questions while you’re drawing, aiming and shooting will truly test your ability to focus on the task at hand!
I throw my target underhand, similar to throwing a horseshoe. This allows the target to roll after it hits the ground, and I can easily have it end up from 15 to 30 yards away. If you want to practice longer distances simply back away from where the target lands. Safety is always your top priority so be sure you’re shooting in a safe direction. Next, shoot the target, walk up and retrieve your arrow, and throw the target again.
I only shoot a single arrow with each throw of the target. Shooting multiple arrows is a great way to quickly reduce the number in your quiver, because the target is small and it often rolls or turns when you hit it. The portion of the shaft of the first arrow that penetrated the target is then exposed to being hit by the next arrow.
In addition to being great exercise, this technique allows you to practice judging distance (without a rangefinder) and shoot targets in a variety of locations. The back drop is a little different each time, and depending on the ground cover, a portion of the target is often concealed. Believe me, once your bow is sighted in and you’re comfortable with your shooting form, shooting a dozen arrows with this method is far better for you than shooting two or three dozen at stationary targets from known distances.
Professional athletes are trained to practice like it’s a real game, and this same strategy works for bowhunters too. It provides numerous opportunities to practice judging distance and shooting at targets in real hunting scenarios. This builds skill and proficiency, and you’ll take that ability and confidence to the deer stand. Whether it’s pre-season or mid-season, this practice technique will get and keep you finely tuned for your moment of truth with the deer you’ve waited all year for. So, practice with a throwable field target and take your bowhunting skills to the next level.
Good luck in the woods!