What’s the best way for hunters to spend their time at the range? As bows have advanced and adjustable sights have become more popular, long-range shooting has become the norm. While shooting at 70 yards makes a 20 yard shots feel much easier, long-range shooting doesn’t necessarily provide the best simulation of hunting scenarios. Misses most often result from an awkward or rushed shot. In this blog I will explain several drills that prepare hunters to take a kill shot.
Hold Your Draw
Oftentimes shots on animals take longer than shots in practice. When shooting a target each cycle takes 5-10 seconds and feels routine. Shooting should feel relaxed and build muscles memory, but there is a balance between routine and adaptability. Anchor point and mental checks can be repeated in any position. Foot placement and timing will vary. Every so often in practice hold your draw for 10-15 seconds before releasing an arrow. You can also do this drill in the garage or apartment to build stamina. It will make a shaky shot in the field feel much less foreign.
Move Your Feet
Before shooting each of my elk I have had to step around branches while at full draw. I practice both stepping forward and backwards. Holding a call in my mouth and making a nervous grunt before the shot also forces me to multitask, similar to when hunting.
With adrenaline pumping little changes can make a big difference. The last thing a hunter wants going through their mind is, “this doesn’t feel quite right.” An archer should expect the shot to feel slightly different in the field but have a few checks that will help them focus.
Kneeling, Sitting, Uphill, Downhill
It’s unlikely that you’ll take a shot at a bull completely level with you. Practice shooting both uphill and downhill. A deck or tree stand can help. Bend at the hips and pay attention to your bubble.
Pay attention to where you miss. If you’re missing left uphill and right downhill, or vice versa, your third axis needs adjusted.
I practice shooting while seated because during the early season I do a fair amount of cold calling. I also practice kneeling shots. I don’t often take kneeling shots, but they do create greater core stability.
Run the Course
Elk can show up in a hurry. Oftentimes an opportunity presents itself as you’re sprinting up a steep hillside at high elevation, and when you’re out of breath a shot will feel much different. I like to mountain bike before shooting sessions or use sprint-then-shoot type workouts.
I know a bow tech that runs the 3D archery course in town. After 30 targets a 20 yard shot becomes much more challenging. Here’s a good video of John Stallone’s workout for shooting under pressure.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure to take a few shots with your heart rate elevated.
With Your Gear
A bulky jacket can get in the way of the string and create torque as well as noise. On the other hand, a jacket that fits too tightly will make a hunter feel restricted at full draw. Definitely wear a hat in practice if you plan to wear one while hunting; depending on the string angle it could create major issues. I don’t believe you have to wear everything, but test out face masks, gloves and other gear that may get in the way. It’s also useful to have a target set up at camp and shoot a few shots right when you get back.
In the woods there are too many variables to prepare for all of them. Shoot enough to feel confident in your routine, but also challenge that routine for a few rounds each practice to create better adaptability. Good luck this season, Stu