Keep it fun! Games bowhunters play: They can help when the moment of truth arrives

By: Steve Piatt
I often focus on a one-shot archery practice routine. That certainly has a place in any bowhunter’s practice regimen. After all, as I wrote earlier, that first arrow is the one that’s going to be headed in the direction of a whitetail when it comes into range as you sit in your treestand. You don’t get a few practice arrows before taking a shot at the real thing.
But there are other practice routines and games you can play to break up the monotony of flinging arrow after arrow into your bag target or foam deer. And each has a role in developing your shooting form and accuracy heading into the season.
I actually – finally – shot my first 3-D archery course in a couple decades last weekend, and I had forgotten how much fun it is. While I was a regular on the 3-D circuit years ago, shooting with my hunting setup in preparation for the season, I had drifted away from the 3-D world when we moved north to the Adirondacks. So I was looking forward to getting back into it now that we’re back in the Southern Tier, and last weekend’s 3-D session has been vowing to make it a regular part of my archery routine. I’m already planning another 3-D shoot this weekend. It is a blast, and a million laughs when your buddies are in your ear trying to break your concentration as you’re poised to let one fly at a deer, elk, bear, hog, turkey, javelina and even a foam alligator, which was the case at the 3-D course we shot last weekend.
It’s also a great way to build up those muscles that are used in drawing and shooting a bow. To be honest, my buddy and I couldn’t recall the last time we shot 30 arrows in one session after completing the 30-target 3-D course and tallying up our scores – which were quite respectable, by the way. Although in the interest of full disclosure, he outscored me. I chalked it up to a wonky peep sight that had me adjusting my bowstring every couple targets.
But while our 3-D shooting is a weekend warrior-type effort, our backyard practice sessions continue. And they can be pretty dull after touring the foam target course.
Here are some options to spice up your archery practice sessions.
Shoot with a friend: There’s nothing like some good-natured competition to help your focus keep things lively. You’ll shoot better and with more concentration than if you’re toiling solo. And it doesn’t hurt to have another set of eyes checking your form.
Go long: Sure, you might not have any plans to take a 50-yard shot at a whitetail. But practicing at long distances – longer than you plan to shoot even – makes those 15- and 25-yarders that much easier. Too, the longer shots can magnify shooting problems and help you work out any kinks in your form.
Hold, hold, hold: See how long you can comfortably hold at full draw before releasing an arrow. You never know when that situation may arise in the wild and you need to hold longer than you’d like before taking a shot on a whitetail – maybe a big buck. It usually, in fact, happens that way. A deer rarely strolls in and offers that perfect broadside or quartering-away shot.
Quick draw: Just as you may have to hold at full draw for what seems like forever, sometimes a shot opportunity comes with a lightning-quick arrival of a deer. How quickly can you draw, anchor and release an arrow with precision? Find out now before that moment arrives.
Shoot from above: Most bowhunters should and in fact do shoot from a treestand or some other elevated platform as part of their practice regimen. I don’t have a treestand in the back yard but I have an even better setup; I can shoot from our bedroom window down to my bag target. It’s almost identical in height to my treestands and allows me to practice bending at the waist and keeping my anchor points, which is critical when shooting from an elevated position. I even have Paula retrieve my arrows at times to avoid running up and down the stairs and outside to the target to pull my own arrows. One tip though: if you’re doing this, try to simulate standing on a small platform offered by most treestands; don’t spread your feet wider than you would in the stand. And, oh yeah, don’t put an arrow through your window screen or, worse yet, the window. That could end those practice sessions forever.
Archery practice can have its dull moments for sure, but if you change things up and play a few games with a purpose, they can pay off when you’re no longer in the backyard and are in your treestand and the game is on.

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