Start with Hard Work
Archery season includes hard work! As with any season of scouting, trimming to create shooting lanes if you have a stand, or even finding a game trail deep in the woods, once that work is complete, you still have to work on getting yourself ready.
Shooting a compound bow is difficult enough, but adding distance, wind, elevation, and NERVES makes it challenging. There are several tricks and tips to ensuring you are archery-ready, and I will share several of mine here.
The first tip is the most basic concept of all. However, everything revolves around having a bow in perfect working order. Always have a paper tune and inspect all components on the bow months before the season. This should come first because there is a possibility that during a hike, ATV ride to or from a hunt, or just taking a fall on the mountain, you might have bumped something that resulted in your shots not lining up. By checking your bow carefully before shooting, you know that the strings are healthy, the cams are safe, and nothing is loose.
Give Yourself Grace
Secondly, it is best to begin shooting shorter distances to make sure that your fundamentals don’t require a tune-up as well. I feel a little awkward every year when I pull my bow out after not shooting for a time. This gives you a moment to “ride a bike” and allow yourself a little grace with your stance, grip, draw anchor, and release/follow-through sequences. These fundamentals dictate the accuracy of any distance shot, so take your time!
Once all is well with the bow and you are confident in the fundamentals of the shooting sequence, it is time to get wild. Begin with either 3D foam targets or a block and test yourself out with different shot angles, distances, and even trying to shoot from a stand. It would help if you had this moment to create a shot opportunity you might be forced to take in the field. Consider how you hunt and what you might be required to do to make the shot count. Practice that, and you will be golden!
You gain incredible confidence by getting to the ultimate in challenging shots, strenuous hikes, and shooting through difficult obstacles and cover. It would not be hard to set photos up like this alone, but if you ever get to shoot a Total Archery Challenge or Mountain Archery Fest event, DO IT! It includes challenging shots with very obscure shot opportunities through trees, scrub, and even across bodies of water! You can test your distance shots up to over 125 yards. It provides a fun and pressure-free chance to challenge your shooting ability and gain confidence, so a 30-yard attempt feels like a walk in the park.
The most essential part is having fun and getting in as many reps as possible. Archery is very much a mental game, as well. If you have an off day and cannot seem to shoot well, put your bow away for the day and try again tomorrow. There are moments where we need to step back before we get frustrated or begin to question our every move. Allow yourself some wiggle room on how hard you push yourself. Never take away the fun of shooting your bow!
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