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Shooting Practice Tips For Backcounty Bowhunters

by Cameron R. Hanes   |  July 15th, 2011 3

The key to my mountain shooting success can be summed up in one word — practice.

If you hope to be successful when bowhunting in rugged country, you’ll need a quality bowsight and you must practice shooting up and downhill, even at steep angles.

I know, not real cutting edge. But the bottom line is, if you’re going to bowhunt the backcountry of the West effectively, it takes commitment. I shoot virtually every day except during the months of December and January. I’m always on the road attending shows then so I consider that time period my “off-season.”

Shooting every day sounds overwhelming, but it really isn’t when you consider that on many of those days I may shoot only a couple dozen arrows. That takes only about 15 minutes and for most of these quickie sessions I shoot at 20 yards. I’d venture to guess each one of us has an extra 15 minutes a day to dedicate to our craft.

Accurate shooting is all about consistency, which means aiming and using the same form to hit the spot at 20 yards as at 60 yards. I supplement my short practice sessions with longer outings, too. A couple times a week I’ll go down to the local pro shop and shoot against my buddies or shoot in one of the indoor leagues. One evening a week I’ll shoot at my friend’s house where we stretch the shot distance to longer yardages. Long-range practice exposes errors in form and equipment, and I find it very beneficial. Most years, I will also shoot about 10 3-D shoots.

I hunt the rugged, up-and-down country of the West a lot, and I’ve found a bubble level on my sight is a must. Not a cheap bubble level thrown on for looks but a quality bubble. I use a Spot-Hogg sight that features a precision bubble but also has 3rd axis adjustment capability. If your 3rd axis is set correctly, at full draw, your bubble will indicate when your bow is perpendicular to the world no matter what angle you’re shooting at. This is crucial when shooting uphill or downhill. If your bubble is lying to you, it’s highly likely you’ll miss, or worse.

Another thing my sight has that helps prevent canting is a vertical wire aligned with the pins. I’ve found I instinctively keep my bow more straight up and down with a wire than without.

A good angle-compensating rangefinder is a must in steep terrain.

The most important thing is to include uphill and downhill shots in your practice regimen. Use a rangefinder that features angle compensation and become familiar with how angles affect the yardage you must shoot for. Also, practice shooting from your knees, and from a sitting position while making sure your bottom limb clears the ground. Pay attention to the details because in the mountains, the little things always count big.

Finally, avoid cramming your weekly practice sessions into one or two days. If you shoot for an hour or two at a time, most of that practice will actually be reinforcing bad habits or improper shooting form due to muscle fatigue. That can be hard on your mental confidence as well.

You’ve heard the old saying, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Well, that couldn’t be truer than it is for shooting a bow and arrow. Short, high-quality practice sessions, in which you’re focused on pinpoint accuracy, will pay huge dividends in the mountains. Good luck.

  • Kevin Snyder

    I know the new rage are bubble levels on bow sights but my experience is I usually I have no time to waist looking for and at the level before I release on a live animal. I typically have deer appear out of thick cover into small shooting lanes where quick drawing aim and release is required. Out west chasing elk they typically come in quick and leave quick once again where quick draw anchor aim and release is required. Maybe my situations aren't normal.

  • Greg Ginn

    Hi Kevin,

    I agree with you that in many situations, looking at the bubble level is impractical where a quick shot is required. However, I found that if I don't look at the bubble level just prior to a shot at, say an elk at 60 yards, it can make a big lateral swing in the arrow path. I've recently practiced by focusing on face (or chin anchor point 1st, peep and sight anchor, pin placement, with a final quick look at the bubble level then back to pin on target before release. I had my friend time between draw and shot,and have found that with practice, I went from a time of 5 seconds down to 2.4 seconds with better accuracy even at longer distances out to 60 yards if I follow the same routine every time. 2.4 seconds is pretty quick even in the situations you have described. I don't know if that helps, but it sure helped me:)

    Greg

  • Dusty Hill

    Cameron, your picture drawing back your bow was exactly what I was looking for for my logo. Would you have a problem if I used it? I could send you the finished product if it would be ok?

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