April 15, 2021
No, this isn’t an article about how to miss. We’ve all done that. This is about what I’ve done, and what we all can do, to avoid missing.
It’s so much easier to miss what we are aiming at than it is to hit it. When I think back on my misses and break them down, almost all could have been avoided. I have also watched both friends and clients miss — and had the same takeaway. Most could easily have been avoided, or could have actually been turned into good shots.
When I started to analyze my misses, friends’ misses, and my clients’ misses, most fit into the following categories: equipment, excitement, eye contact, extending range, and missing body language clues.
Here is my breakdown of what causes the majority of misses and how to avoid them. It sounds easy, and it can be — if you have the discipline to follow these rules.
Seems reasonable, but most of us are guilty of heading afield with a setup that wasn’t as perfect as we wanted it to be. I’ve learned to not go hunting until my setup is exactly the way I feel it should be. Arrows have to fly perfectly if you want maximum penetration. I now check and recheck my bow, arrows, broadheads, nock set, brace height, etc., to ensure all are set up perfectly. Basically, I want zero doubts about my gear.
For me, this is one of the worst. No matter how great a shot you are in the backyard, or at the 3-D range, it’s hard to shoot accurately when you’re losing your mind. Training yourself to stay calm is key. If you can’t calm down, don’t shoot. Odds are you will miss, or worse, wound the animal. I’ve written articles in Bowhunter before about some of the tricks to calm yourself, but ultimately, only you can decide what works best for you. Figure it out, calm down, and make the shot. Do like I do and save the freaking-out for after the shot.
This is another common mistake that I’m guilty of as well: I have to constantly force myself to look at the spot where I want the arrow to go, and to not look at the eye of the animal. I think it’s human nature to watch the animal’s eyes, and it’s a tough habit to break. I practice this one every day by looking closely at the crease of the shoulder on my horses, and even the family dogs.
We should all know our effective shooting range. The problem occurs when we think it’s OK to extend this range because the animal we’re after is beyond that distance, or is big. Whether it be one yard, or 30 yards beyond your range — it doesn’t matter. Once you’ve decided what your effective range is, stick to it. Besides, the fun is in the process of getting close.
All animals exhibit clues as to their current state of mind. A good example is a growling dog versus one that’s wagging its tail. As bowhunters, we have to learn to read the subtle body language clues that will let us know if an animal is alert or not.
When I started bowhunting 40 years ago, I learned a lot of these signs on my own. By studying animals, you can quickly pick up on the keys. Ears up and alert, eyes and head focused, and a tense body or tail are just a few of the “don’t shoot” things to look for. Even if you feel confident in your ability to make a good shot on an alert animal, there’s a pretty good chance you are wrong. A calm body, relaxed ears, eyes and head not focused in one direction… These are some of the subtle signs you want to see when making the decision whether or not to start slowly drawing your bow.
Hopefully, these tips will stick with you for a liftetime and help you prevent a miss, or worse. I still have a few misses bouncing around in my head that I wish I could do over.
For more information, visit fredeichler.com, and don’t miss Fred’s new show, “Everything Eichler,” every Sunday at 12:30 P.M. on Sportsman Channel.