June is the official get-serious-about-target-practice month for an awful lot of bowhunters. While it's better to shoot year-round, if you're only starting to fling a few arrows now, there is time to get good. Really good.
In fact, if you plan out your practice sessions now you should be able to increase your effective shooting range by the time deer season opens. Now, everyone can understand why increasing effective range is a good thing, and we've seen plenty of ink on the topic.
What is often left out of the equation is the how to it all.
Becoming a highly proficient shot at yardages that previously left you with poor groups is not easy, but it is possible. And while it may not all happen in the next three months, it might.
Either way, if you start to adopt the mindset that you're going to become a better shot at farther distances, you'll start building that foundation. Eventually, you'll be much more confident and capable at all distances, not just those that tape-out farther than anything you've been good at in the past.
Following are some tips on how to make it happen.
Targets with high-contrast faces and highly visible spots make for easier-to-hit options. This is why it is so important to spend part of your time shooting at 3D targets that represent actual animals
. They not only reinforce where exactly to aim at all angles, but don't let you off of the hook for easy aiming. Live black bears don't have spots on their side to aim at, and neither should your target.
This difference between target choice and actual effective range becomes very evident in your groups in low light, or at farther distances. If you can consistently group your arrows tightly in a 3D target, in low light, at the farthest reaches of your comfortable shooting range - then you are dialed. If not, it's time to be realistic about what you can do and carry that knowledge into the field with you.
Deep Into The Season
Let's say hypothetically that you're a deadeye out to 45 yards with broadhead-tipped arrows while shooting from a treestand or on the ground. Let's also say that you're that good on the day before the opener. Now, as the first week of the season gives way to the first month and then more pages of the calendar are flipped, you probably won't shoot as well you did in August.
That's a problem when it comes to the mid- or late-season and your once solid far end of effective range suddenly comes into play on a cagey buck as he saunters past. Are you still as good as you were, even though your practice regimen has taken a backseat to actual hunting? Probably not. Be honest at that point and shoot accordingly.
Hunt More Critters
When we think of effective range, we often think of big game standing at a certain distance. While effective range comes into play on elk, it also comes into play on smaller critters. And all of the animals you hunt will help you become more comfortable shooting at live game
From learning body language and when to draw, to just where to aim and follow through, all encounters with game are teachable moments. From moose to geese, you can learn to be a better shot and learn your limitations from hours in the field. Effective range boils down to confidence in your abilities, and one of the best ways to be confident is to succeed, whether that is a double-lung shot on a Booner or a honker.
Buying products to become a better hunter is a poor idea, but spending some extra dough to become a better shot isn't foolish
. High-end equipment costs more for a reason, and of the pieces of the accuracy puzzle to invest in, good arrows rank high up the list.
Tight spine-, weight- and straightness tolerances of matched dozens will help you shoot better than old, degraded cheap arrows. If your arrows are worn out from a few years of practice sessions, scrape together the money to buy a fresh dozen. You won't regret it — especially when you start shooting broadheads
I've shot a lot of deer and western game in windy conditions. I've also shot quite a few when it was raining
. Knowing that, and knowing I'll hunt those same conditions every fall until I croak, seems to make a solid argument for practicing in the same conditions.
It also demands an organic look at effective range, because what I can without a doubt hit during calm, perfect conditions suddenly becomes not so sure of a thing when the wind is howling or it's pouring outside. Shoot in crappy conditions and you'll become better at knowing just how far you should shoot when those same conditions greet you on a hunt.
When figuring out how far I should shoot for antelope or mule deer, I don't climb up into treestands or shoot off of my deck. I tend to shoot uphill and downhill, for sure, and at farther distances than I'd consider for a whitetail hunt. That being said, if I want to know how far I should shoot a whitetail, I need to figure that out from a treestand
or at least elevated practice sessions.
If your groups are touching at 40 yards from the ground, but loosen up once you stand on the deck, then it's a good idea to rely on the data from the elevated shots, not the ground-level shots. After all, most whitetails are arrowed from treestands so knowing how far you can shoot from on high is a good thing.
Quality Versus Quantity
It's easy to get caught up in the target practice fervor and want to fling 200 arrows during a session. This may seem like a good idea, but it's not. Quantity of arrows shot does not trump quality of a practice session. Shooting two-dozen arrows in the right, challenging conditions will always benefit you more than twenty-dozen shots at easy targets.
This also doesn't take into account muscle fatigue
and the mental degradation that comes with taking so many shots. And with that, is the unrealized effect of knowing that there is always a next arrow, which makes the current shot feel less important. Flip the script and make each practice shot far more important and you'll start to shoot better.
And speaking of broadheads, you won't really know your effective shooting range until you spend enough time toeing the line with broadhead-tipped arrows. Mechanicals, fixed, hybrids and whatever else the market comes up with all need to be practiced with before they are ever taken hunting.
After spending some time getting dialed in and developing confidence, start incorporating broadheads into your practice sessions. If they consistently hit where your field points do, then you're golden. If they don't, or you suddenly don't shoot as well with blades, you know there is some extra work to be done and some considerations to make before the season opens.