February 02, 2023
By Joe Bell
Question: After a long bowhunting season, my confidence in my shooting has been shaken. What can I do now in the off-season to get it back? — Wyatt F., via e-mail
Answer: I’ve had many bowhunting seasons with massive blunders and missed shots! The memories of these gross mishaps can quickly get you down and shatter your confidence. However, if you’re anything like me, your spirit may be tried but it will never give up. This is the attitude you’ll need to restructure your shooting using a systematic process. In the end, your confidence will reignite, and you can enter next season with a whole new outlook. Here are five things I do during the off-season to get my shooting — and mindset — back on track.
Examine Your Weakness. No training plan is complete without first analyzing what usually goes wrong when you miss a shot. Be honest about it. Is it due to basic excitement and buck fever, or do you punch the trigger every time you shoot under pressure, such as when friends are watching you shoot? If it’s the latter, you’ll need to overhaul your release technique. The best way to do this is with a different tool. I highly recommend trying a hinge release with a safety. I’ve used the T.R.U. Ball Sweet Spot and Carter Honey with excellent results, even when hunting. Give it a try.
Dial-In The Bow. Sometimes, missing comes down to being uncomfortable at full draw. For this reason, be sure you’re not over-bowed. Pulling too much draw weight can severely tax your muscles and make it harder to relax as you go from the harsh draw cycle to full letoff. If you can’t sit in a chair and smoothly come to full draw while keeping your pin on a 20-inch circle, you’re pulling too much weight. Back it down. The same goes for your draw length. Be sure your draw elbow is more or less in line with the arrow (not above or below it, and not to the left or right). Ask a friend to take pictures of you at full draw, then review the results.
Blind-Bale Shooting. Once you’re feeling good about your new release and bow adjustments, then it’s time to ingrain proper shooting form — all through slow, repetitive action. Get close to the target butt and begin shooting with your eyes closed — feel the sensation of a perfect shot. This type of training builds the correct muscle memory, so when you’re under pressure, your subconscious will execute a clean shot for you — just the way it has done time and again.
Trust the process, and do it for at least 21 days. As you shoot, be sure to follow a pre-shot sequence. This means establishing a solid shooting stance, nocking the arrow the same way each time, drawing methodically in a smooth fashion, and settling into your anchor.
Reinforce Good Habits. After acquiring the right muscle memory, be sure to protect it by shooting only when you feel strong and focused. Resist the urge to go back to old habits and stay true to your training. Shoot only two or three arrows at a time, focusing heavily on executing each shot to the best of your ability.
Never go out of step with your shooting sequence. As you shoot, imagine you’re drawing down on a massive buck, and while aiming solidly, let the shot take you by surprise. Keep shooting this way and you’ll reach new heights as a shooter.
Practice With Pressure. Once you’re feeling good about your shooting — punching the heart out of all your backyard targets — now’s the time to test your mettle under real shooting pressure. The best way I’ve found to do this is to participate in 3-D shoots or indoor target leagues. Both sports can be intense as you shoot in front of people, giving you a sense of how you’ll perform when a big buck is in your sights. Remember, embrace the pressure, and trust the shot programming you’ve worked so hard on over the past several weeks or even months. Once you begin shooting under these conditions, you’ll feel yourself “getting over” the confidence slump. You’ll also start grinning for opening day, ready to strike with a new level of lethalness. Good luck!