July 29, 2021
By Fred Eichler
People often ask how I get prepared for the season. My answer is that I prepare all year. If you don’t put your bow down at the end of the big-game seasons, you can hone your skills through fun practice and small-game hunting all year.
One of the biggest advantages to a traditional bow is the slower arrow. What I mean by that is if you try to hit a pinecone with a compound shooting 315 fps, even if you hit it using a judo or fieldpoint, odds are that arrow is gone. However, with a slower-shooting stickbow, you can practice on all kinds of random targets and rarely lose an arrow. This equates to more time spent shooting at stuff.
That is one of the things that drew me to traditional archery. When I was younger, the guys I knew who had traditional bows just seemed to shoot more often and have more fun when they were shooting. They also spent more time flinging arrows than tweaking their equipment.
My practice regimen is simple: I try to shoot one arrow a day, or at the very least, one per week. I have shared this method before with Bowhunter readers, because this type of practice best simulates a hunting situation. I am not limbered up, so it’s a “cold shot,” as I call it. Since it’s only the first shot that matters in most hunting situations, I think this is the best form of practice.
Other fun forms of practice for me include shooting at a tennis ball thrown at different ranges, or just picking out pinecones, ant hills, or funny looking sticks. I also enjoy shooting aerials with flu-flus, so I can hone my snap-shooting skills in case a situation calls for it.
Besides trying to practice all year — even if it is just one arrow a week — I also try to keep hunting year-round, if possible. If you’re wondering how I’m able to do this, here are some inexpensive off-season hunts that are a blast.
Predators, squirrels, and rabbits. Predators come in great to a call in January and February, and although big-game seasons are mostly over, squirrel and rabbit seasons are still on in most states. This is a great time to use the flu-flus, or screw a Muzzy Grasshopper small-game head to the front of your arrow.
These are great months to chase turkeys, depending on when your season starts. Plus, if you don’t mind traveling a bit, it is usually relatively easy and inexpensive to hunt turkeys in multiple states. This is also when I like to go after small nuisance critters, like prairie dogs and groundhogs.
I stay sharp during these hot months by chasing fish, frogs, and hogs — all delicious to eat, by the way. Although you may be fortunate to live where hogs dwell, I have to drive about 10 hours from my Colorado home to get into some hog action. If you can’t find public land, guided hunts for hogs are usually pretty cheap. The other plus is it’s usually hot, so you don’t have a lot of competition, and it’s easy to sweat off a few pounds. For the frogs and fish? A few phone calls or some scouting will usually find you a place to enjoy shooting these two.
This is my favorite month to continue chasing frogs before antelope season starts. It’s hot, and the frogs are out trying to load up on food before winter hits. If you can pin a bullfrog to a bank, then a deer’s lungs suddenly seem like a pretty easy target to hit.
Staying prepared year-round for the fall big-game seasons isn’t hard, if you look for different ways (like the ones mentioned here) to keep that bow in your hand more often.