July 22, 2022
By Joe Bell
When I look back at my last two decades of bowhunting, the majority of the shots I encountered were pretty rapid. In other words, I didn’t have a lot of time to analyze and prepare for the shot. In those instances where I responded quickly but smoothly, I achieved success; when I didn’t, I blundered the opportunity.
Nowadays, when preparing my equipment and mind for hunting season, I plan for worst-case shooting scenarios. This means striking fast — and accurately — when the situation calls for it. Here are some details I think about to improve my success at the moment of truth.
Practice For The Real Deal
During the off-season, I enjoy shooting my bow in the backyard. My routine is to shoot two to three arrows at each distance, pull, and then repeat. I do this at a variety of distances, shooting bag targets, foam blocks, and 3-Ds. This sort of practice helps refine my shooting form and my sight’s settings.
However, I would be remiss to call this particular regimen, “preparation for the real thing.” Not by a long shot. In the weeks leading up to hunting season, I drastically change my routine. Instead of shooting from normal stand-up positions, I begin shooting from my knees or from my bottom, and I exercise discipline by shooting just one arrow — then pulling and shooting again. This helps me prepare for real hunting scenarios.
Next, I train myself to use my rangefinder on every shooting attempt — even if I already know the distance. I want to establish muscle memory of grabbing the rangefinder and punching the distance, all in one fluid motion. Rather than carrying my rangefinder in a hip pouch, where I must unzip and fumble for it, I like to loop my rangefinder around my neck and then tuck it between two shirts. This keeps it secure and quiet, where I can access it in the blink of an eye. I know of no better way to do it. I sometimes store my rangefinder in an outer pouch on my daypack, but once I’m in good hunting country, it goes on my neck for fast use.
Finally, I routinely use visualization techniques when practicing. I imagine a hunting scenario where one minute I’m hiking or glassing and then the next I have a big buck or bull standing inside my effective range. I picture the moment, and then I nock my arrow in one smooth and rapid fashion. After this, I deploy my rangefinder, then hook-up and shoot — concentrating on a solid execution. If there is one facet I want to slow down on, it’s the aiming process. I want to acquire the target quickly, but I also want to aim and trigger the shot with absolute focus and concentration.
Improve Your Bow For Faster Shooting
Today, it’s easy to deck out your rig with all sorts of sophisticated accessories and “accuracy enhancers.” This is all good, so long as these add-ons don’t malfunction due to rough travel in the mountains or hinder your ability to shoot rapidly in the heat of the moment. Keeping gear simple and streamlined is best for serious bowhunting.
I prefer sights and rests to be no-nonsense, meaning they’re ruggedly built using large adjustment screws. Anything that can vibrate loose can quickly ruin your arrow’s tune and cause an errant shot.
To determine a rugged sight from a flimsy one, grab hold of the pin guard and attempt to move the dovetail arm from side to side. If it flexes pretty easily, it’s not the best product for hardcore bowhunting. The same goes for rests with lots of side-to-side play in the launcher mechanism. There’s nothing worse than shoddy engineering on a “precision-based accessory.”
The effectiveness of your aiming system is crucial, too. What’s the best design? Fixed pins or movable? Of course, only you can decide what sight is best for you. Generally speaking, a sight with five to seven fixed pins is ideal for the West, because there’s nothing you have to move prior to taking the shot, yet you still have plenty of pins for long-range shooting. Of course, you’ll give up some degree of precision since you must hold over or under when the shooting distance is incrementally different from the aiming bead (e.g., 38, 43, 47, 52 yards, and so on).
If you use a sight with seven pins, it’s a good idea to separate the fifth pin from the others, so you can quickly find the long-range pin you want. This can be done easily by painting the stem or wrapping a strip of white, weatherproof tape around it. Doing this reduces seeing a “wad” of glowing fibers, lessening anxiety at the moment of truth.
With a moveable pin, accuracy is greatly improved. You adjust the sight for a very specific distance, then aim dead-on. But movable or “slider” sights can cause delays in real-life bowhunting scenarios. If the animal suddenly moves during the encounter, you must readjust the sight, taking valuable seconds away from drawing your bow and executing a good shot.
To help remedy this problem, many archers prefer a movable sight but with a fixed, five-pin aperture. You basically use the sight like a conventional fixed-pin sight, but now the bottom pin becomes your “floater,” giving you added precision on long-distance shots. When used appropriately, this style sight gives you the best of both worlds.
Insist On A Forgiving Setup
This is where the rubber meets the road. You can exercise all the preceding steps, but if your bow setup doesn’t fit you like a glove, then your effectiveness in fast-shooting situations could suffer.
To ensure a consistently accurate and forgiving bow, insist on these three aspects:
In The Fit: Adjust your draw length in quarter-inch increments by using the proper cam setting and/or module, then by twisting or untwisting the bow- string. You can also use different D-loop sizes to micro-tune your draw length. A precise draw length ensures comfort, repeatability, and deadly accuracy.
The bowstring’s draw angle is also important. For best results, match the angle to your facial features and preferred anchor point, so you don’t have to tilt your head forward or back — ruining good shooting form. You can do this by lengthening or shortening the draw length, then adjusting the length of the D-loop to find the most comfortable position. Small details like this can greatly improve your bow’s shootability.
Choose An Easy Draw Weight: You can’t shoot smoothly and swiftly if your muscles are fighting the bow. Try this test: Sit in a chair, aim at a 20-yard paper-plate target, and then draw your bow. If you can’t keep the sight pin near the plate while drawing to anchor, then you’re overbowed. Reduce your draw weight until you can draw smoothly and with a controlled aim.
Insist On A Well-Balanced Feel: Well-balanced bows tend to handle easier, point quicker, and stabilize on target faster. If your bow doesn’t demonstrate these qualities, experiment with different stabilizer and counterweight options until it holds more plumb. A bow quiver can disrupt a balanced feel. To solve this, choose a low-profile quiver that hugs the bow’s riser, such as the TightSpot quiver.
Being able to shoot quickly is vital. Rarely is there time to analyze the shot. Instead, you must act smoothly and deliberately to take advantage of a solid opportunity. By incorporating these steps, you’ll become more capable of handling fast, challenging shots in the field.