One of the things on my agenda for this week is to start my summer archery routine and start getting my bow skills honed in for the upcoming deer season. I would love to say that I never stop shooting but that would be a lie. While I know that I should keep shooting all year long as it would really help me be a better shooter, every year I end up putting the bow away for a few months and letting my skills collect a fair amount of dust that I have to shake off every season.
While I’m sure that many of you out there are better disciplined than I am and you do shoot year round, I’m pretty certain that I’m not the only one out there that lets the bow go cold for a few months every year. Luckily for me and all of my fellow slackers, it is possible to work your way back to form relatively quickly and get your shooter’s touch back in plenty of time for the fall hunt.
There are a few things that I like to do to help me get back on track after some time off and I figure that since many of us will be reacquainting ourselves with our archery tackle pretty soon, this would be a good time to talk about my process. All shooters are different and some things that work for one person may not work as well for another but hopefully something below will come in handy as you get yourself ready for the fall.
The first thing to do when you haven’t shot in a while is spend some time looking your bow over and inspecting it. My bow sits in a pretty sturdy case when it’s not in use and I do my best to take it easy on my bow when I’m hunting but as we all know, things happen. Something could have happened on your last hunt of the year or even while the bow was sitting in your case. Taking some time to look your bow over and visually inspect it is a good way to make sure all systems are go before you start flinging arrows.
Another advantage to looking your bow over is to reaquaint yourself with your equipment. I know it seems funny to say this but you’d be amazed what you may forget over the course of a few months when your archery equipment isn’t on your mind. I know that I’ve opened up my case in the spring and suddenly remembered those few arrows I busted or lost but never replaced. How about those couple of arrows you were going to get refletched but never did or the strap on your release that started to tear late in the season? This is the time to take care of those issues so that you are shooting the same equipment now that you will be in the fall.
Once you have spent some time checking over your gear and making sure everything is ready to go most people will want to run out to the range and start shooting. Last year I started a new routine that I think really helped me once I started shooting. I liked this new step so much last year that I am going to incorporate it again this year. Before I start shooting I will spend a few days just warming up my muscles by drawing my bow in multiple sets of ten or so repetitions. I leave my bow case opened up down in the basement and for 3 or 4 days I will do three or four sets of about ten draws every evening. I don’t shoot any arrows, don’t even knock an arrow. I just draw the bow ten times and then go back upstairs and watch some TV. A while later I’ll scoot back downstairs and do it again.
The thought behind this is that I can wake up those muscles that have been asleep for a few months without having to worry about getting tired and shooting poorly. It allows me to work on the form of my draw and finding my anchor point but keeps me from having to try and shoot accurately as my arms go to mush. Doing this for a few days and then resting a day or two before starting to shoot will allow you to shoot better for longer during those early sessions and that can be a huge boost to your confidence.
With our bow and gear ready to go and our body starting to shape up, it’s time to hit the range and send those first few arrows of the season down the range. While we all want to come out and put them all in the bullseye, it’s important to have realistic expectations at first. If you struggle the first few sessions of the year and let that affect your confidence you could be impacted negatively all year. The first few sessions are bound to be rough, but that’s ok. Worry less about where the arrows go and more about how your form and routine are working.
That means you should focus on drawing smoothly and naturally and getting locked in at your anchor point. Make sure that bow arm isn’t locked out and your hand isn’t torquing the grip, make sure that you are following your pre-shot breathing routine each and every time. By focusing on those small bits and pieces of the process the good results will soon follow. Also, since you will have those little bits and pieces down like clockwork, those good results will stay with you from shot to shot and session to session.
Once you are starting to shoot like the well oiled machine that you know you can be, change it up on yourself. For instance, I usually shoot from short distances to start a session and then I will work out to longer distances and finish up with a few shorter shots. After doing that routine for a while I like to change that up a bit, start and finish with longer distances for a few sessions. Another thing I’ll do is add in a few inbetween distance shots along the way as well. By making changes like that to your routine you will start to build the confidence that you can hit any shot at any time whether its early in the session or late in the session.
I generally shoot at a block style target and get very accustomed to “shooting dots”, as I like to call it. I am always looking at small black dots through my peep but as we all know deer to not have black aiming dots on their side. To get my mind out of the “shooting dots” mentality I like to change things up and will start throwing some 3-D shooting into my routine as the season nears. By changing that aspect of my shooting it helps me to mentally prepare for the season now that my physical shooting is where I want it.
By following these relatively simple steps I feel like I am able to get my shooting back into shape pretty quickly and am able to have great confidence in my abilities by the time the hunting season starts. In the end I really believe that it is that confidence that will make you a good shooter or a bad shooter when the rubber meets the road. If you have worked on your routine all summer and have it down pat, then you will have the mental strength to make that tough shot when the moment arises.
Hopefully the tips above can help you get that mental edge that we all need out there in the woods and help you to make the perfect shot this fall.
Take care, and thanks for reading!
This article originally appeared on the Whitetail Weekly blog at Michigan-Sportsman.com.