As much as we anticipate things going RIGHT when shooting an arrow at an animal, Murphy’s Law (“If anything can go wrong, it will”) often makes things go WRONG. Sometimes a little forethought and advance planning can help us sidestep the things that can go wrong. Following is my list of screw ups that has cost me dearly ( perhaps someone can gain from my losses).

#1.  The top of the list has to be ATTITUDE! If you just think you might have a good shot most likely you will miss. You must not release the string until you KNOW you’re going to hit where you looking.  This is important on all game, but critical on dangerous game. The natural tendency is to be a bit more nervous on dangerous game and that leads to second guessing yourself.  So how to you build this self confidence, especially on dangerous game? I strongly suggest getting as close as possible without a bow in your hand.  Instead use a camera.  There is nothing like getting close and backing off (without being noticed), to build confidence. I’ve done this in Africa and have found the professional hunters to be very appreciative of this concern and will encourage the practice of “trial runs”. But don’t try it on leopards. You may only see one on the entire safari!

#2. Remember, some animals are big and consequently look closer than you think, causing you to undershoot. A good example is a Giraffe- At 40 yards away, they look like they are on top of you!  Elk can do the same thing.  Other species just look bigger than they actually are, causing you to overshoot.  A good example of this is an Ibex.  In Turkey,  the Bezor   Ibex can have horns 50+ inches in length, but these short legged animals stand only 28 to 30 inches at the top of the back. The Indian Blackbuck (found in Texas as well as Argentina and Australia) are another good example.  So how does one prepare?  I recommend smacking these critters with rubber blunts until your “minds eye” becomes accustomed to these differences. I don’t recommend this on smaller game because blunts can injure thin skinned animals.  Another suggestion is to invest in 3D targets that are the actual size of the specie you plan to hunt.  But there is no substitute for the real McCoy.

#3. When shooting from a blind (especially a pit blind) be sure the bottom of the shooting hole is not any higher than your armpit.  I missed two Red Heartebeast in successive days by having the nock of my arrow kick off the bottom of the shooting window.   On the second one, I swore there was no way I could have clearance problems; but the arrow sailed over that animal by 50 feet!  Just remember the armpit check every time you get into a blind, or fire some test arrows.

#4. Speaking of shooting from blinds- always be cognizant of lower bow limb clearance before taking a shot. When taking test shots this usually does not happen, but when the live animal is in from to you there is a tendency to push the bow a bit closer to the shooting window which puts the tip of the bottom limb too close to the side of the blind.  A good practice for avoiding this problem is to shot through a hole in a cardboard panel while on your knees.  If you’re too close the limb will strike the cardboard which makes a lot of noise, but will not damage you bow. Remember to practice as if the animal was moving by swinging your bow with the imaginary animal.  You will note that as you swing to the edge of the shooting window you have the tendency to crowd your bow too close to the cardboard.  This also occurs when a right handed archer shoots to the extreme left side of the shooting window (opposite for lefties). This problem seems more pronounced with recurves than with longbows. If you’re shooting a compound this is not near the problem (or so I’ve been told, as I have no first hand knowledge)

As much as we anticipate things going RIGHT when shooting an arrow at an animal, Murphy’s Law (“If anything can go wrong, it will”) often makes things go WRONG.  Sometimes a little forethought and advance planning can help us sidestep the things that can go wrong. Following is my list of screw ups that has cost me dearly ( perhaps someone can gain from my losses).

Images courtesy Dennis Kamstra

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