Hunting Tips: Top 10 Steps To Shoot Like A Pro
With Today’s Equipment, Even “Average” Archers Can Shoot Super Groups–Follow These 10 Steps To Shoot Like A Pro.
I can remember when hitting a paper plate every time at 20 yards was considered acceptable shooting. Today, impressive arrow groups are not measured by dinner plates, but rather by golf balls and silver dollars. With today’s top-end equipment, it’s possible to group broadhead-tipped arrows the size of a bottle cap at 20 yards, three-inch groups at 30 yards, four-inch groups at 40 yards and even five-inch groups at 50 yards. Using top-notch equipment is the first step toward being a better bow shot, but it also takes some talent, dedication and smart practice. Unless you are already busting nocks with every shot at 30 yards, you have room for improving your shooting. Here’s a look at 10 steps that have improved my shooting and should improve your shots as well.
1. Proper Draw Length
The first step in becoming a better bow shot is making sure that your equipment is fitted properly. One common mistake that archers make is choosing a bow with a draw length that is too long. This is where a local archery pro shop becomes so important. If you order your new bow from a mail-order catalogue, the operator taking your order over the phone cannot measure and fit your draw length the way a pro at your neighbourhood bow shop can.
A simple method I’ve found for determining approximate draw length is to put your bow arm straight out in front of you as if you were drawing a bow and make your hand into a fist. Put your knuckles flush against the wall. Now draw your other hand as if you were drawing a bow. Have a friend use a tape measure and measure the distance from the wall to your anchor point on the side of your face. Once you have determined your draw length, remember that if you change brands or models of bows or change your shooting style from fingers to a release, your draw length may change slightly.
2. Lose Some Weight
Another common mistake that many bowhunters make is pulling too much draw weight. Shooting excessive weight leads to early fatigue in practice sessions, which leads to quivering muscles, bad habits and even target panic.
If you are pulling too much draw weight in a hunting situation, you will have to make extra movement to break the bow over to full draw, which no self-respecting whitetail buck will tolerate, and you might not even be able to reach full draw on a cold morning when your muscles are as frozen as a block of ice.
Most bowhunters would see a dramatic increase in accuracy if they would go on a draw weight diet and lose at least five pounds. Especially for archers hunting deer-sized game, the issue of poundage comes down to “how far do you have to send an arrow through a deer to kill it?”. When all that extra poundage is just blasting an arrow through a deer’s ribcage and 20 yards beyond, it’s wasted energy.
Of course, the ideal bow poundage will vary from person to person depending on build and strength, but there are a few simple tests you can try to see if you are over-bowed. Start by holding your bow straight out in front of you and slowly drawing it back. If you have to raise your bow arm above your head to draw the bow, it’s too heavy. Also, try drawing the string from awkward positions such as sitting or kneeling. Try shooting outdoors in cold weather. The final test is to draw your bow and hold it at full draw for 30 seconds before taking the shot. If your muscles start to shake or, when you finally cut the shot you notice less than normal accuracy, crank the bow down. I’ve shot completely through whitetails and mule deer with bows pulling between 55 and 60 pounds.
3. Switch To Carbons
Carbon arrows are gaining in popularity every year with lots of serious bowhunters making the switch. When compared to an aluminum shaft spined for the same draw weight, carbon arrows are lighter in weight, which translates to a flatter arrow trajectory and tighter pin gaps.
When I made the switch several years ago from aluminium shafts to Easton A/C/C shafts for hunting, I gained about 25 feet per second in arrow speed. The added arrow speed gave me the confidence I needed to shoot tighter groups at longer distances, a definite plus when hunting in open country. Carbon arrows are also very tough. Unlike aluminium shafts that get dinged and bent, carbons are either straight or they are broken.
4. Use A Large-Diameter Peep
A consistent anchor point is crucial to achieving awesome shooting accuracy. A string peep allows the shooter to position his face the same way shot after shot. Many archery shop pros compare the peep sight with the rear sight on a rifle.
For hunting purposes, a peep sight with a big hole is the best choice. A peep with a hole diameter of 3/16 inch allows more light to reach your eye in low-light conditions. Center the sight pin for the distance that you are shooting at inside the peep’s hole for even more consistency. Some bowhunters will argue that peep sights can rob an archer of a shot in extreme low-light conditions. That is probably true, but at least in my own case, the peep sight is so dramatic at improving my accuracy that I’m willing to sacrifice a few minutes of shooting light.
5. Stabilize The Shot
Another add-on that some bowhunters fail to recognize as a tool to improve accuracy is a heavy stabilizer. Adding extra weight to the front of the bow makes it easier to hold the sight pin steady on the target. A couple of years ago I switched from the smaller, lightweight stabilizer that I was so comfortable with to a longer, heavier one. The tip came from an expert 3-D shooter who said I would really see an improvement in my shooting with the extra weight.
That shooter was right. My 3-D scores jumped immediately. At first, I thought the added length and weight would be impractical for hunting, but after several hunts using the larger stabilizers I have not found any problems. When hunting from tight ground blinds or tree stands, I just take an extra minute to trim brush and make sure that there is enough room to swing my bow from side to side. That little bit of extra effort is certainly worth the increased accuracy I gain from using the longer, heavier stabilizer.
6. Try Mechanical Broadheads
Many archers are great shots with field points, but once a broadhead is screwed onto the end of the arrow their confidence goes to pot. The easiest way to maintain that great accuracy that you’ve developed while shooting field point-tipped arrows is to use low-profile, mechanical broadheads for hunting. Because mechanical broadheads do not have the exposed surface area that a fixed-blade broadhead does, they fly more like field points. Industry experts recommend hunters shoot a bow producing at least 50 to 55 foot pounds of kinetic energy when using mechanical heads on deer-sized game. Because mechanical broad-heads require more energy to achieve penetration equal to a fixed-blade broadhead, wait for broadside shots at game to maximize arrow penetration, and choose broadhead models that have a conservative cutting diameter of 1 1/2 inches or less.
7. Practice With Broadheads
Even the best advice and the best equipment are useless if you don’t take the time to practice. Once your bow is set up properly, you must spend time shooting it to reach your true potential. First, try for “quality” practice instead of “quantity” practice. It’s better to shoot 20 arrows during a practice session with total concentration and focus given to each shot than to shoot 50 arrows “willy-nilly.”
Take a half-minute break between each shot to analyse what you did right or wrong on the previous shot. Concentrate on good shooting form, but also practice from awkward shooting positions and from a variety of distances to prepare yourself for real-world shot opportunities. It’s also important to shoot broadheads in practice. During the summer months leading up to hunting season, I shoot nothing but broadheads in practice. Sure, the broadheads tear up targets faster and shooting broadheads get expensive, but there is no substitute for the boost in confidence that I get from shooting the exact same arrow-point combination that I’ll be hunting within the fall.
8. Use A Laser Range Finder
Perhaps the biggest reason for misses in bowhunting, aside from buck fever, is misjudging yardage before taking the shot. By using a laser range finder, you can significantly boost your confidence before turning an arrow loose. The quality rangefinders offered today are a huge step up from the image-merging, dial-operated range finders of the past. By simply pressing a button, the distance is displayed in a second.
Laser range finders are especially practical in two scenarios. First, when hunting from a treestand or blind you can use the range finder before game shows up to determine distances to landmarks. In a stalking situation, the range finder can be used to determine the exact distance to the animal before taking the shot. This is crucial for hunting western game such as mule deer and antelope where shots past 30 yards are common. Knowing the exact distance to your target will give you more confidence in taking longer shots.
9. Shoot In 3-D Tournaments
The best bow shots I know shoot year-round. Shooting in 3-D tournaments in the off-season is a great dress rehearsal for the real thing. Having another bowhunter breathing at your neck while you draw back and take a shot creates stress similar to what you might encounter when taking a shot at a live animal. Overcoming this anxiety of having someone watch you shoot will also help calm your nerves in a real hunting situation.
Shooting 3-D’s also stresses the importance of making one good shot. In 3-D shooting, like real hunting, you only get one shot. Since not every hunting situation will allow enough time to use a range finder, shooting 3-D tournaments where range finders are taboo will also teach you to judge distances better. To get the most benefit from 3-D competition, shoot the exact same set-up that you plan to use during hunting season.
10. Take A Lesson From A Pro
At least once a year it’s a good idea to swallow a little pride and ask a local pro for some form tips, Even when I think I’m shooting as good as I can possibly shoot, an hour-long lesson with a shop pro can usually polish up my form and tighten my groups. A simple reminder to hold the bow with a loose grip, relax, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, face the target slightly, squeeze the release or follow through might be all the coaching you need to take your shooting to the next level.
Being a great shot with a bow requires a combination of quality equipment, some talent, dedication and diligent practice. The best bowhunters I know each possess great hunting skills that help them bag bucks, but being a great shot with a bow and arrow is what ultimately puts the game on the ground. If you implement each of these 10 steps in your preparation for hunting season, you will be a better shot.