Georgia’s archery season for deer opens September 13th and one of the best things you can do to prepare is to practice with your compound bow. There is nothing worse than having spent hours waiting in a stand only to blow the shot when Big Ed finally shows up.
Compound bows have been on the scene since the mid 1960’s and by design have the potential for greater velocity and accuracy than other types of bows. Nonetheless it takes practice to become proficient with this modern hunting weapon.
The limbs of compound bows are much stiffer than those of recurve or longbows and this makes them more efficient in delivering the arrow. They use a cable / pulley levering system that gives the arrow its superior speed and has stabilizers and dampers that allow the archer to hold the bow steadier at full draw which translates to less movement upon release.
Practice is the key to improvement and here are some things you might try to help gain the accuracy you need to bring down that trophy deer you seek. There are several different theories on how to most accurately deliver a shot but these might get you started.
Sound fundamentals are the most important aspect of shooting a compound bow and your grip is right at the top of the list. The experts will tell you that you do not have to keep your fingers completely around the handle of the bow to stop it from falling from your hands — especially at full draw. Your sling will take care of that problem. If you grip the bow fully with your fingers the shot will almost certainly be affected by the pressure of the grip when you release the arrow.
Another key component of good fundamentals is to keep your bow arm straight rather than slightly bent. You don’t really want it to be tense but bent bow arms and flying elbows can result in inconsistent draws and getting hit by the string upon release.
When aiming your shot it is important to be aiming from the beginning of the draw until full draw is reached. If you draw and then aim it may cause you to lose the continuity needed to achieve a quality shot. Practicing this way will make aiming a natural continuation of your draw and result in better shots. Along these same lines make sure you line up the peep with the circular pin of your sight to help in making consistent shots.
Once you have developed a good feel for shooting your bow, just boil it down to a couple of steps and don’t get caught up in too many overly complicated thought processes. Simple is best. Practicing is the way to get to that point.
Don’t keep practicing once you get tired. Tired muscles can result in a breakdown in form. You want your fundamentals to be consistent and to accomplish this you can’t just be shooting arrows for the sake of it. Take a break and come back later so you don’t fall into bad habits.
Find your points of reference at full draw and use them every time. For example you may let the bow string touch the tip of your nose and the same spot on your mouth while looking through the sight. Once you find your own reference points practice that way until it becomes a subconscious position.
When practicing it should help to start shooting at a short distance, maybe twenty yards and fire each shot at a leisurely pace. Don’t get in a hurry. Re-establish your stance and reference points each time to help make it habitual. After six shots or so move the target to thirty yards and continue with deliberate shots that stress your fundamentals.
One thing to remember is that bow hunting is a sport that requires precision under what will probably less than perfect conditions. It may be very hot or very cold, the wind may be blowing, mosquitoes may be buzzing all around you, or you may not be able to stand at the exact angle you would like in order to get a shot. With that in mind it makes sense to practice in less than ideal conditions. You need to practice when you are sweating, when your hands are cold, or from a slightly altered stance. Practicing in this manner may help you gain confidence to put your arrow on the mark when a difficult shot is needed.
For the really serious hunters it can be helpful to get a veteran hunter to watch while you practice to help with your form. Nothing like a seasoned pair of eyes to spot little flaws that may cause erratic shooting. Sometimes the slightest thing can cause inconsistencies and it is difficult to pick these things up on your own. An alternate idea is to get a tripod and video your practice sessions. You can then review it yourself or get someone else to evaluate your form.
None of the things offered here today are anything new or of the cutting edge variety. They are just some things to think about and experiment with as you prepare for bow season and there are plenty of other ways to improve your skills. Mainly you just want to look for the things that work best for you and then put in your practice time before heading to the woods. Confidence in being able to hit your target is the most important thing and that comes with time spent on your range.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.