Walk on the Wild Side

Brad Harvey: Making the most of off-season archery practice

CorrespondentJune 18, 2014 

Whether you’re hunting or just slinging a few at a target in the yard, there’s something about that feeling you get when you release an arrow and know instantly that it’s gonna be a great shot, even before it finds its mark.

To those who don’t shoot a bow, it’s pretty hard to explain, but, due to muscle memory and a number of other factors, it’s quite obvious to you when the shot is going to be a bit off, as well.

As an archer, if you’d like to experience more of those “good vibes” than bad, there’s only one way to get there, and that’s through plenty of practice.

Right now is when you should be working on it, so that when the fall deer season rolls around, you’ll know with each release of the bow’s string that the path your arrow will take will bring the success you’re looking for.

Still, there are right ways to practice along with wrong ones, and knowing just how to go about it properly is extremely important if you truly want to master the art of hunting, or just shooting with stick and string.

Just like any other sport, having the proper fundamentals is the foundation your success is built on, and if you’re not sure about your own then it makes sense to visit a pro shop to inquire about a lesson or two.

I know full well that all testosterone-filled men just hate to be seen as a novice at anything, but bear in mind that in other sports, such as golf, those deemed to be the world’s greatest are constantly working with personal coaches to improve their game. Archery should be no different.

Once you’re sure of those fundamentals and the real practice begins, you’ll need to think outside the box a little to take full advantage. For as long as man has used a bow, many have worked at it while standing on flat ground and shooting at a target placed some distance away.

That doesn’t translate well to the real world of hunting, however, and getting the full advantage requires you replicate the exact shot opportunities that you’ll have in the field.

If you don’t already have one for hunting, purchase a ladder-style tree stand and place it in a good spot that’s safe to use as a practice area. You’ll want to be able to move your target all around it unless you’re able to utilize multiple targets placed in those various locations.

Because shooting at angles (and even in instances where the tree you’re perched in is in the way) will require greater skill based on good shooting form, this set-up will force you to improve as your practice days proceed.

Each time out, shoot a few arrows until you start feeling tired. Even if you’re not feeling it, the fatigue creeping into your muscles probably will show through arrow groupings that begin to get larger and larger.

Whether you’ve shot only three arrows or three dozen, stop and put the bow away for the day. When you return, try to slowly increase the number of shots that you can comfortably and accurately take, and you’ll soon find yourself shooting more times than you’re able to count.

When shooting, remember to be constantly aware of everything you’re doing. Create a routine or checklist for yourself that you go over in your head with each shot, and follow that list religiously. This will help you better replicate the important aspects of good shooting form, such as your grip and anchor point.

Because we never know how quickly a shot in the field will come our way or if we’ll be able to move much without being spotted by the deer, fire a few shots while both standing and sitting in the stand.

Often it’s not until we try to draw a bow while sitting that we find out how much harder it is to reach full draw this way, but if you find that you can’t do this smoothly and comfortably, you’ll need to drop the poundage a bit and re-sight your equipment.

If you need a little incentive to keep after it, just remember this: Deer don’t work off a script, and things rarely happen as perfectly as we’ve envisioned them in our dreams.

Your best bet for swaying the odds in your favor are by putting forth the effort to properly prepare.

Archery tournament

Want to take it up a notch?

This Saturday you’ll have the chance to do just that, right outside of Clover, as locals Nick and Tomorah Brakefield, owners of Carolina Arrow Sports, hold their second 3-D archery tournament of the year at the corner of U.S. 321 and Barrett Road in Bowling Green.

With an entry fee of just $15 for shooters older than 10, the course features 20 Delta/McKenzie targets placed along a well-defined path through the woods, with each lane featuring shooting stakes at both known and unknown distances depending upon shooting class, from 15 to 50 yards.

A practice range full of Bulldog Targets also will be available, and the event will follow ASA rules, classes and scoring.

Compound bow and traditional shooters will compete separately, and a hunting-bow class will be included.

It should be understood that only field tips will be used.

Head out there and give it a try. You might just find that the whole idea of this practice thing is more fun than you ever imagined.

For more information on this weekend’s shoot, contact Carolina Arrow Sports at 803-242-2536.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.

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