As the bull charged his way down the drainage I knew that today would be the day! With every step I could see the saliva dripping from his mouth and each time he bugled the steam would roll from his nostrils like a freight train roaring down the tracks in the cool, morning air. This “Gila Monster” bull, or so they like to call them in New Mexico, was on a B-line right for my position and I knew that the shot was going to happen fast.
Quickly I scanned the area looking for some cover to get behind so I could draw my bow undetected as the beast made his way towards me. A lone scrub brush was going to have to do, so I beat feet over to it. I can still remember just getting to that bush when this bull cut loose a bugle so close that it almost knocked me down!!! He was close and my heart was pounding out of my chest!!!
We all dream of situations like this; our dream bull is headed straight for us and we know that we're about to get a shot. For some of us this could be a shot of a lifetime, or the most important shot of our life. Are we ready? Will we capitalize? Have we done all that we can do to make sure that all of our hard work, time and money will be put to good use AND that we will make this shot that we dream about when the opportunity presents itself? I've put together this blog with these “lifetime shots” in mind. In this blog I'm going to go over three things that I do religiously each off season that have made me a better archer AND allow me to capitalize when these moments present themselves.
Blank bale shooting
If there's one thing that I've learned over the years of shooting my bow, it's that perfect practice equals perfect results. So what I mean by that is that when we practice we must be making perfect shots in order to perform in the moment of truth. Just flinging arrows down range with no meaning will not yield perfect accuracy. Years and years ago I shot indoor archery professionally and had the pleasure of having some fantastic coaches. All of them preached about using blank bale shooting in the off season and I cannot tell you how much this changed my shooting for the better.
Blank bale shooting refers to shooting at a block or bale from close range, maybe 10-20 feet, with no target face or dot to look at or focus on AND I even take it a step further and remove my sight. Literally we are only working on our shot sequence and working thru the release.
Basically we're reprogramming ourselves and our shot. We want a surprise release where we aren't anticipating the release going off, so blank bale allows us to only focus on ONE thing - aiming!!! Aim. Aim. Aim. Is what I'm always telling myself as I'm at full draw because I want the bow to do it's job and myself to do my job, which is to aim.
Blank bale shooting is a great way to rid ourselves of target panic and anticipation, which can both destory a good shot. It'll allow us to work on our form flaws and to practice making a perfect shot by only being worried about aiming and letting the shot happen naturally. By not having a target or a sight to focus on we now only focus on our form and aiming. Give this a try for a month, 15-20 arrows a day and I promise you that you'll see huge results from it.
Long distance shooting
How many of you have stated over the years that you'd love to make those 50-60yard shots feel like 20 or 30 yarders? How many of you have had a buck stand at 50 yards feeding, but you never released an arrow because your confidence is just not high enough at that distance? Well if you're like many archers I know, you've been guilty of both of these numerous times. So why not change this??? This year is the year and here's how. Start practicing 20-30 yards past where your comfort level is now and you'll be amazed how quickly you add 20+ yards to your hunting proficiency.
For example let's say your comfortable out to 40 yards, start shooting at 70+. Use a bigger target when you first start, so no arrows are lost and start practicing at these longer ranges each day. Shoot 10-15 good arrows at these longer ranges each day and you'll be amazed at how quickly your effective range will grow. Soon those 50 and 60 yard shots will feel like a breeze because you've been practicing at 70 and beyond.
Shooting these longer ranges makes us focus more on the details of our shot sequence as well as focusing more on the shot because of the longer distance. This teaches us to take our time more and to aim better because of the length of the shot. This will then make those shots that were once difficult seem like a walk in the park because you've been shooting past that comfort zone for awhile now. Your confidence will go up and in my mind confidence is everything in bowhunting, especially when a longer shot is needed to punch that tag. These shots will challenge an archer to make himself better and to me that's what we should all strive to do each season.
Practice like you HUNT
This hunt had been grueling to say the least. After miles and miles each day on horseback we tracked this tom through some of the thickest, nastiest brush that New Mexico had to offer, but on day 5 we finally caught up to this mature lion and got him into a tree. The rest was now up to me!!! Quickly I tied my horse up and made my way towards the tree’d lion. Once I got to him I noticed that the tree he was in was very thick, which offered limited shooting lanes. I was going to have to go almost directly under the lion and make a tough, straight upward shot with my bow. Luckily before this hunt, I had practiced for this exact scenario and knew that I could make it! That practice sure paid off as I hit him perfectly and he was dead before he hit the ground. But what if I wouldn't have practiced this shot? Imagine how hard it would be to make that shot in that high pressure situation!
My point here is that we need to prepare in the off season to shoot in the conditions that we may face during a hunt. Maybe it's steep angles on a mule deer hunt, or shooting from an elevated position to mimic a deer hunting scenario, or from our knees like we may encounter on a turkey hunt next spring. Whatever the case may be practice like you're actually hunting.
Another good tip that I like to preach is practice with your hunting gear on. Wear the clothes you'll be wearing to make sure that string won't grab your sleeve, put your facemask on and make sure it doesn't alter your anchor points. Another one we forget as western hunters especially is to shoot with a pack on because a lot of times we will have packs on our back as we're spot an stalking or working towards an animal.
Another thing I love to do to mimic a hunting scenario is to get my heart racing like it would be if a giant buck had just stepped out. What I'll do is I'll jog for a few minutes or do 30-40 pushups continuously and then grab my bow to shoot. This will simulate a racing heart and give us a good idea if we're ready to shoot under a high anxiety, pressure situation! Try this out- you'll be shocked at how realistic it is to the real thing.
Let us know how your shooting is coming this summer AND if you're using any of these techniques to make yourself a better shot. We've got a full lineup of badass guests and blog ideas coming at you this summer and early fall so stay tuned! As always GO SHOOT YOUR BOW. CHASE YOUR DREAMS NOT YOUR LIQUOR 👊🎯🍻