We practice with our bows all summer long, but after opening day its easy to get wrapped up in the hunting and forget about practicing. But even if you’re spending your time in the field and can’t hit the archery range every day, you can still keep your edge. Shooting in hunting situations is obviously different from target shooting. In the real world, weather conditions, shot angles, brush and other obstacles can impact your shot. Also, when the time comes to take a shot during a hunting situation you’re usually either stiff and cold from sitting in a treestand or sucking wind from running up a hill. All this combined with the fact that you must make a clean shot with the first arrow makes it all the more important to keep your shooting skills sharp. Here are a couple tips.
One of the biggest challenges to making a “cold shot” is that often the muscles I use for properly drawing my bow are stiff. The simplest way to cure this is to periodically pick a target, draw your bow, aim, hold, and let down your draw. This keeps you loosened up, plus drawing and aiming without actually shooting helps you focus on the target.
Although just drawing and aiming will help a lot, the single biggest help is to actually shoot while out hunting. A common practice among traditional shooters is to carry one or two blunt pointed arrows in your quiver so that you can stump shoot in your down time. Stump shooting is fantastic for keeping you warmed up, but unlike just drawing, actually completing your shots will bring your release into play, as well as give you all sorts of angles and situations to practice.
Small game is even better than stumps (grouse and rabbits taste a lot better too). Grouse can be deceivingly tough to hit. You want to aim for the base of the neck or the head. Sometimes they flush at the shot, but grouse will go in the direction that their head is pointing, so if you use a snaro point, you can either take their head off or hit them in the body as they flush. The best thing about grouse is they often give you extremely challenging shots, and if you can become consistent at taking them, you will be ready for the big game (make sure to check your local regulations before taking any small game with a bow).