With the archery deer season approaching, it^s time for archery deer hunters to re-acquaint themselves with their equipment. While many archery hunters shoot year-round, those who have been spending their time in a fishing boat or coaching at the little league baseball diamond should once again sharpen their shooting skills.
Check your equipment now for any needed adjustments. Strings and cables should be periodically replaced. Look for any worn spots that may signal trouble. Remember that string strands may break underneath "served" areas and go undetected. It is always advisable to change any fiber string or cable every year. A trip to your local archery pro-shop now may prevent problems from developing during the peak of your hunting season.
When you are ready to start target practice, start slow. Muscles that have not been used heavily since last season are not ready for long sessions at the range. Shoot a few arrows on a regular basis. If necessary, reduce the poundage of your bow until it is comfortable to draw and hold on target. As your muscles respond to regular practice, the poundage can be gradually increased to your normal hunting weight.
Always start by shooting at close range. Confidence plays a critical role in correct archery form. Start by shooting at an eight or ten inch target at ten yards. If you shoot a release, always squeeze its trigger very slowly while focusing on the aim. Never punch the trigger quickly just because the sight picture is good. Punching the trigger will eventually lead to flinching or other forms of target fright.
Olympic archery coaches tell their students to focus on follow-through on every shot. They insist that follow-through is not where you keep your bow arm or you sight pin (if you use sights) at the moment after the shot, but where your eyes are focused after the shot. These top coaches tell their students to focus on the target with their eyes and continue that focus on the target for a full three seconds after the shot is released.
Fatigue can play a role in archery practice. Begin by shooting three arrows per flight instead of five or six. Rest periodically between shooting each arrow, considering each shot an important event.
Once you can consistently hit an 8-inch target at 10 yards, change to a 6-inch target and continue practicing at the 10 yard mark. The National Bowhunting Education Foundation considers a 6-inch ring to be comparable to the effective kill zone on deer-sized game. Your goal before season should be to keep all your arrows inside this 6-inch ring.
As August and September practice sessions improve shooting skills, you may be able to consistently group arrows within the 6-inch target at greater distances. It is best to increase your practice yardage in 5-yard increments. If progress is slow, make a mental note to begin practice earlier next year.
When possible, shoot at 3-D targets that have no visible kill zone marked on them. This forces you to pick a spot to shoot, simulating actual hunting conditions. When shooting 3-D targets, mentally pick a spot that you feel will center the kill zone and focus your attention and your eyes on that spot. Continue to concentrate on that spot until three seconds after each arrow is released.
Shooting at 3-D animals placed at unknown ranges is a good way to practice judging distances. While a tree stand hunter should always predetermine the ranges around his stands, a still hunter needs to be able to estimate ranges within his effective accuracy range. Competing in a 3-D tournament is a good way to determine if you would make a good still hunter or if you should stick to hunting from tree stands where you can predetermine the range of your shots.
By the end of September you must determine your effective accuracy range with broadhead-tipped arrows. Effective accuracy range is defined as the greatest distance that an archer can group 100 percent of his or her arrows within a 6-inch ring. If that distance is 20 yards, the archer should never attempt to shoot at deer-sized game beyond that distance.
When placing tree stands, pace off the yardage within all of your shooting lanes. Mark the limit of your effective accuracy range by placing a stick or log at that point. You have now made a conscious decision to never shoot beyond that range no matter what the situation or the size of the buck.
An archer who has properly prepared for a hunting season with regular practice and has predetermined his or her effective accuracy range can hunt with confidence. This approach to archery deer hunting can greatly reduce the chances of wounding and losing game, and in turn, enhance the overall enjoyment of this great outdoor experience.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks has produced an instructional video entitled "Shot Placement and Shot Selection." The video teaches bowhunters the vital anatomy of deer, proper aiming zones from level or elevated shooting positions, and caution about shot angles that may result in wounding.
This video is free for anyone attending a Bowhunter Education class, or it may be purchased from the Pratt Office of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (316) 672 5911. The cost of the tape is $10.60, which includes shipping and handling.