Understanding the mental aspect of archery and bowhunting, with advice from the experts
Archery and bowhunting are two very difficult activities. Both these involve challenging elements that take a lifetime to master, if even then. Therefore, recognizing the mental aspect of archery and bowhunting is an important step in enjoying and perfecting these crafts.
1. Use the Right Rig
Archery is largely mental, and being confident in your archery setup is crucial. So, start with the right equipment purchases. Ask key questions, including: Where should I go to buy a bow? What is the right brace height for me? What is the right axle-to-axle length? Is speed or quietness better? What is my draw length? What is my draw weight? What accessories do I want? What can I afford? Then, make the right decision and get fitted to your new bow.
“You know, I actually started 3D archery before I started hunting,” said Bone Collector’s Travis “T-Bone” Turner said. “So, that’s how I found my love for archery. You can go to your local archery pro shop, and they’ll get you pointed in the right direction.”
2. Increase Arrow Speed
There are several ways to do this. The best way is to buy a faster bow. But you can also increase your draw weight, reduce arrow weight, etc. That said, make sure all components of your setup are in harmony and make sure you shoot the arrows that fit your specs.
3. Keep Draw Weight Down
Everybody and their brother wants to shoot 80-pound elk bows. Why? It isn’t necessary. Sure, if you look like the guys on the movie 300 and can whip a Brahma bull – go for it. More power to you. But if you can’t comfortably pull a certain weight do your arm a favor and don’t pull it.
Fifty to 60 pounds of draw weight is plenty enough for most big game animals. If you are hunting elk, moose and the biggest of big game it will be better to have more weight. But for deer, antelope, and other similarly-sized animals it isn’t necessary. Whether you are hunting, or just shooting, a smooth draw is a must. Too much weight will only cause excessive motion and decreased accuracy.
4. Go to the Bow Doctor
Art Helin, a Realtree pro staffer, knows a thing or two about shooting a bow. His No. 1 tip is to go to the bow doctor. “Take your bow to a good bow tech and make sure your bow is still in time with no string stretch, cam lean, etc.,” Helin said. “Re-paper tune it at this time to ensure your broadheads will fly true come fall.”
5. Play Some Games
There are many methods to practice your archery skills. Don’t get tunnel vision. Change it up and keep it fun and engaging.
“Bowfishing is something you can do something during the off-season, too,” said Bone Collector’s Travis “T-Bone” Turner. “Archery golf is becoming very popular as well. Basically, 3D archery is a lot like a golf round. You show up with a few of your buddies and before you know it you’ve shot 20 critters and haven’t even gotten your hands bloody. And at the end of the day, you might even get a prize for winning your class. Hone your skills. Have a good time with your friends.”
6. Manage Your Mind
Have the right frame of mind. Archery is like baseball — it’s 90 percent mental. Focus on mechanics, but also focus on a clear, focused mind.
“Concentrate on making a good shot,” Turner said. “Even if you judge the distance currently, if you make a poor shot, it isn’t going to make a difference whether or not the distance is correct. Pour yourself into the act of shooting and believe in your heart that you made the right yardage decision. This will lead to a good shot and builds confidence in your yardage judging skills.”
7. Suppress Your Nervous and Negative Energy
Don’t be nervous. Don’t dwell on the negative. Focus on positive energy and positive thoughts. “Archery can be perceived as a macho sport,” Turner said. “But at the end of the day, you want to use just enough muscles to pull the string back and hold the bow up. Try your best to suppress your nervous energy so you have as little herkie jerkiness as you can. Relax. Make a good push-pull and surprised shot. Instead of focusing on where the pin is floating, focus on where you want the arrow to hit. Focusing on that will help your accuracy a lot, too.”
8. Learn to Judge Yardages
Yardage judging is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face. Turner has spent years developing methods to overcome it.
“Honing your yardage-judging skills can be really tough,” Turner said. “There’s so many things that hinder you. The size of the target. The size of the trees around the target. The lighting of the target. These are hunting style situations. You can be in the light shooting into the dark or in the dark shooting into the light. All these things affect your depth perception and how far you think that yardage is. Luckily, we can use rangefinders in hunting situations.
“While practicing, or actually shooting a tournament, judge the target distance several different ways before the shot,” Turner continued. “First, walk your eyes to the target 10 yards at a time until you have a number in your head. Next, think 20 yards increments and imagine a pole that spans between you and that point. No flip that pull one length away from you in your imagination. If the tip of the poll lands past the target, it’s inside of 40 yards. If the target is still beyond the poll, it’s past it. Continue with a series of five or six unique methods of distance judging. Use the average distance you come up with from these methods.”
9. Have a Smoother Release
Sometimes our problems are in our hands. Literally. Make sure you are slowly releasing the trigger. Don’t jerk the trigger. Don’t torque your hand. Relax. Take deep breathes. Smoothly release the arrow.
Another issue is a bad release. All too often people use release aids that are sticky, jumpy, stiff, etc. Releases should be smooth and flawless when doing their jobs. Anything less is unacceptable. You’ll never be as effective as you could be with a subpar release.
10. Perfect the Follow-Through
A lot of people practice a bad follow through. Some people drop their bow as the arrow leaves. Others let it fall sideways. Keep the bow still until the arrow has reached its target. Doing this will ensure you don’t negatively affect the flight of the arrow with a bad follow through. Once the arrow has struck, the bow should slowly tip forward.
11. Practice Long-Range Shots
Long range shots are one of the best things you can do. Shooting at distances out to 80, 90 and 100 yards can make 20-, 30- and 40-yard shots seem much easier. And they will be because you’re dialing in at further distances. This doesn’t mean you will (or should) shoot at animals at these long distances, though. It’s just for practice.
12. Practice Different Positions, Distances and Elevations
Steve Fuller of The Hunting Grounds is a pretty good shot. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to a bow and arrow. “Practice shooting in different situations and from different elevations,” Fuller said. “Practice in hunting scenarios such as shooting from a blind and a treestand. I always try to shoot from a variety of elevations, whether I’m shooting down a hill, out of my stand, or off the roof of my house. When deer hunting, you have to be ready for the unpredictable. Practice long-range shots, even further than you would shoot at a deer. This will help fine tune your accuracy and when deer season comes in those shots within your comfort zone will hopefully feel like a chip shot.”
13. Remember Repetition Is the Key
A big part of archery is relaxation. It isn’t a macho sport. It’s a finesse sport. And being able to do the same thing over and over with muscle memory repetition is key. Backwoods Life’s Michael Lee expressed his thoughts on this.
“While practicing, I will come to full draw with my eyes closed and find my anchor points, then open my eyes,” Lee said. “It helps me focus on the target only and not keeping my mind on other mechanics while practicing.”
14. Practice Quality Over Quantity
Don’t shoot a ton of arrows just to shoot a ton of arrows. It’s better to shoot a few good arrows than a bunch of bad ones. I’d rather practice by focusing and making eight or 10 good shots than 20 or 30 average ones. Once you get tired, quit for the day. It’s too easy to develop bad habits when fatigued. That’s the last thing you want to do. We practice to progress, not regress.
15. Practice Year-Round
Nate Hosie, co-host of HeadHunters TV, bowhunts year-round. It’s part of how he makes his livelihood. So practicing during the off-season is a must for him. “Stay in your groove and practice perfectly,” Hosie said. “Just because the season ends doesn’t mean practice and preparation end as well. Practice year-round to help you be the most effective, ethical shot you can be. Practice for that perfect moment when it all comes together.”
Understand It’s a Process
Don’t think of archery as anything more than therapy. Be relaxed. Don’t overdramatize it. Always strive to improve and never think you have it all figured out. That’s when things go wrong.
“The great thing about archery is that it’s ageless,” Turner said. “Whether your old or young, it doesn’t matter. It’s a sport that you can never master. You can only get better at it. It doesn’t matter what kind of shape you’re in. If you can bend the strings, it’s for you. It’s very therapeutic.”
Overlooked States Bowhunters Should Consider Road-Tripping To
There are a lot of states that are already swamped with bowhunters. Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, and Wisconsin are just a few examples. Others are more overlooked, though. They offer great opportunities and less hunting pressure.
Delaware: This small state offers a big opportunity for whitetail hunters who can find a place to hunt. It offers diverse habitat, good deer herds, and great genetics. It even offers an early bow opener.
Idaho: Most deer hunters don’t think of Idaho, but it’s a great state. The state is 70% public, and the deer numbers are solid for mountain country.
Indiana: Only a few states outpace Indiana’s recent Boone and Crockett production. It’s on a phenomenal upward trend.
Maryland: Like Delaware, this is another northeastern state that doesn’t get enough love. Each year, it produces great deer hunting opportunities. Furthermore, it’s in the top 20% of states for record-class deer.
Mississippi: According to the National Deer Association (NDA), Mississippi routinely produces a higher percentage of harvested 3 ½-year-old bucks than all other states.
Oklahoma: Most hunters don’t think about Oklahoma, but it’s a great whitetail state. The state has a solid deer herd, optimal hunter numbers, affordable licenses, and more.
Virginia: Most people don’t think of Virginia as a great deer hunting state, but it is one. It has a lot of deer, moderate trophy potential, challenging habitat, etc.
Off-Season Archery Hunts to Keep the Rust Off
Oftentimes, hunters quit shooting and put the bow in unintentional storage. They get rusty. Strength, skill, and confidence begin melting away with each passing week. Instead, it’s crucial to stay sharp with the stick and string outside of deer season. Bow hunts to consider include bowfishing, bullfrogs, coyotes, groundhogs, pigeons, prairie dogs, squirrels, wild hogs, wild turkeys.