Since several months back, most bows were just sitting around collecting dust. Now, they have all been broken out, visually checked, strings waxed and rightly so. Over the past several weeks, conversations have centered on the upcoming archery deer hunting season. Many of these discussions, which get extremely lively at times, debate the correct amount of arrows to shoot during individual practice sessions. It’s interesting to say the least and sometimes downright humorous.
Some bowhunters are of the opinion that flinging shafts until your arm falls off is OK, because that means you’ve practiced a lot and a lot of practice is good. This may be plausible if it’s months before hunting season and you’re only trying to build muscle and not concerned with developing accuracy. Oh sure, there are different strokes for different folks and although sending hundreds of arrows downrange may work for some people, for most it doesn’t and only leads to developing bad habits.
Then there is the other side of the coin, which I think is just as fallible. Some archers unfortunately think taking one good shot a day is the best way to prepare for the upcoming season. They mistakenly believe “you only get one shot while hunting, so why not practice that way?” If that was the case why doesn’t a placekicker on a football team only practice kicking the pigskin a couple times during practice sessions? After all, they usually only get that many chances per game? Why do baseball players practice hitting ball after ball when they only step up to the plate maybe three or four times in an entire game? I guess the one-shot-a-day theory may be OK, only as long as you throw in additional practice sessions.
There is a big difference between target archers and bowhunters. Target archers may spend hours practicing, but there bows are lighter in draw weights. Plus, missing a paper or foam target is not near as bad as missing, or worse, wounding a live animal.
Some of the best bowhunters I know have a specialized routine. When shooting at dots 20 or 30 yards away, they may shoot a couple dozen arrows. Then there are days where they will push the 50-60 arrow mark, but this involves more elaborate practice sessions that might include shooting from elevated stands or a 3-D course, giving their muscles time to recuperate. They also mentally dwell on how they can improve.
There is no doubt most ethical shots taken in the woods are inside of 30 yards. But another good practice method includes setting your target at 60 or even 70 yards. Why do this when you would never consider shooting this far? Because practicing at these long distances makes shooting at 20 or 30 yards seem like a chip shot and you won’t believe how your shorter distance accuracy improves.
No matter what kind of practice you have going on, one thing to become cognizant of is don’t force it when things just don’t feel right. Stop, put the bow up and try again the next day.
“I only shoot until it stops feeling good,” says Mark Clayton, an avid bowhunter who has collected a mature buck every season over the past 22 years. “For me this equates to somewhere between 30 to 40 arrows.”
David Burns is another long-time archer who has many respectable deer under his belt. He too keeps his practice sessions reasonable. “I will shoot several dozen arrows every day that I can starting several months before season,” he explained. “If you start shooting too many at once I think you do more harm than good.”
If you’re starting to get serious about bowhunting, don’t go overboard and consider a reasonable approach to your practice sessions. You’re always better off to shoot a manageable number of arrows and concentrate on each individual shot.
• Dennis McKee and Mat Temme swept last Monday evening’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass tourney, sponsored by Cardwell Built Construction. They won the event also collecting the tourney’s “biggest fish” award with one largemouth topping out at 1.63 pounds.
• Mike Clark and Aaron Hochstedler came out on top at last Tuesday’s Delphi-Delco team bass tourney, held on Mississinewa Reservoir with four bass totaling 9 pounds, 6 ounces. They also earned “big bass” honors with a 4-pound, 1-ounce largemouth.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at email@example.com.