Develop a Shooter’s Foundation Before Leveling Up Your Archery Practice

Develop a Shooter’s Foundation Before Leveling Up Your Archery Practice

I dread the first few weeks after I set up a new bow. It’s a first-world problem, I know, but it’s also true. While this might be considered simply a break-in period with the idea that the first few hundred shots will help a fresh rig find its rhythm, there’s more to it.

It’s a new beginning, and that means it’s time for me to break myself in as well. That might seem crazy, but think about your personal target practice routine. Do you shoot as consistently in January as you do in August? Probably not.

Most bowhunters put their bow away at the end of the season, and if they don’t pull it out for spring turkeys, it might not see the light of day until mid-summer. Even if they are shooting an old, reliable rig that has been with them for 10 seasons, they’re starting over for the year.

In both of these cases, the best bet for being a stone-cold killer in stand is to lay down a solid shooting foundation first.

Test Your Skills

We all know that great archers strive for repeatability. Executing the exact same shot over and over is the goal because it removes the variables that send arrows where they aren’t meant to go. We also know that this isn’t achieved through a couple of practice sessions a week in the days leading up to the season.

Yet, we convince ourselves we are good enough.

After all, if an arrow, or a group of arrows, ends up more or less where we want them, isn’t that proof we are doing our job correctly? Probably not. While a loose group in the vitals on a 3D target in your backyard might seem like evidence of good shooting, that illusion tends to fall apart on real, live deer.

A good way to understand that you have the fundamentals really down, is to ask yourself how scared you are to shoot small bullseyes at, say, 20 yards. If you’re not worried about busting nocks while grouping arrows in a bullseye at close range with a modern compound, you’re not shooting that well.

Make Each Shot Count

When you think about proper form and shot execution, you’re thinking about a single event that consists of many parts. Drawing, anchoring, aiming, releasing, and then following through, are all steps to the proper bow-shot dance. If any one of them happens differently than it’s supposed to, the whole thing suffers.

We often gloss over this during summertime shooting sessions by shooting too much. If you plan to launch 50 shots in a session, is any single shot all that important? Probably not. It’s easy to wave away an errant arrow when you know you have plenty more to send downrange. This allows us to also ignore what we didn’t do that caused the errant arrow.

A better bet is to shoot more sessions but with far fewer arrows. Make every shot matter. Try to shoot a dozen, where every single shot goes where you want it. If you have one or two that don’t, ask yourself what happened. What can you do to keep that from happening again?

There’s A Time For Fun

The problem with spending a few weeks shooting a limited amount of arrows at easy ranges is that it gets boring. While you’re reinforcing muscle memory and shoring up each part of your overall shot process, it’s easy to feel like you’re not making any real progress.

It’s kind of like dumping 15% of every paycheck into ETFs or mutual funds in your retirement account, versus yoloing a big chunk of change in a meme stock. It’s more fun to play the lottery than to play the long game with calculated risks. It’s also far more likely you’ll become wealthy through the mundane route.

To be a good shot is to work through the phase, where the goal is to just be a technically near-perfect shooter. When it’s no longer a question that shooting tight groups will result in busted arrows, then you know that you’re executing. Then you can have some fun.

Build in longer-range shots, shoot from different positions, challenge yourself. Do it in a way that allows you to keep shooting like you’ve reinforced, and you’ll have the best of both worlds. But remember, without the foundation of a proficient shooter, you’re not going to suddenly crush it at long ranges or, more importantly, on live bucks in the woods when the adrenaline is coursing and the window to fill a tag threatens to close at any moment.

For more information on archery gear, check out these articles: What To Look For When Purchasing A Youth Bow, The Best Bow Sights, and Archery 101: How To Choose A Bow.

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