How Self-Awareness Can Make You A Better Bow Shot On Whitetails

How Self-Awareness Can Make You A Better Bow Shot On Whitetails

Quite a few years ago, I passed on one of my older bows to a friend of mine. He had expressed an interest in bowhunting and had already killed a few deer with a rifle, so it seemed like a good idea.

That feeling faded after about the fifth mystery blood trail.

While he was more than enthusiastic about entering the ranks of archery hunting, he couldn’t keep his act together on a deer. Not only did he shoot poorly, he almost always seemed to hit deer instead of whiffing clean.

After a few seasons of dealing with his post-shot issues, I realized something—he almost always shot too far forward or too far back. Rarely did he shoot high or low. I started thinking that maybe he was trying to peek around his rack of pins to see more of the deer, so I convinced him to switch to a single-pin sight. His results changed almost instantly, and he has never gone back.

Sometimes, a fix for our shooting woes is obvious, sometimes, it’s not.

Painful Memories

While my buddy was a shoulder or gut shooter, my problem for a lot of years was different. I almost always hit too high or missed over the top of deer. This issue plagued me, and it got to the point where I wanted to quit.

While it wasn’t fun to think about, some reflection led me to a likely culprit. My buck fever caused me to punch my trigger the moment I saw enough of the deer in my sight window. In fact, it was during my first few rifle hunts where I shot high that this occurred to me. Just like with my buddy, I dumbed down my sight window to one pin and then forced myself to think through my entire shot process. It took a summer’s worth of shooting, but when it all clicked, the arc of my deer hunting career changed.

This is not that easy to do. We don’t like reality, when the comfort of slight delusion is so warm and fuzzy. If you almost always zip your arrow through the vitals, this might not be for you. Most hunters don’t, though. They need to think about their shots and what is going on.

What happens when you miss or make a poor shot? I mean, besides looking for an excuse like the deer ducked the string or an unseen twig sent your arrow on a less desirable path. Where does the arrow tend to go versus where you want it to go?

Tucked into the embarrassment of flubbing a few shots is usually a pattern. If you can tease it out, you can fix it, but probably not how you expect.

It’s Not The Gear

I’m a huge advocate for dumbing down the shot process to account for the inevitable adrenalin dump of shooting at an actual deer. In that way, gear matters. Where it doesn’t is when you’re sitting there in the mid-summer, thinking about another practice session while reflecting on your past mistakes.

This is when the ego creeps in and whispers to us that it must be an equipment issue. If you just buy a new bow, or a new limb-driven rest, or heavier arrows, or whatever, your issues will disappear. There’s nothing wrong with a summertime upgrade, but it won’t fix what is between your ears.

The easiest way to understand this is to think of how many times you could shoot at a relatively close 3D deer target in a row before you’d miss completely. At 20 yards, might be able to shoot 1000 arrows, or more, before you make a really bad shot.

How many live deer would it take for you to make a mistake at 20 yards? Probably not nearly as many. The gear performs just fine on the range; why not in the treestand at last light? Because there’s something going on in your head that is causing panic.

The simplest way to beat this is to shoot in a way that helps you build trust with yourself. Second-guessing your abilities is a big problem, and it’s most prevalent when a 135-incher is on his way down the trail. During practice sessions, the goal should be to believe that once you put the pin where it needs to be and execute the release, the results are predictable.

You have to practice with the intention to become not only more physically efficient but also more mentally competent and confident. Reflect on your past mistakes and then shoot to give yourself the earned confidence of someone who can reliably do this. The more you convince yourself that you’re capable on the range, the more that will translate to the field.

That’s an easy answer. Often, it’s not enough, but it is a start. The more you shoot in August in a meaningful way to truly increase your confidence, the better you’ll be in the stand this fall when the crux of your entire season trots in and poses up at 27 yards.

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