In target archery you have to learn to properly tune and prepare your equipment for the range and competition. If your equipment is not tuned right you will have trouble hitting your target; be it the X or the 12 ring. No one will be consistently accurate if their set-up is not properly tuned for them. When your equipment, bow, arrows, sights, etc. are tuned you will see your groups get tighter and your arrows fly straighter. Confidence in your gear is always the biggest key to success and will eliminate one more thing you have to think or worry about. I setup my equipment for competition but mainly, for bowhunting.
As you learn more and become more familiar with your equipment you will also become more familiar with the things that will work for you and that you like. The bow will become a part of you and an extension of your arm.
When I go to a tournament I always do my best to mentally prepare for the shots I am going to make that day. Thinking about how I am going to draw my bow, breathing and stance, the adrenaline of being in a shootout with four other people while the crowd is watching every move you make. The rush of nerves is just like having a big buck standing in front of you.
If you do not think through the moments that are likely to happen, you will find yourself unprepared to face them. Imagine when at the range, you a find yourself more nervous than you would if you had mentally trained yourself to be ready. I haven’t found a complete cure yet but I do find it helps to put your mind in that moment before it happens. You will find your body start reacting you can find the ways you need to relax, calm down and focus on every shot. I find this mindset to be very helpful while hunting because you never really know what is going to happen or how fast, So you need to put yourself, at the range, in a possible situation that will get your nerves worked up so you can learn to control your emotions and be able to calm your mind, body and spirit so you will be able to assess what is at hand and follow through with a pre-planned reaction.
I would say that archery is 90% mental and 10% skill. The reason I say this is because you could be the world’s best archer but, if put in a high stress situation you are not able to take control of yourself and hit your mark, the skill level doesn’t matter much. Now, if you are able to master the mental side of archery it is much easier to master the process of shooting archery.
I find it valuable if I can sit in a dark, quiet room, close my eyes and put myself in my stand or blind. I think about a scenario that will be stressful, a huge buck suddenly coming into view. I concentrate on the moment, the wind, the leaves rustling, the smell and my heart beating harder and faster. The buck is walking, then stops and sniffs the air. He resumes feeding but is alert. Is he in the correct position for a shot? Is he alone? When do I draw? Do I sit or stand? What if he suddenly comes alert? How would I react? My heart is racing but I know I have to get my breathing and my nerves under control. During this little exercise I concentrate on me, my calming process and then on the shot. Yes, this is just an exercise. When the real moment of truth comes it will all be real but, if I do this enough I will guarantee you that I will have an easier, faster time of getting myself into the shot. You can too.
Clothing is another thing many people don’t think about until their string hits their coat sleeve and sends an arrow into the dirt. When I go to an event I always check the weather and pack accordingly as should any hunter before a big hunt. Just keep in mind that your bowstring will be moving an arrow just an inch or so from your arm. You don’t want to find yourself wishing you had put that arm guard on but didn’t.
Have you ever had a chance to shoot a nice buck and rushed the shot just because you got antsy? Too many of us have gotten taken in by the moment. I have learned, through all these exercises I do, to slow down and let the shot happen. It all goes back to being in control of us. Controlling everything we can possibly control because there are too many things we don’t have control over.
Learn to hold the pin on the target or in this case the area on the animal you wish to shoot while following through with a smooth release. Sometime you might find yourself “snatching” or “punching” the release. The best way to solve this is to do what is called ‘blank bailing’. Cover you sight with something that will not hit the arrow and stand a few yards from a really big target that you can’t miss, the back wall of a archery shop is always a good place to do this. Draw your bow and don’t worry about aiming, just focus on a smooth release. Over time you will find that a good smooth steady release will become a natural part of your shooting.
Another thing is we sometimes have trouble holding the pin on target without jerking or some other really bad thing going on, so let’s go to are target range. We will be using our sights so you will want to have them uncovered and in normal use. Draw your bow and just aim at the target but do not release the arrow. This helps us train ourselves to aim. Once your pin starts to dart around let your bow down and take a few breaths, now draw again and aim. Keep doing this for a couple days or even a couple weeks. When you get comfortable just aiming, keeping your pin on the target, then go out and fire off some arrows. I bet you will find your accuracy and groups get much better.
Another thing I have learned is, practice is a MUST. If you want to take a trophy home after a hard hunt then we must practice everything connected with the shot. This includes drawing in difficult situations where you are sitting, or having to twist your body. Practise holding the pin on target for longer than you would expect and, of course, be able to hit your target. You may find yourself in a high wind, cold environment after a long sit and then having to wait for the animal to move into a good shooting position while at full draw. If you plan for and then practice for every possible outcome I believe you will be better prepared for that shot that will come.