Accuracy Up a Notch
By Chuck Adams
Mar 22, 2005 – 2:12:00 PM
I love to shoot my bow. But like everyone, I sometimes have an off time at the range. Yesterday was such a day.
I could not hit my behind. When I wasn?t flipping my bow hand or plucking the string, I was releasing without a solid aim. When I managed to bear down and aim, I wasn?t following through.
I only did three things right. I quit after a few dozen shots, I did not let the experience get me down, and I tried to analyze why I had shot so poorly.
I f you find yourself shooting all over the map, or even shooting a bit substandard for you, do these same three things. Quit shooting. Don?t worry. Analyze your performance. Chances are, you can improve your accuracy without too much trouble.
Archery is a lot like golf. No matter how well you shoot, you always have potential to shoot better. So even if you like the way you shoot, consider the six basic improvements steps I revisited yesterday after my dismal performance on the range.
One of my problems was strength. I normally shoot twice-weekly all year long, but I sprained my left wrist six weeks ago. I laid off shooting for a month, and I realized today that I?m not yet strong enough to aim rock-solid. I figure I?ll be back to normal in another two or three weeks.
If you don?t practice two or three times per week for at least six weeks?30 to 50 arrows per session?you won?t be able to aim dead-center at the a bull?s eye or whitetail deer.
Being out of shooting shape is abnormal for me, and I was amazed how tough it was to aim yesterday. The sight pin wandered and jumped around the target, never in solid control.
Before hunting season, you must get stronger, or reduce draw weight to a point where you are strong enough to aim like a rock.
Develop A Grip
Every archer?s hand is unique in size and shape. Every bow model has a grip all its own. You must think about how you grip the bow for best accuracy. Hold it loosely, with fingers barely touching up front. Or shoot with an open hand and wrist strap. Never, but never grip the bow tightly.
The smaller the bow grip, the better the bow is likely to shoot. There?s less chance of squeezing or grabbing the handle as you release.
Experiment with various ways of gripping your bow. For example, I shoot best with my favorite Reflex compounds when I touch the ball of my thumb to the nail of my index finger. This forms an open circle around the grip and neutralizes the squeezing muscles in my hand. There?s no easy way to grab during the shot, so I shoot better.
Yesterday, I found myself gripping with thumb tip and index tip together. This let me tighten my hand and squeeze the bow as I released–a no-no for best accuracy.
A consistent string anchor is like the back sight of a rifle. Find a comfortable place to press string hand or release aid to your face, and be consistent from shot to shot.
A peep with a large hunting aperture?1/8? or 3/16??will greatly enhance the anchor. Shut your eyes, draw and anchor, and then open your aiming eye. Move the peep to the center of your eye?not the other way around.
Establish A Routine
Consistency means top hunting bow accuracy. Yesterday, as I sprayed arrows toward the target, I realized I was not doing things the same from shot to shot. A month off with a sprained wrist caused me to deviate from my normal shooting routine.
Here?s my routine. It doesn?t matter what yours is, as long as you do it the same each time.
I take in a deep breath, let out half, and draw with an open bow hand. I lock into my anchor, 20-yard sight slightly below the target, and gently close my bow fingers. I come up on target from directly below, slowly but smoothly until the reticule is where I want it. I release and try to hold the pin on target until the arrow actually hits.
Yesterday, I was not in the groove. I?d close my bow hand first and then anchor, or draw with the 20-yard pin well below target. Without routine, I did not have consistent arrow impact either.
As explained in one of my columns earlier this year, perfect target-type shots seldom happen on real animals. But I guarantee you my basic breathe/anchor/grip/aim routine holds true even when I?m kneeling, crouching, or twisting to take a shot.
Half of accurate archery is physical. The other half is mental. Even if you?re strong and in your shooting groove, you?ve also got to aim. That?s mental, and it isn?t always easy.
Try not to shoot when you?re mentally stressed or distracted. You must concentrate on the target like focused light through a magnifying glass. Move smoothly on the bull?s-eye or animal?s vital zone, and do not release unless the aiming picture looks exactly right.
Sloppy, half-concentrated aiming never works. Yesterday, I was distracted by my other shooting problems, so I found myself releasing when I was aiming near the target. Near might be okay if you?re lobbing hand grenades. Near does not cut it with a bow.
Hold Your Aim
It is painfully easy to fall apart as you release the bowstring. If you drop your bow or flip it to one side, the arrow will not fly true.
Hold your aim until the arrow hits. Concentrate your eye on the target. The bow will recoil to one side, but not before the arrow is gone.
When I?m shooting well, I see the bow bounce to the right during the shot. The aiming pin is still at vertical target level, and my focus is still on the bull?s-eye or animal.
When I shoot badly, I don?t have this awareness of sight picture after the release. I blink and lose it altogether, or flip the bow up or down.
Holding your aim, commonly called follow-through, is key to notching up accuracy. This is largely mental, and if you try to burn a hole in the target with your eye and your brain, it can actually seem like you?re thinking the arrow into the bull?s-eye. At this point, you?ll hit the target most of the time and feel really good about your shooting.
I?ve analyzed yesterday?s shooting mistakes, and I plan to shoot again tomorrow. I?ll take things slow and step by step, re-training myself to be consistent physically and mentally. In a few more weeks, my aiming muscles with a heavy hunting bow will be completely up to snuff. At that point, I should be shooting well.
I know I?m on track for pinpoint hunting accuracy, and you can be too. With deer season just around the corner, now?s the time to concentrate and ratchet up your skill.
Bowhunting World Magazine
PO Box 362
Mt Morris, IL 61054-0362
Mike Strandlund, Editor
Mark Melotik, Managing Editor
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