With bow season approaching, never too late to improve form

I write this nearly  on the eve of the Ohio bowhunting opener, and my message is that it is never too late to improve your shooting form.

For more than 50 years I have been a recurve/longbow fan, shooting barebow. I have been good enough to kill deer efficiently with arrows across some 40 years. I am a faithful disciple of the master archer/bowman Byron Ferguson, whose fine little book, Become the Arrow, has been my bible. I have met Ferguson, interviewed him, watched him demonstrate his awesome prowess in public. He is as good as they get.

I quickly adapted to Ferguson’s form, including anchoring the arrow with the middle finger, rather than index finger, to get the arrow closer to my shooting eye. But it took me all this time, and thousands of practice arrows released downrange, for yet another little tip to “click.” It was a simple matter of swiveling and scrunching my head a little, turning it ever so slightly more squarely toward the target so I could see down the arrow shaft that much better. It is like turning your head a little more toward the pitcher in baseball, to better “see” the incoming throw. I do not think I ever had shot three arrows into virtually the same hole at 20 yards before; maybe I will not again. But I did it this time, with just a little head adjustment.

Since that epiphany, in repeat sessions on my side-yard range my groups have been that much better than ever, especially when I bear down and truly focus on a spot, a very small spot, for an aiming point. Just like Ferguson has tried and tried to “tell” me in his book for years. In practice, I usually aim for the knock of the first arrow released, though I cannot claim to have “Robin-hooded” a second arrow into the nock and shaft of the first. Which is something that you likely will not be able to do in the treestand; there are few if any second chances in the hunt. So, get it done in practice.

This is especially so when you shoot barebow; you cannot stop practicing and reminding your muscles and eyes to “remember.” But practice and fine-tuning works just as well with sight-equipped, tricked-out compound bows and scoped crossbows. The point is, never stop self-analyzing each and every shot. A book can only take you so far. The rest lies between your ears. You have to engage your mind along with your body.

You never know when the next good thing in shooting form finally will dawn on you – as in scrunching and swiveling your head a mite to improve your sight-picture, or to concentrate on one very small spot – especially on that thick gray-brown hair of that 10-point’s broadside, where there is no bull’s-eye.

You may not be as slow a learner as me, but I now have lived and shot long enough to hunt happier and ever more confidently when that magic moment comes. So keep practicing and analyzing, right on through the season.

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