It’s late February and find myself looking for something to do.
Deer season is a memory, while fishing and turkey seasons are months away. I’ve already run my hunting clothes through the dryer and stored them in an air-tight bag until they’re needed again next October. I’ve removed the batteries from all my electronic devices, including my rangefinder, headlamps, flashlights and trail cameras, and stored them away. I learned that lesson a few years ago when I discovered a reliable and expensive tracking light was ruined because the batteries I left inside leaked, rendering the light useless.
I cleaned out the back of my truck and stored my wheeled deer carrier and toboggan I use to remove deer from the woods. I even checked the straps on my treestands and climbing sticks to be sure they weren’t frayed and in need of being replaced. So now I turn to an often overlooked but essential part of every deer season – the need for continued archery practice.
I know hunters who, after the season ends, hang up their bow and don’t touch it again until late summer. I think that’s a mistake. If you want success in the deer woods next archery season you need to hone your shooting skills by shooting all year round in the off-season.
This past spring, I suddenly developed a case of what every shooter dreads. Call it target panic or whatever you wish, but I found myself dropping my bow arm after almost every shot. It seemed like there was a lead weight on my forearm and no matter what I did I couldn’t shake the impulse of dropping my arm. The result, of course, was erratic accuracy and a great cause for concern on my part. The problem started in my head and it was up to me to fix it. Daily shooting sessions and conscious concentration allowed me to somehow work through it, and by September, my shooting returned to what to me was an acceptable level. I was once again confident that, given the opportunity, I could shoot accurately enough to kill a deer.
After realizing what I was doing wrong, I tried to concentrate on the target, keeping my bow hand steady and bringing my release hand straight back over my shoulder. Sounds simple, but it wasn’t. Knowing what I was doing wrong and trying to correct it were two different things. Somehow, throughout the spring and summer and over the course of many weeks, I managed to correct my problem by shooting a few arrows almost daily. Some may disagree about my approach to the problem, but it worked. Practice was the only remedy.
I’m a firm believer in shooting my bow throughout the year and now, after taking care of my hunting equipment, I’m ready for some indoor shooting at the pro shop a few miles from my home. I don’t do marathon sessions – mine last less than a half-hour and, if I’m hitting where I’m aiming, I may quit after shooting just six arrows. Practice makes perfect and good practice makes things even better.