I take very seriously my skills as an archery hunter. In fact, I shoot my bows all year long from short sessions in my yard to competitive 3D tournaments. My goal is simply to improve every year as an archery hunter, not to mention the fact that launching an arrow and watching it hit its mark is about as enjoyable as anything in the outdoors. After many years of practice I can say with confidence that my skills have improved every year.
There was a time, however, where I was struggling with something that was very new. We all go through this regardless of the activity, archery hunter or not. We either learn a skill formally from a coach, from a friend family member informally, or we just start doing it and learn on our own. I was fortunate enough to receive some quality advice from knowledgeable shooters. The rest I learned on my own. The following is a list of advice I would give to any new archery hunter of the most important lessons I learned from that first missed opportunity as a beginning archer.
- Know your range, and be realistic – My first shot opportunity was on a whitetail doe that was broadside at 52 yards. To any experienced archery hunter this shot would have been an easy decision to not take, but I was excited, like really excited. There’s so much that can happen in those 52 yards that can result in a miss or an injury to the animal. Even though my skills have improved I try to limit myself to 40 yards now.
- Equipment matters – Bow engineers have a reach somewhat of a plateau in speed and shootability. In other words, it’s going to be while before we see any dramatic changes in arrow speed and cam design. With that being said, any “newer” hunting bow will kill an animal. I think you owe it to your own sanity as an archery hunter and your prey to invest in a bow that was made at least in the past 5 years. And certainly, without a doubt, don’t start shooting your uncle’s compound bow that he bought in 1995 without having it checked by a professional. Any “older” bow will most likely need new strings and cables at the very least. I have one of those old hand me down compounds that probably dates back to the 1980’s and I donated it to my locally archery shop to hang on the wall for display.
- Practice the way you play – Up until that first miss, I had spent all my time practicing on flat ground shooting at a flat target. Everything is different in the field, whether you’re hunting from a blind or a stand. Shoot from elevated positions, sitting down, from a blind, from a tree stand, with gloves on, with thicker gloves on. I could go on and on, but practice shooting at a 3D target from positions you’ll most likely be in while archery hunting. I promise there’s a difference, and finding that out during your first shot at a live animal is irresponsible. I can say that because I’m guilty of it.
We all may hunt a little differently, and we all may have different ideas about what a trophy is. However, for everyone who attempts to take the life of a game animal there is a responsibility to be the most accurate and efficient archery hunter we can make ourselves.