Bow hunters go to extreme measures to ensure a successful season. We run trail cameras for months to keep a close inventory on our herd even naming some of the more dominant bucks and iconic does. We plot their movements day and night categorizing trail camera pictures into galleries featuring the same bucks or any deer using the same pattern of movement. We prepare soil for months in advance to grow nourishing plots of forbs and grasses. We work out, lift weights, run, pack heavy objects around the neighborhood, shoot thousands of times in the back yard all to prepare for that one moment. The moment a Pope and Young buck walks within range and stops broadside is what all this preparation is for. But then it stops abruptly. The preparation that is... we usually don't prepare for the moment of truth. The deer is there, and ready to be shot; our blood pressure through the roof. You draw your bow and hold it. Inadvertently your stand, shoulder,elbow or any other arthritic prone joint pops, squeaks, cracks, or knocks. Or better yet, you suddenly feel the shifting breeze on the back of your neck. Your dream buck is now staring you down! Now what? Have you prepared for this moment? Probably not. Your first instinct is probably, "Oh crap. I've got to shoot now!" Which is not the answer you're looking for. Here's a few tips to ensure you don't do everything else right only to fail at the absolute most important moment of your endeavor.
One thing most hunters do before the season is shoot their bows. That is a given. Some shoot a lot. But most are focused on where the arrow hits. This year I want you to focus on holding your bow at full draw. Bow manufacturers already know how important this is. The proof is in the 70%-90% available let offs available in today's bows. At the beginning of August, at the latest, begin your new shooting regiment. Late in the summer evenings is best to simulate to the actual time you'll be making your early season shot. Not to mention the heat index will hopefully be below 100 at this point. Shoot 6 arrows and make sure your group is good. Now the fun part! 7th-12th arrow I want you to begin lengthening your hold time. Start at 10 seconds. Your 8th arrow go to 20 seconds. Keep adding 10 seconds to your hold time until you cant hold it anymore. Don't worry about where you're hitting at first. Just make sure that you can hold your bow at full draw and continue to stare down a solitary spot on your target- through the shaking, jerking, and grunting.
Make Yourself Nervous
An old school way to give yourself simulated buck fever is to do some sort of physical exercise immediately prior to shooting. All this accomplishes is to make you weak and breathe heavy. Kind of like buck fever but not really. You get buck fever because the moment you've been waiting for has finally presented itself and you don't want to mess it up. I can remember times where I've been screaming in my head as I begin to draw, "Don't screw this up. Don't screw this up!" Buck fever is the acknowledgement that YOU are the only thing that stands between going home empty handed and going home feeling like a million bucks! To adequately prepare yourself for this situation set yourself up to lose something important. Sounds scary doesn't it! An arrow is important isn't it? So what if you shoot at the center of a dumbbell? If you miss, your arrow is toast. I have an aluminum buck that will make you shake like a leaf. Not only does it let out a loud, "GONG", if you miss the vitals, but it will obliterate any arrow burying the field tip deep into the shaft. A few other ideas are shooting into the holes of bricks, drilling out a hole in plywood, or anything else that can damage an arrow or just leave you feeling like a dope. Trust me. The more arrows you break , the more nervous you will get shooting into your chosen targets. It has worked wonders.
Have a Countdown
Make a mental checklist of vital form procedures to go through before you release that arrow. Mine is:
3. Anchor- Knuckles behind jaw, nose tip on string.
2. Identify- Check peep and sight housing alignment, check the bubble in your level, check for proper grip.
1. Make a Hole- Pick the tiniest spot to make a hole in. Don't just get your pin on brown. I'm guilty. Early on in my bow hunting daysI would think, "Ok. Pin is on the lungs... somewhere", and release. This will 9 times out of 10 result in a longer than necessary blood trail, a total miss, or worst of all a wounded unrecoverable animal. Pick the hair, the crease, or the wrinkle in the skin and bury that carbon missile!
A.I.M. before you shoot. Hopefully using these practice tips and remembering this simple saying will keep you a little more calm in the heat of the moment this fall. Feel free to share any other useful tactics you do to Calm Your Storm.
Justin Lanclos- LABH Editor/ Founder