For Bowhunting Success, Learn How to Avoid 10 Top Blunders
The bedrock of successful bowhunting is not your skills as a woodsman – though they are foundational, no? – but your ability to place a broadhead-tipped arrow on target, every time. Doing so requires an archer to do those things that maximize accuracy, as well as avoid other things that will doom your bowhunt from the start.
Here are the Top 10 blunders I’ve seen bowhunters make over the past five decades.
1: Incorrect Draw Length
When it comes to draw length, size definitely does matter. Each archer has a specific draw length that is perfect for them, and their bows should be adjusted to that exact draw length. Not within a half-inch, but exactly. Not doing so will cause all sorts of inconsistent shooting problems, causing your bowhunt to go awry.
2: Too Much Draw Weight
When it comes to draw weight, bigger is definitely not better. Today’s highly efficient compound bows, matched with state-of-the-art arrow shafts, do not require Herculean draw weights to achieve plenty of raw arrow speed and enough kinetic energy and momentum to ensure deep penetration on game. Too much draw weight will adversely affect shooting form and make you draw the bow at funny angles. The rule: pull as much weight as you can handle, and not one pound more.
3: Inconsistent Anchor Point
Shooting a bow accurately — especially for a bowhunt — requires you to do the same thing every time. An oft-overlooked key is to anchor in the exact same place, every shot. That’s one reason peep sights are so popular, as they almost force you to anchor consistently. One consequence of a draw length that is too long is trouble finding a consistent anchor point.
4: Over-Gripping the Riser
Novice archers seem to think that unless they put a death grip on the bow’s riser when they shoot the bow will come flying out of their hands. Not so, of course. The bow is properly gripped lightly in the web between the thumb and index finger, with the remaining fingers exerting no pressure on the riser at all. The death grip ends up torquing the bow from side to side, causing inaccurate and inconsistent arrow flight. The latest in bow technology — like Prime Archery’s Nano Grip — will help archers keep a comfortable and accurate grip.
5: Incorrect Arrow Spine
Don’t just grab whatever arrows happen to be handy and start shooting. Arrows should be cut to the proper length for your draw length, but most important, they must be of the proper spine. Spine simply refers to how stiff the shaft is, which controls how much it flexes when it is released. A properly-spined arrow will minimize that flexing at the shot, which aids accuracy. Arrow makers all have spine-selection charts to make choosing the right arrow for any bowhunt easy as pie.
6: Bow Not Tuned
Your bow-and-arrow set-up is like a pair of ballroom dancers, who move around the dance floor in perfect harmony. Once you have the right draw weight, draw length, and properly-spined arrows tipped with the arrow point weight of your choice, the parts must now be “tuned” so they work in perfect harmony, just like those dancers. This is done by shooting shafts through paper at a distance between 3 and 30 feet.
How the shaft tears the paper tells you how the arrow rest and, at times, nocking point or string loop must be adjusted until the shafts are flying like laser beams, with no unnecessary wobble. How to make those adjustments can be found on charts provided by arrow makers, or online. It can take a fair amount of time to get your set-up tuned to perfection, but trust me when I tell you, it is worth it. You should never, ever go hunting with a set-up that has not been tuned.
7: No Practice Time
Shooting a bow is just like any other skilled athletic endeavor, like hitting a golf ball, rolling a bowling ball, or shooting a basketball. In this, practice makes perfect. Unless you shoot your bow regularly, you will never be the best bow shot you can be.
Also, remember what legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once so sagely said: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” For me, that means it is much better to shoot a few arrows every day than to shoot a bunch of arrows once a week. Once fatigue sets in, your shooting form, and thus accuracy, will suffer. Consistent, proper practice using correct shooting form is key. And make sure before heading afield on your next bowhunt that you have practiced with your broadheads, too.
8: No Specificity Training
In sports, specificity training means training the body for the specific task to be attempted. A sprinter does not lift heavy weights, like a football lineman, for example. In bowhunting, that means practicing your shooting to mimic the shots you expect to take in the field. Tree stand hunters should practice shooting down from an elevated platform, both standing and seated. Ground blind hunters should practice from their chairs. Spot-and-stalk western hunters need to practice shooting from their knees and at extreme uphill and downhill angles.
9: Not Using Laser Rangefinder
Knowing the exact distance to the target is everything in bowhunting. And tests by the military have shown that the average person cannot precisely guess distances past 35 yards or so. That’s why no bowhunter should ever head afield without a laser rangefinder. Buy one, learn to use it, and carry a spare battery in your daypack.
10: Bowstring Contact With Clothing
Too many archers spend all summer practicing their shooting in shorts and a t-shirt, then when their November bowhunt rolls around and they’re bundled up in heavy jackets, find that their bowstring nicks their parka sleeve, which of course destroys accuracy. Practice your shooting in your hunting clothing and, if needed, use some sort of arm guard and/or chest protector (a binocular harness can serve this purpose) to keep your string off your clothing and your arrows flying straight and true.