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Practice to be Perfect

The big 8-point stood behind a wall of brush while I sat motionless among small saplings 20 yards away.  I was a stander on a deer drive and the big buck had every sense on high alert.  For long seconds I watched the buck through my scope until it attempted to double back and escape the drive.  Luckily, for me, it stepped through a tiny opening, and the instant its shoulder appeared I released, downing the nearly 200-pound animal within 100 yards.  This was like a grouse shot with a shotgun and my intense practice regimen paid big dividends.

Realistic Practice Makes Perfect

The quality of your target is almost as important as your bow and arrows.  I took an inexpensive target on an elk hunt about 10 years ago and quickly learned that my powerful bow shot completely through the target.  I began with eight arrows and ended with three when I finally zeroed the scope.  My favorite target is Morrell’s Back-to-Back target shown above.  It not only holds any arrow I can shoot but reinforces the exact area for shot placement.  Most bowhunters are familiar with the behind-the-shoulder shot placement on a deer, but not the tiny kill zone of a wild turkey.  A 3-D target is the best for reinforcing shot placement, but the Back-to-Back is much more portable, affordable, and has two animal visuals on the same target.

Aim Small, Miss Small

A “Robin Hood” is great for the ego, especially in front of friends, yet at $20 a pop for arrows, it quickly becomes expensive.  During your practice sessions, you want to strive for accuracy, yet not destroy or damage arrows.  Even a touch of one carbon shaft to another can cause one or both arrows to be dangerous to shoot.  An easy answer to this dilemma is to use a target with multiple aiming points.  You can judge the accuracy of your shots by comparing grouping within the dots and not risk damage to arrows.   I’ve used the same Morrell field tip target for 15 years and finally upgraded this year.

Practice and Test

Many archers labor over the weight of a broadhead.  Should you shoot 100-grain, 125-grain, or 150-grain broadheads?  Here’s a test of arrow impact of arrows with three weights of target points from a 400 fps crossbow.  As you can see, at the close-to-moderate range, weight affects arrow drop very little.  If for example, you chose to practice with 150-grain target points you’d need to zero at 20 yards and then shoot your reticle placements as you would with 100-grain heads.

Portability is Important

I hunt in Idaho as often as I can draw a tag.  The steep mountains and rugged country are very different than my Maryland hunting ground. Almost as important as coffee is my High Roller target that works for target points and broadheads.  When I first get to camp, I test my scope’s zero after flying across the country.  Also, at the end of each day, I choose to take a 20-yard off-hand shot to verify the zero.  I’ve done this in the headlights of a vehicle when returning at night and it gives me an extra trigger-pull practice as well as accuracy verification.  The High Roller comes in two sizes, with the smaller model ideal for portability.

Daily Practice Regamine

Intermittent practice is better than massed practice.  That is, it’s better to shoot 10 arrows a day over 10 days than 100 in one setting.  The shot above was at 62.5 yards in my backyard using a Morrell Kinetic target.  This arrow was fired from a TenPoint Viper 430 and even at 60 yards the arrow penetrates about 10 inches.  Despite the penetration, the arrow pulled out easily thanks to the densely packed material in the Kinetic.  Shooting target points into foam targets from 400 fps+ bows can actually melt the foam to the arrow making it very difficult to remove.

Know How Arrows Shoot

Part of the perfect practice is paying attention to detail.  This target group is also at 62.5 yards in my back yard and it shows how my #1 and #2 arrows nearly touch at that distance, while #3 shoots slightly to the right and higher.  At 20 yards, these three shafts would make a tight group but as distance expands, so does the variance from true aim.  Always number your arrows and be alert when one flies from the mark.  I always hunt with my practice shafts because I know they fly well and with fresh broadheads are as good as new.

Make Practice Fun

The smile says it all.  My young grandson loves to shoot a crossbow and scored a bulls-eye on his very first attempt.  Vary your practice routine to accommodate various distances and shooting situations.  This young lad took his first deer last year while sitting on the knee of his older brother.  Despite his limited hunting experience, he made a perfect shot on a large doe that expired in seconds.   As you check your stand in the pre-season, take your High Roller along and launch a few shafts.  Perfect practice builds confidence so that when that big buck finally makes a mistake, you will bring the hunt to the perfect ending.


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