How to maintain bow accuracy throughout the season

Bow Bootcamp is a 10-part series designed to get you, your gear, and your skills in peak shape for fall. That means gear checks, accessory adjustments, precision bow tuning, and shooting practice to get you going. . (If you missed any previous installments, check them out here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.)

You’ve built your arrows, tuned your bow to perfection, settled on your broadhead, and developed a consistent shooting process and practice routine, and now that bow seasons are opening across the country, the hard work will paid for with backstraps and some wall hats. That is, as long as you don’t stop now.

Once hunting seasons begin, it’s all too easy to put practice behind you and just focus on the chase. During the preseason, there is plenty of time to squeeze in practice sessions; the days are longer and you are not hunting. But once you start trying to spend every spare moment in the woods, with work and family in between, it can be hard to find the time to send a few axes down. However, as hard as it is, you have to find time.

You’ve struggled to develop good muscle memory, which is great, but you can lose it quickly if you don’t keep shooting. To stay sharp, you should practice at least three days a week during hunting season. More is better, but three days will keep those muscles toned and your confidence up. Here are some ideas to help you stay in top shooting shape all season long.

Thieves in some groups of days of the week

photo of archery
The author gets some practice on weekdays at his local pro shop. Jace Bauserman

As fall progresses and it gets darker earlier each day, one of the biggest challenges is fitting archery practice into a work day. Here you just have to prioritize your practice and find a way to make it happen. Wake up a little earlier a few days a week to shoot. Or, if you work close to home, drive there on your lunch break and shoot as you wolf down. These weekday sessions shouldn’t take long. Just try to shoot some good three-shot groups at a variety of distances. You can save your longer sessions for the weekend.

If shooting at home during the day isn’t an option, maybe there’s an archery shop near the office that you can pop in and shoot a little during a break from work or right after work. Or you might be able to shoot indoors after work. I have a small 15 meter archery range in my basement and I know some friends who go out in their garage, barn, shed and shoot. (A note here: When shooting indoors, make safety your top priority. I have a door in my basement that locks and has two signs that read, “STOP! Dad is shooting!”)

Maybe all you can manage during the week is a handful of short distance sets. It’s okay. Do it anyway. It’s enough to maintain muscle memory and build confidence. In terms of process, the shot you make at 40 or 50 yards is the same shot you make at 15 yards. Focus on perfect execution. A handful of perfectly executed shots are a million times better than a dozen half-hearted shots.

Of course, if you can do more during the week, great. One of the few advantages of the pandemic is that many of us are working from home, which should make it easier to get out and practice. Just turn off the camera and mute yourself during the Zoom meeting.

Don’t let hunting stop you from practicing

photo of archer with target
Nothing builds confidence like shooting a big group before you go hunting. Jace Bauserman

When the work week is over, you should have plenty of time to practice—except maybe the weekend is when you shoot, right? Well, don’t worry, you can easily do both if you develop a simple habit of shooting a few groups before and after each outing, right in the field. Whether you’re going for a morning hunt, an afternoon sit-down, or an extended drive, throw a target in your truck or camper.

Get a target that is small and easy enough to carry, but big enough to shoot groups from different distances. My travel targets are Morrell’s High Roller dice style target, SEVR’s HD 12 inch bow target, and Delta McKenzie’s Greenline layered bow target. All of these targets are compact, easy to carry, and will be abused.

Archery target

Leave a little early for your afternoon hunt, and when you get there, shoot a few groups by the truck before you leave. If you’re on a morning hunt, enjoy yourself and good luck, but when you get back to your truck or camp, grab your target, set it up, and have a field practice session. These are my favorites because I’m shooting the same range I’m shooting and I can practice as long as I want. On long trips when you are hunting mornings and evenings, take a break at noon and hunt. If you have some friends, shoot together; maybe make it interesting with a quick race of a friendly bet.

photo of archers practicing
Hunt with your friends in the camp between hunts. Jace Bauserman

On a heat-plagued deer hunt last week, when the animals lay down most of the day, I spent hours from base camp sending arrow after arrow from distances between 20 yards and 100 yards, building confidence for when the weather cools down a bit and I return. The thing is, there are always times during the season when you can hunt. Don’t miss the opportunity. All the best bowhunters I know continue to practice throughout the fall. Cameron Hanes takes time every day during the season to shoot at least one arrow, even when he’s hunting. Mark Drury fires several arrows – many into the headlights of his truck – before hitting the white forest. And on a recent trip, one of my mentors, Yahsti Perkinskiller, paid extra to have a target flown to his elk camp in Alaska, because he knows that to be at his best in the moment of indeed, he must see the arrows strike where his needle floats—every day.

picture of the buck hunter
The author with a large whitetail buck – the reward for exercising throughout the season. Jace Bauserman

You get the point. You’ve done the hard work to get here, now it’s all about storage. Make it a priority to practice whenever you can during the season, and when the opportunity comes, you’ll put that sharp stick where it needs to be.

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