Bow Hunting Preparation | What Steps You Should Take to Get Ready
Summer may be the best time for wetting lines and relaxing at the lake, and everyone should get their fair share of those hobbies in while they can. But there are many things you should be doing right now to get ready for archery hunting too. Sure, it can be kind of hard to imagine hunting season when you’re sweating and trying to stay cool on the patio. But no matter what you think, hunting season will come faster than you can even imagine.
That means you’ve got an opportunity before you; an opportunity to get yourself ready for bow hunting like you never have. Summer bow practice should be in full swing at this point in the summer. If not, you should start as soon as possible. But is simply practicing your bow enough to get ready? Or does it take a few more bow hunting preparation steps and bow hunting tactics beyond that? Let’s look at a few ways you can truly prepare yourself for the upcoming season we look forward to most.
Physical Bow Hunting Preparation
It’s important to keep a basic level of physical fitness throughout the year. How many times have you heard that from your doctor? But it is true, especially if you intend to do any really active spot and stalk bow hunting or hunt in a mountainous area where a degree of fitness is a requirement. But even if you only intend on hunting behind your house a few times, being strong and flexible can help you out. Have you ever sat all day long in the bow stand, holding very still, only to freeze up when a deer finally comes within range because your shoulder doesn’t want to cooperate? It happens more and more with age, as stiff and underused muscles can be tough to use after sitting motionless for a few hours. Having a strong physical foundation can prevent it from happening again.
As far as physical training for bow hunting preparation, the best way to get better at something is to actually do those activities. If you don’t have any room at home to shoot your bow in the backyard, and can’t make it to any archery ranges, don’t be discouraged. Set up a small corner of your garage with a good back stop and target, and simply draw your bow back and hold it as long as you can to develop your endurance. Or try repeatedly drawing it back. Anything to build your muscle stamina without fear of dry-firing your bow is good. Just don’t rush it and don’t even think about touching your release trigger, as you want to be especially safe in an enclosed space like that.
As we mentioned, though, the easiest way to get better at archery hunting is to actually shoot your bow. For the first few weeks of practice, you should shoot your bow as often as a few times a week, shooting a dozen or more arrows each time. To develop your endurance, draw and hold your bow back for 1, 2, or 3 minutes as a goal. Then when you’re shaking and puffing for air, aim and take your shot at a 3D target. This situation is almost definitely going to happen in the woods, so you should practice it to see how your body can handle it. Obviously, developing perfect archery form is critical. Practicing a bunch of distracted and half-hearted shots will actually just hurt you in the long run. To make sure you’re doing things the way you should, either have a hunting friend or family member watch and constructively critique your form, or video tape yourself during practice. Getting an early start means you have time to fix any issues before they become cemented in your routine. Plus, doing these archery exercises early on will help enforce your form, build up your muscle memory again, and strengthen your back and shoulder muscles for that specific activity.
If you can’t hike through the woods or practice drawing a bow several times a week, there are ways to get around that. Think about all the activities you do when you’re actually bow hunting. Try to do exercises that resemble or mimic those movements. For example, load up your hunting pack with some gear or weights and go for a walk down the street. Keep it interesting by changing directions and taking hills if you have any available. An even better option is to go through the woods or park near you, since walking on pavement recruits a very different set of muscles and coordination. Hiking like this will develop your walking stamina, strengthen your leg and core muscles, and burn some calories to keep the summer barbecued favorites from sticking to your gut.
To supplement your actual archery practice, some strength training would also be useful. The stronger you are, the higher draw weight you can handle. Also, having the strength to slowly and deliberately draw your bow under control is important when you’re trying to be stealthy with watchful eyes around. If you have to jerk the string back or lift your bow up skyward to draw it, it’s too much weight for you. There are a few exercises for bow hunting that can help you improve your strength. Upright and bent-over rows will help build your back and shoulder muscles in a way that’s very similar to actually drawing a bow. Front dumbbell raises with static holds (i.e., holding a dumbbell like you would a bow in front of you for as long as you can) will develop your ability to hold a bow steady in front of you.
Tied with the bow hunting workout above, flexibility and mobility are just as important. Athletes who only focus on strength training without improving their muscle mobility often aren’t as effective as those who do, and sometimes even put themselves at a greater risk for injury. Before and after practice, do a few of the following stretches. First, stretch each arm to the left and right, holding it with your other arm for 20 seconds. Then stretch them up high and rotate them down behind you as far as you can. Do a few repetitions of this. Now do some simple shrugs, moving your shoulders in a circular fashion forward and backward. Continue this movement with your arms, circling them around you. Gently pull your head in all directions to loosen your neck muscles. If you can discretely do these in the tree stand when you’re hunting, it will help to keep your muscles flexible and ready.
Mental Bow Hunting Preparation
Of course, an equal challenge we have while bow hunting whitetails is beating the mental game. When we’re facing a truly big mature whitetail deer, our minds are in fact often a bigger problem than our physical preparation. Think about it. Your body can still usually do the same tasks, even if you’re shaking a bit. But our minds can be so distracted that we use the wrong pin or get so overwhelmed that we just psyche ourselves up too much. Here are some tips to prepare your mind for whitetail archery hunting.
The first thing you can do is to start checking all of your archery hunting equipment and bow accessories. Having the peace of mind in knowing your gear is all ready to go really does help. Especially if you’re practicing with your bow pretty often, you should really check it for any wear and tear issues. Particularly, focus on the string and cams for any fraying or lean, respectively. Of course, having the best compound bow accessories makes a big difference. Make sure you’ve got your sights dialed in where you want it to be. Similarly, look your deer stands over to make sure they’re in good shape, or get another one if it’s too old. A good bow hunting tree stand should be easy enough to carry around and set up, and offer a wide area to shoot out of. That way, you don’t have to worry about the bow limb hitting a shooting rail.
As opening day gets closer, start practicing more often but shooting fewer arrows each session. Also try to make it as realistic to a hunting situation as possible. You want to truly feel like you’re bow hunting deer. There are a few ways you can do this. By shooting only one or two arrows each time, it forces you to really focus on making the shot count just like you need to when you’re bow hunting for whitetail deer. That way, you’ll be used to doing so when the time comes. This is a huge mental hurdle to clear, but very important in your progression. In the final weeks before season, practice in your full hunting gear from a tree stand using a 3D target. This is as realistic as it can get for practice sessions. That’s important for truly visualizing a hunting scenario in your mind, and getting comfortable with your pre-shot routine. It might sound ridiculous, but each time you watch deer hunting videos or look at whitetail deer pictures, visualize every little detail about sitting in a stand watching the encounter unfold, and plan how you would handle it. Watch yourself making the shot confidently, which many athletes do before games, to give you confidence.
Additionally, start a consistent method each time you draw your bow during practice. That could include checking your anchor points are the same, making sure you’re breathing steadily instead of holding it in, and slowly circling your intended target instead of trying to punch the release as soon as your pin drifts over the right spot. Shooting at a 3D target of a deer will also train your mind to adjust shot angles automatically and get you used to shooting at a deer profile instead of a red bullseye. It’s also helpful to take at least a few shots with your actual hunting arrow and broadheads so you can make any adjustments to your bow. Fixed broadheads can sometimes fly a little differently than field tips, but expandable broadheads should shoot truer to them.
Bow Hunting Preparation = Success
As you can see, there’s a whole lot more to preparing for archery hunting than simply shooting your bow. If you can devote the time to the mental and physical preparation steps discussed above, you’ll find that opening morning almost feels like just another practice session. Familiarity and confidence in your abilities goes a long way to ensuring you can get things done when the right deer finally does step out in front of you.