Perfect Practice

Some say practice makes perfect. Others say perfect practice makes perfect. The latter is the saying bowhunters should think about when they step into their backyard to shoot. In the summer, most of us wear shorts and a T-shirt when we let arrows fly. As fall approaches, we do pretty much the same thing except we put on a long sleeve shirt. When shooting in the backyard, very few things go wrong. We know the distance to the target, there aren’t any branches in between ourselves and the target, and of course the target isn’t a living, breathing animal.

To prepare for actual bowhunting, we should strive for perfect practice, we should strive to create realistic shooting situations, and we should even strive to simulate buck fever. I recently interviewed Joel Maxfield from Mathews Archery about creating perfect practice. Maxfield has bowhunted all over the world for a wide variety of species of animals and knows what it takes to shoot straight under pressure. “I suggest bowhunters shoot at 3D targets.  Whether it is one they purchased or they visit a local range, being forced to pick a spot routinely will make choosing a spot in the field much easier,” Maxfield said.

Another thing Maxfield suggests is leaving the rangefinder in your pocket from time to time. “Learning to accurately estimate yardages in the field is a necessity. At the moment of truth, a buck rarely gives a hunter enough time to determine the exact yardage. The same can be said when elk hunting, turkey hunting, or any other kind of big game hunting. Estimating yardages in the backyard will teach a person how to do it in the field.”
Maxfield suggests shooting in high pressure situations. “One great thing about 3D leagues is there are other people watching, there are steep angled shots, there are often limbs or trees in the way and many other things that are out of the control of the shooter. This creates a high pressure situation that must be overcome to put the arrow where it needs to go. Practicing in high pressure situations will result in being able to take high pressure shots in the field.”
When shooting in the backyard, most of us just draw our bow and shoot. When the pin is settled on the spot we are aiming at, we take the shot and most of the time we hit the mark. Those types of shots rarely happen in the field. “In real hunting situations, we often have to hold at full draw for an extended time while we wait for a buck to step out in the open. Practicing this type of shooting in the backyard is a great way to prepare for a shot in the field. Come to full draw and count to 30 seconds or even a minute before aiming. It will increase a person’s strength and teach them to aim and shoot even when their muscles are weak.”
Practicing from an elevated treestand is also a good thing to do. “Nothing beats climbing into a treestand and shooting down at a target. It will help a person perfect their form and teach them where to aim when taking angled shots. The same can be said of hunters who are planning a western elk hunt. Practice from the top of a ridge or dune. Take angled shots to prepare for angled shots in the field.”
Shoot with your hunting clothes on. “Very rarely does anyone hunt in shorts and a T-shirt. Practice in hunting clothes complete with a face mask if a person wears one to prepare them for fall. When the cold weather hits, practice with several layers on.”
The saying, “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong” applies to bowhunting. Eliminate as many wild cards as possible when practicing and practice like you will hunt. When the moment of truth arrives, you will know just what to do.
About the author: Tracy Breen is a full-time outdoor writer, marketing consultant and motivational speaker. To learn more about him, visit

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