Making the Shot: 3 Keys to Successon Oct 1, 2012
As the last few drops of rain lethargically roll off the bill of my hat, I slowly begin to peel away the shelter of clothing from around my damp face. Suddenly, without warning, I spot him approaching. He is moving like a meteorite. I quickly shuffle my feet and begin swinging my bow arm around for the potential shot. I reach full draw just as he comes to an abrupt halt within my shooting lane. “How lucky I am!” I think to myself. All I can see through my peep site is his extremely wide, chocolate colored rack. For a few seconds, I simply admire it. I sense my bow arm drop, bringing the pin somewhere near his vitals. Before I realize it, I punch the trigger on my release-aid….and the arrow is gone. Much to my amazement, it zips harmlessly over his rain soaked back and into the unknown reaches of the lonely forest. Just as quickly as he had arrived, he is gone. I watch his broad headgear sway from side to side as he makes his poignant escape. And just like that…I remember how cold and wet I really am.
Today, I look back on that incident with fond memories. No, not the shot itself, but the experience; specifically what it taught me. Sure, I would love to be writing about how my perfectly placed arrow passed through both lungs, resulting in a short trailing effort and plenty of smiling photos. But, I can’t. However, what I can do, is share with you what I learned in those moments just before launching my doomed arrow, and the days after it had found a new home somewhere in that rainy forest.
Knowing that success hinges on one fleeting moment is hard for a lot of bowhunters to handle. However, a solid game-plan and shooting strategy will greatly increase the odds of making a good shot when the opportunity arrives.
If you’ve ever struggled to live up to your expectations during the moment of truth, you’re not alone. It happens to the best of us; myself included. Every time we enter the stand with the intent of releasing an arrow at a living, breathing whitetail….lessons will be learned. Some are easy, and some go down like a glass of spoiled milk. Regardless, the trick is to take something from the good days, as well as the bad, and use it in order to become a better bowhunter.
Applying that philosophy, lets break down my “shot in the rain”; dissecting the 3 costly errors I made that eventually led to another birthday for a wide-horned, WV buck.
You’ve probably heard the old saying “practice makes perfect”. Well, my college football coach didn’t buy into that philosophy. His motto….”perfect practice makes perfect.” Every part of our practice had a purpose; an objective. If it didn’t, it was quickly discarded and replaced with something much more effective. Consequently, we were always engaged in an activity that was not only going to make us better; but one that also mimicked actual game conditions. That was football. This is bowhunting. But you know what….it doesn’t matter. The same attitude still applies.
My “shot in the rain” is a perfect example of practice without purpose. Starting well before opening day, I chose to prepare for the season within the comfort of my own backyard. It was a change from my usual “treestand” practice sessions from the previous year, but I figured what harm could come out of preparing on the ground as opposed to an elevated position. After all, a shot is a shot, right? Besides, practicing from the lawn was easier and much more convenient than climbing up and down tree-steps after every round just to retrieve my arrows. It wasn’t long until I eventually began placing arrow after arrow into the sweet spot of my 3-D target with machine-like accuracy. Each passing day my confidence grew until, at last, it was time to start the season. And that is when things fell apart.
Months of standing flat footed, practicing on the lawn, did little to prepare me for the shot I would later face on that wet November morning. When that buck came rushing in, I quickly put my sight pin on him; expecting the best. However, in the process of aiming, I had unknowingly made my first costly mistake. When shooting from an elevated position, it is important to remember to always bend at the waist.
"Situational" practice is the only way to really prepare for the shot. This applies to whatever method you use to get within bowrange of your target animal. Back yard shooting, while popular, isn't very good at preparing you for the real thing.
This simple step ensures that the angle from your peep sight to your eye remains the same (as if you were shooting straight out in front of you) while still allowing you to get your pin on a target that is actually beneath you. Simply dropping your bow arm (like I did), in order to get your sight pin on the target changes the angle between your eye, the peep sight, and the pin and usually results in a high miss. That is exactly what happened to me that fateful morning. I hadn’t practiced “bending at the waist” that summer; therefore, it wasn’t ingrained into my shot routine….The result of my blunder? You already know the answer. Lesson learned.