Posted by: Steve Flores on Jun 1, 2012
Page 2 of 2

One of the greatest benefits derived from 3-D practice is improved range estimation skills. Let’s face it; a miscalculation in yardage is usually the culprit when trying to close the deal on live game. Sure, there are other variables at work, but if you are unable to accurately judge the distance to that feeding buck or that “once in a life time” mountain goat, how can you logically expect to drive a broadhead through their vitals. Shooting form, release, and follow through may be impeccable, but if you misjudge the range, all other factors are irrelevant.
Also, consider that no two shots in the field are ever the same. Today, you are in your treestand, facing a 23 yard uphill attempt at a rut crazed whitetail, that pauses just long enough for you to release the string.  Tomorrow, you are on your knees, attempting to slip a prayer through a volleyball sized hole and into the chest of a big mulie buck, quartering away at 42 paces. Unless you have rehearsed this scenario during practice, your odds of pulling off a successful shot are.....well, you can imagine the likely outcome. The 3-D course will put you in real world situations, and condition you to act accordingly; long before you encounter the actual thing. 

Size Matters
As you learn to judge distance on the 3-D range, you will quickly discover that the overall “size” of the animal can play tricks on your mind’s eye. For example, a small target, such as the javelina, will cause you to think the distance is greater than it actually is, while a much larger caribou will have the opposite effect. Even if you never get the opportunity to hunt such animals, it doesn’t matter. The incentive lies in what they can teach you about accurately judging the gap between you and your prey. 


The size of the target plays a major role when attempting to accurately judge distance.  Smaller targets tend to appear further away than they actually are, while larger targets have the opposite effect; appearing closer to the shooter.  Even the amount of shadows cast over a target can complicate your ability to measure true distance.

Alternative Measures
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want to be on the course practicing at least 8 days a week.  I enjoy it that much. Of course in the real world, that isn’t always possible. Other options do exist however; you just have to get a little creative with what you’ve got. If you do not have access to a 3-D course, or, if you’re like me and simply don’t have the time or the money to hit the range like a man possessed, you can still achieve a quality practice session using a 3-D target at home. If a foam block is all you have, don’t fret. Simply cover it with a quality big-game target face to add the touch of realism you’re searching for.
If your primary method of hunting is done from the ground, whether in a blind or spot and stalk, you should strive to replicate the conditions you will face once opening day has arrived. It makes no sense to practice in an upright position all summer, only to sit crouched in a ground blind come November. Set up that blind and take your shots from inside. The view will be unfamiliar, as will your shooting positions. Take the time to acquaint yourself with these differences before the season begins. Shooting while seated, or on your knees, requires the use of different muscles than those utilized while standing flat footed. 

Specialized, or "situational" practice will better enable you to deliver a lethal arrow when the moment of truth arrives.....for real. 

The same principles apply to the spot and stalk hunter. As opposed to simply setting up a target at a known range and firing away, try stalking that 3-D target. Your neighbors may laugh when they spy you belly crawling across the front lawn, but who cares. You will be the one smiling when your broadhead lands exactly where it should at the moment of truth. Better yet, if you happen to live near a small woodlot, you may want to consider moving your target into that area for the ultimate in “realistic atmosphere“. What’s more, don’t wait until you have set yourself up with the stereotypical broadside shot before drawing back your bow; rarely does that situation mirror the real McCoy. Instead, take your shots at various quartering away angles, over uneven terrain, on bended knees, from behind the wife’s shrubs; standing in the stream that borders your property......you get the idea. 

If you want to be successful in the field, you can’t afford to simply draw back and shoot with little thought of the situation at hand.  The 3-d course will condition you to consider, and ultimately, shoot through various distractions (limbs, foliage, abrupt changes in terrain, watchful eyes of bystanders) in order to make a clean kill.  The lessons learned are invaluable.  

Treestand Hunters
For years, my father practiced strictly from the ground in preparation for whitetail season; and he was very accurate. The only problem was he hunted exclusively from a treestand. His success rate in those days was nil. He could never figure out why he kept striking out on live game. For the longest time he attributed his lack of success to “buck fever”. That may have been a small part of the problem, but in reality, it was his practice routine, not his nerves, that was the real culprit. It wasn’t until he began to practice solely from a treestand that he found success. Today, instead of filling his quiver with additional arrows, he consistently fills his freezer with tasty venison. Remember, we are looking for realism.
Elevated bow shots present a multitude of challenges for even the most experienced archers. Don’t set yourself up for failure by waiting until that trophy is under your feet before attempting such a shot. If you hunt primarily from a treestand, practice from elevated angles long before the season arrives. It will make a world of difference in your success rate. More importantly, your chosen quarry deserves nothing less than your absolute best effort.


If you want to get the most out of your “lawn sessions”, break away from your normal routine and push the envelope.  Try your best to imitate the exact field conditions you will likely face when opening day arrives.

The purpose of this article is not to label your current practice routine as “ineffective”, but rather expose the pitfalls commonly associated with “ordinary” pre-season shot preparation. Certainly you can spend your days shooting at a target in the back yard and “maybe” get the job done. I know a few archers that do just that. However, if you’re looking for a way to raise the bar and become more proficient at driving an arrow into the sweet spot of your next trophy, it’s time to get out of the backyard. Journey to where the targets are many and the lessons are endless........ the 3-D course. You’ll be glad you did. 

  • 1
  • 2

Sign up for the BH logo Bowhunter's Alert:


Be the first to comment on this item.

Leave Comments

Url: (Optional)

Cheyenne, WY
Searching Outfitter & Guide directory...
Bowhunt or Die

Hunting Resources