Physical And Mental Bowhunting Preparationon Aug 2, 2013
If only all wild targets were as still as the ones we practice on in our own backyards! Any one of us bow hunters’ can make a great shot while in a calm state within an environment we are used to and comfortable with. But how often will you be presented with the same opportunity in the reality of your hunts? In the heightened moment of truth, with your adrenaline racing through your veins as you draw your bow on a trophy game animal, will your shot hit the vitals you are aiming for? Or will your body lack the fundamentals you practiced over and over again due to fatigue?
Every athlete, regardless of the sport, understands that both form and technique deteriorate as fatigue increases. Your mind can only push your body so far (mental toughness). And without proper conditioning, the skills of an athlete become less effective. A pitcher begins to lose control and misses his spots, a boxer starts to throw inaccurate punches and loses velocity, an archer begins to shake and is unable to hold steady upon the target, and so on and so on. In the sport of hunting, it’s about eliminating obstacles and expecting the unexpected. It’s Murphy’s Law: if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.
Being properly prepared for the hunting experience often results in the outcome that we all desire. However, it is up to the individual to train themselves for the many obstacles that bowhunting presents.
If we had full control of the situation on every hunt, there would be no more wall space in our houses and freezers would be filled to the max with wild game. Although we do our best to shoot in real environment situations with 3D targets and obstacles, there is still a margin for error. In baseball, a pitcher focuses in on the catcher’s mitt and makes sure he can hit his spots regardless if it’s a fastball or off-speed pitch. He’s just trying to disrupt the batters timing and strike him out. In the sport of hunting, however, we have no control over the strike zone. Rather, the object of this game is a moving target with a mind of its own. In order to be successful, we must train to conquer success while under duress and sometimes, extreme duress. In other words, the better shape you are in, the percentage rate of success increases exponentially. It’s you versus a wild animal that is already fit for the conditions at hand and knows the lay of the land by heart.
Change Your Outlook
Look at hunting as a competition, two hunters going head to head to try and harvest the same animal in a spot-and-stalk style of hunting with a time limit of dawn to dusk. Is this a real situation? Absolutely! What if you draw a tag on public land the same as someone else? Now it’s your skills versus theirs. Training for the hunt with this mentality is what every hunter should consider. This concept should start a fire beneath you to better yourself.
While bowhunting isn’t necessarily a “competition”, the reality is that you are competing for the same goal against other bowhunters in the area. The bowhunter that is better prepared will have a definite advantage over someone lacks mental and physical stamina.
Implement Specialized Training
Muscular strength and endurance are extremely important regardless of the sport you are training for. It can turn a good athlete into a great athlete. Hunters engaging in a weight-resistant exercise program will advance their success by strengthening their muscles, allowing them to be more in tune with their bodies and learning how to better control their movements; you never know what position you may have to get into in order to be successful. You can’t just hit a pause button during a hunt and get into position for the shot. It has to be done undetected with slow controlled movements. Hunting is not just about shooting, it’s about being fit.
I cannot express how important it is to Hunt Strong. You will be tested physically and mentally, I can promise you that. And you are probably thinking of an experience where you have been tested at this very moment. Training your body to exhaustion while in the gym will test your form just as shooting 100 arrows a day can test your accuracy. The longer you shoot, the longer you train, or the use of a heavier weight during lifting, the more you must pay attention to your form and technique. Your goal is for your last rep to be just as perfect as your first rep. And the same goes for practicing your bow shots.
If you are comfortable, it’s not challenging enough. Never be complacent because that’s the moment you stop improving. This is how you avoid plateaus. Shooting outside of your typical position creates stress and adapting to the stress is what makes you a better athlete. Stay focused on the task at hand. A race horse wears blinders for this very reason. Tiger Wood’s father took this to a new level. During practice, Tiger’s dad would drop his golf bag in the middle of his swing to disrupt his mechanics. Tiger learned to stay focused and tune out all distractions. Get outside! You won’t take a shot from inside during the hunt, so get out in the elements. Learn how to shoot in all weather conditions. You can apply this concept to your training also if you vary the exercises throughout the same muscle groupings. As a result, your body will adapt and become stronger.
Going through the “normal” routine of shooting your bow won’t best prepare you for the hunt. Only when you step outside of your comfort zone will you be better prepared for the real hunting experience.
Listen To Your Inner Voice
The voice in my head is sometimes what keeps me going. I find myself talking myself through the movements or the shot, keying in on the proper fundamentals and constantly focusing on the task at hand. Make sure your inner voice is positive and optimistic to keep you motivated to get better. When the challenges become more difficult, my inner voice gets louder. Use motivation as much as you can and eliminate negativity. After all, the body responds to what the mind tells it to do. Have faith in yourself. Faith is having a positive outlook about what you can do and not worrying about what you can’t do.