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How Many Arrows Should You Shoot a Day to Prep for Deer Season?

By Darron McDougalAugust 3, 20221 Comment

My heart leapt into my throat when the Kansas monarch crested the horizon, his massive frame silhouetted against the overcast backdrop. I minimized the initial shock by talking myself through the encounter.

I settled down and found my zone. “It’s no different than practice,” I mumbled. After I hustled into a position to intercept the traveling buck along his route, he gave me a now-or-never shot at 22 yards. My arrow drove home.

It might not sound like a difficult shot to make, but I had to make it quickly and confidently on a tremendous public-land buck. Plus, using a rangefinder to confirm the distance wasn’t an option. I relied heavily on my practice to make it count.

The fact is, I missed a shot from a treestand at that exact same distance in Kansas four seasons earlier on a huge 8-pointer. I’ve learned to take nothing — even chip shots — for granted.

How Many Arrows Should You Shoot A Day To Prep For Deer Season?
How many arrows should you shoot a day?

Obviously, practice is important, but how many arrows should you shoot a day?

Is there such a thing as shooting too little? Too much? Enough?

The answer is yes to all three, and when we reach the conclusion, I believe you’ll have a good grip on a practice routine that suits you. 

Before we get too far into the weeds, understand that every bowhunter is different. We differ in skill levels, we own different grades of archery equipment. Some of us have been bowhunting a long time. Others are just beginning.

Some have rigorous work schedules and a calendar filled with family functions. Some don’t. So, I can’t deliver a magic number that suits everyone. I can, however, help you navigate the question and ultimately come up with your own reasonable number.

Are You Shooting Too Little?

Do you wait until late in the summer or even early fall to grab your bow from a hook in the garage or basement?

If so, I’ll suggest that you probably aren’t shooting enough. It takes weeks and even months for some folks to truly develop muscle memory and master shot execution without punching the trigger.

Shooting Ability Vs. Shooting Capability

Of course, shooting all year long can be very beneficial. But, I realize that not everyone can do it. If you’re not a year-round shooter and believe you should be shooting more arrows, let me suggest how to get sharp before fall seasons.

Sometime in April or May, have your bow inspected at a pro shop. Then, shoot 12-15 arrows every other day at 15-20 yards. Focus almost solely on your stance, your draw process, acquiring your anchor point and letting your pin float on the kill zone.

Get accustomed to the pin movement; don’t be alarmed if you cannot hold dead still on the spot you intend to hit. Next, focus on building pressure on your release’s trigger, pulling through until the shot breaks. If it takes you 20 minutes to shoot 12 arrows the right way, so be it. Quality over quantity.

How Many Arrows Should You Shoot A Day To Prep For Deer Season?
Can you practice too much? Or too little? (Photo courtesy of Steven Drake/Mathews Archery)

The entire point is to develop muscle memory and equipment familiarity without exhausting your muscles. If you’re pulling a reasonable draw weight, the 12-15 arrows every other day shouldn’t break you.

Within a couple of weeks, everything should feel pretty natural, and your muscles should be well accustomed to all of the motions. Now, gradually increase your arrow count. Add another six or 12 arrows to your routine, depending on what you believe you can handle.

Listen to your body. If everything is going well, increase your distance, too. Every two weeks, add in some more arrows, but don’t shoot until muscle exhaustion. That can do more harm than good. We’ll discuss that later on.

In the two months leading up to season, get really serious about your practice. If you can, shoot daily. However, I now suggest scaling back your arrow count.

If you’ve developed full confidence in your pin settings, your accuracy, shot execution and everything else, you have nothing to prove. You only need to keep your muscles sharp, and it doesn’t take a pile of arrows to do that.

If you worked up to shooting 60 arrows every two days — or a comparable number — scale back to 20-30 arrows and shoot daily, if possible. If you miss a day here or there, so what? Don’t put a bunch of guilt on yourself, because that will only tear you down. Believe me, I know.

How Many Arrows Should You Shoot A Day To Prep For Deer Season?
Pre-season practice is a must, but don’t stop shooting your bow during hunting season, or the good habits you formed before season will crumble. (Photo courtesy of Mathews Archery)

Are You Shooting Too Much?

In the past, I’ve piled guilt upon myself if I believed I wasn’t shooting enough. So, I’d shoot until exhaustion to “make up for it.” In other words, if I shot a great group at 60, 80, or even 100 yards, I’d try to prove to myself that I could do it again and again.

As my muscles reached exhaustion and I wasn’t holding the groups I knew I was capable of, my confidence plummeted. Ultimately, that mindset would follow me to the treestand, prairies, mountains, or wherever I was hunting.

I messed up lots of shots on game over the course of several years until I woke up one day and thought, “Hey, maybe I’m overdoing it.” I deal with lots of back pain (pins, needles, and burning) due to scar tissue and arthritis, so my muscles begin to tire pretty early in a practice session. 

That is how bad habits formed and my confidence suffered.

How Many Arrows Should You Shoot A Day To Prep For Deer Season?
How does your practice routine change as the season draws near?

Today, if my accuracy isn’t on fire, I move up to 15-20 yards and make one perfect shot, then put my bow away. If I am on fire, I stop when I’ve shot a great group at long distance and call it a day.

I have nothing to prove because I’ve already proven it. I always try to end practice sessions on high notes. That has been working very well for me. My hunting accuracy has been notably better.

Does that sound familiar? Are you trying to over-prove that you can group at a certain distance? Do you heap guilt upon yourself when you miss a day or two of practice? Are you developing bad habits that seem to be worsening and not improving?

If so, then you’re probably shooting too much. In fact, it might be wise to walk away from your bow for a week, then start afresh at shorter distances and reducing your arrow count.

How Many Arrows Should You Shoot A Day To Prep For Deer Season?
When you practice “enough,” making shots on game like this big Kansas buck that the author took is far more doable. (Photo courtesy of Eric Whiting)

Are You Shooting Enough?

Now that we’ve covered shooting too little and too much, consider the practice schedule I outlined in the first subhead. Since everyone is different, I can’t promise you that it’ll be perfect for you.

However, it’s a great starting point, and if you listen to your body, you can make tweaks to land on a perfect arrow count that works for you. You know that you’re shooting enough when you aren’t constantly struggling. Over-shooting or under-shooting almost always involve struggles.

Let me offer a parting tip.

During hunting season, I understand that it isn’t possible for most folks to shoot as often as they did during the summer. However, I cannot underscore enough how important it is to shoot some arrows every week during the season.

If you don’t, all of your diligent work in the summer will begin crumbling, and you might fall apart when you get your shot opportunity. Plus, if your sight gets bumped while hunting and you don’t shoot your bow, you won’t identify the problem until your arrow buries into the dirt underneath your dream buck.

Are you willing to take that chance?

Darron McDougal
Darron McDougal is a full-time freelance outdoor writer/editor who lives in Antigo, WI with his bride, Becca. He's hunted in 12 states and successfully taken elk, bear, hogs, turkeys, pronghorn, whitetails, and mule deer, most with archery equipment on DIY hunts. The McDougals enjoy all things hunting and shooting. They believe in God and love to travel.
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