UPDATED ON: May 1st, 2015
Most bowhunters, including myself, go through some type of bowhunting withdrawal after the hunting season closes. Some of us watch hunting videos; others go kill a few squirrels or pheasants; and others mope around counting the days until turkey season arrives. Instead of sitting around this winter, join a local archery league.
The winter is a popular time of year for indoor archery leagues because many of us in the Midwest (and even in the east) don’t want to shoot outside when it is so cold. Thus, we go inside to shoot. Luckily, there are a variety of different types of archery leagues available for winter shooting. The most popular are 3D leagues, spot leagues and techno-hunt leagues.
The off-season is a great time to get out and join a league in order to keep shooting skills polished.
When participating in a 3D league, archers shoot at a variety of 3D targets. The amount of space a pro shop has will determine the shooting distances. Some large indoor ranges have moving targets, varied yardages and even obstacles (like trees) between you and the target to simulate real hunting. Archers who choose to participate in a 3D league should become familiar with the type of targets being used.
Shooting at 3D targets more closely mimics real hunting scenerio’s.
Every brand of 3D target has the vitals placed in a slightly different area. Knowing exactly where the vitals are on the type of target being shot will help you achieve a higher score. Pro archers who shoot in 3D tournaments typically use “flash cards” that show the vitals on the animals. This way, shooters knows exactly where to aim. However, the spot you aim at on a target and the spot you aim at on a live animal are much different.
Spot Leagues are very popular with archers. The name simply implies what this style of league consists of. You are basically shooting a bulls-eye at twenty yards. In a typical spot league, you shoot sixty arrows and a perfect score is 300. Many archers love the challenge of hitting the X. Many top archers can consistently hit the X more than fifty times while average Joe’s often hit it 35-45 times in one setting. This style of shooting requires a lot of concentration.
Although it may not be as realistic as some forms of practice, “spot shooting” still requires good shooting form; which can pay off in early spring when turkey season opens.
One of the most popular styles of leagues is a techno hunt league. This type if league is similar to a video game. You shoot at a video screen that is actual video footage of live animals. Similar to a 3D target, your score is based on where you hit the animal. Since you are shooting at actual animals, this style of league is extremely realistic. You often have to shoot through brush, send an arrow between a notch in a tree and shoot at a variety of different angles which really keeps a bowhunters’ skills sharpened.
John Schaffer who owns Schaffer Performance Archery in Bursville, Minnesota believes a techno hunt league is probably the best option. “Techno hunts are extremely realistic and when shooting them, you have to aim and shoot just like you would in the woods. You don’t have an endless amount of time to aim like you do with other types of leagues. You have to choose a spot and get it done. Because of that, archers are forced to perform under pressure just like a real hunting situation,” Schaffer explained.
For the ultimate, realistic shooting experience, nothing can compare to the Techno Hunt system.
Another nice thing about a techno hunt is you can choose a variety of different game to shoot at, including African game which makes shooting more fun and exciting. Schaffer has noticed over the years that many people who come to his pro shop are intimidated by shooting leagues. “I think many bowhunters miss out on shooting leagues because they feel they won’t measure up to the competition”.
“The truth is most of the people who shoot leagues are average shooters out having fun and trying to improve their skills.” Improving skills is what leagues are all about. “Most leagues take place once a week for several months at a time of year when if a person wasn’t shooting a league, their bow would be in the closet. Shooting every week during the off season keeps their skills fine tuned,” Schaffer noted. “I also think many shooters end up improving because of a league. Most pro shops will give shooters tips on how to improve their form and give people hands on instruction, plus, many of the people shooting in leagues are very helpful.”
Wintertime is also a great time to introduce a child to the wonderful sport of archery.
Most bowhunters, at one time or another, deal with target panic or buck fever. Overcoming either can be extremely difficult, partially because simulating buck fever when shooting in the backyard can be difficult. Shooting in a league in front of several archers you are competing against is the best way to do that. “There is no doubt there is some pressure on a person when it is their turn to step up to the line and shoot. A little pressure is a good thing. The better a person is at dealing with excitement and pressure when shooting in a league, the better they will do when they are in a treestand,” Schafer noted.
Shooting in an indoor league is not very expensive and you don’t really need any extra gear. Most leagues cost about $100 which includes 10-12 weeks of shooting. If you are planning to shoot in a league to prepare for bowhunting, no extra gear is needed. “If a person is shooting in a league to prepare themselves for bow season, I suggest they use their bowhunting setup,” Schaffer said. Spot league archers and serious professionals often have fancy target bows, 3-foot long stabilizers and arrows fletched especially for shooting league but that isn’t needed if your goal is to have fun and improve your shooting skills.
The bottom line is leagues are inexpensive when you consider what you get. They are fun and just might help you be able to control yourself next fall when Mr. Big walks in. Why wouldn’t you shoot in a league?