Practice Like You Play

By Bowhunting ContributorSeptember 20, 2013

LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015

For those of us who grew up playing sports, I’m sure we can think back to our coaches shouting “practice like you play,” during those long practices.  I didn’t start to realize the importance of practice until later in my high school and college years.  Today, in my current position as a Police SWAT sniper/operator, my team’s monthly practice is essential.  There is a lot that goes into our team’s ability to stay sharp and “call out” ready.   Our success hinges largely on the quality and applicability of our practices.  The best practices aren’t made up “mission impossible” movie scenes.  The best practice simply emulates real life call out situations that teams across the US have had to deal with.  We train our best to recreate the situation and work it into our practices. Bowhunting practice session should be no different. 

Instead of simply setting up a target out in the open, place some obstacles between you and the killzone.

If you are self-filming, then I strongly recommend that you practice doing exactly that during your practice sessions.  Make practice tough on yourself and realize that somewhere another bowhunter had to make the same shot.  For instance, a hunt when the deer came in out of nowhere; forcing the bowhunter to find the deer on the camera and thread a 30-yard shot between two small trees.  Recreate it!  In your backyard or practice range get creative by placing obstacles in front of the target. This will force you to make a perfect shot under real hunting conditions.  Just don’t forget to get it all on camera! 

The Next Level
Practice isn’t just going to a range and shooting from known yardages in a controlled environment.  Challenge yourself!  Get your heart rate up before shooting.  Another one of my favorite ways to simulate real world situations is to perform a short kettle-bell routine, coupled with pushups, and then grab my bow and take the desired shot.  This is a great way to get some exercise and shoot your bow at the same time.  Your neighbors may think you’ve lost your mind.  However, when the adrenaline is flowing and you can hear your heartbeat in your ears…you need to train yourself to focus, stay calm, slow you’re breathing, steady your hands….and make the shot! The neighbors may chuckle but they will be the first ones asking to hear the story this fall when you pull up with that trophy buck in the back of your truck!

Real world shots never occur while you’re calm. Instead, nerves are coming undone, heart rate increases, and muscles begin to fatigue. Try your best to simulate those conditions during practice.

In the tactical world complacency gets operators killed.  In bowhunting it may not cost you your life, but it could cost you the buck of a lifetime.  I’ve been there!  Picture this…it’s been 8 straight days of all day hunts.  This is about the time complacency sets in and bowhunters tend to get lazy.  We don’t use our scent products as we should.  We sleep in more and spend less time preparing for the hunt. We may take the easy way in and out of the woods, and maybe even hunt the wrong stands.  We do this all out of complacency and laziness.  Try to avoid it at all costs.  If you have a tag to fill then push yourself to be mentally prepared to fight laziness and complacency.  The buck of a lifetime may depend on it. 

You can even simulate real world conditions if you’re a “self-filming” bowhunter. All it takes is a little imagination.

Debriefs are an essential part to the success of any tactical operation.  This is the time when operators must put their pride aside and own up to any mistakes.  You must be transparent about things that you could have done differently.  If you don’t self debrief after every hunt you’re really short changing yourself.  There are things to learn every time out.  Do your best and try to never make the same mistake twice.  Be safe and shoot straight!

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