Top 3 Bowhunting Drills

By PJ ReillyApril 22, 20134 Comments

LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015

We all love shooting in the offseason, right? Any excuse to stretch the strings is a good one, and we’ll take it. And what better way to prepare for next deer season than spending a weekend day on the local 3-D course? But do pro baseball players simply go out and play games to get better at their craft? No, they run drills – batting practice, shagging flies and the like. Archers have drills they can run too. Combined with 3-D shooting, these drills will have you driving tacks and will send your confidence soaring come hunting season.  Here are three simple “archery” drills I plan to incorporate into my archery training sessions this spring and summer.

Blind Baling

Good shooting form is the foundation of a good archery shot. And yet, it’s something few bowhunters work on.  Blind-baling involves shooting at a target butt with no target on it, with your eyes closed. It lets you think about keeping your feet shoulder width apart; proper, relaxed hand placement on the bow handle; drawing smoothly; finding the same anchor point time after time; and, finally, achieving a clean, twitch-free release. During blind bale practice your whole focus will be on perfecting your form, rather than where the arrow hits. It’s human nature to want to control everything, and if you only shoot at targets, you’re going to want to control your sight pin. That’s a pointless task that will lead to punching the trigger, target panic, hand torque and all sorts of other problems.

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Blind baling involves standing close to a target-less butt and shooting with your eyes closed. You should be focusing solely on form.

To perform blind bale practicing simply stand close to an empty target butt so you can’t miss it, draw back your bowstring, close your eyes, think about your form and then release the arrow. Do this enough times and you will teach your body what a good shot feels like. Eventually, good shooting form will become second nature and you won’t have to think about it when you’re aiming at a bull’s-eye or 3-D target, or a big, whitetail buck. And I guarantee you’ll cut more 10-rings with good shooting form than you will by trying to control your sight pin. (3D Practice)

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Shooting at small aiming points will tighten your groups.

Long Distance Shooting

Plenty of us tend to torque our bows just a tad the instant we release an arrow. Shooting at a target 20 yards away with a bow that slings arrows at over 300 feet per second, that little twitch isn’t always detectable. Back up to 50 yards, however, and every mistake you make will be magnified. If you’re used to shooting at 20 and 30 yards, back up to 50 or 60 in practice. You’ll find out real quick if you’re doing something wrong. The math is simple. Pull an arrow one inch to the left at 20 yards and that drift away from the bull’s-eye is going to grow the farther the arrow travels. Long distance shooting really helps tighten your form. You can get away with some stuff at 20 yards, but to consistently hit the mark at 60 yards, you have to be pretty tight. Become proficient at hitting the bull’s-eye at 60 yards and a 20-yard shot will feel like a gimme. The confidence you’ll gain at making that 20-yard shot – which is a typical, real-life hunting shot – will be through the roof. (practice video)

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Shooting at long distances magnifies problems with your form.

And if you have to take a long-distance, follow-up shot at a deer, you’ll be prepared for it. It’s probably not a good idea to take a first shot at a deer over 40 yards away. There’s too much air and too much time from the string release until impact for something to go wrong. But once a deer is hit, the only thing that matters is finishing the job. If you hit a deer at 15 yards and it runs out to 60 and stops and you have a clear shooting lane, put another one in him. You’re helping yourself recover that animal. And if you regularly practice at 60 yards, you’ll at least have some confidence in making that shot. (long range info)

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Spending time on the local 3-D course is a great way to kill time, have fun and practice your game.

Aim Small, Miss Small
Take a series of pie plates and draw circles of varying sizes in the center, ranging from one as big around as the top of a soda can to one the size of a 50-cent piece. As you become proficient shooting at the larger circles, switch plates to increasingly smaller ones to tighten your grouping. For added difficulty, move back from 20 to 30 yards, then 30 to 40 yards and so on. Mixing in to your practice sessions something called “shooting around the clock.” This involves placing a paper plate on a backstop and trying to shoot as close as possible to the outside edge of the plate at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. It’s not where you are used to aiming, and that’s the point. (shop targets)

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Being confident when you draw your bow in the stand is priceless.

If you shoot solely at bull’s-eyes, you could develop target panic and/or become dependent on having a circle-shaped aiming point. On a live deer, you might have to aim at a shadow line or something that has no real shape at all. My plan now is to work these training drills into my practice sessions over the next few months. If I do it religiously, I’ll feel good about my chances in the stand next fall.

PJ Reilly
P.J. Reilly is an avid archer and bowhunter disguised as an outdoor writer. P.J. lives in a swamp in southeast Pennsylvania, where he watches deer and tries to avoid poison ivy.
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