Standing in the backyard and burning arrow after arrow into foams target is better than no practice. In fact it’s the best way to get your bow and arrows tuned, your shooting muscles toned and your release and follow-through down pat in spring and early summer. But along about August time for us to raise our game shoot from an elevated platform just like we’ll do when buck season rolls around in a few short months.
Why Practice High?
Technique-wise, the form and shooting are different. On the ground you stand fence-post straight, plant your feet in a baseball hitter’s stance, stare across at your target, draw with ease and let an arrow fly. Pretty simple.
In a tree stand, you have to turn and contort your body, sometimes wildly so, and your footing is trickier. Leaning left, right, back or out, you draw, bend at the waist and aim down. Your draw elbow might brush the tree at your back…or you must cant your bow to keep it from catching a limb. Not so simple.
Also, it’s harder and takes more effort to pull a 70-pound bow in an 18-foot-high stand, especially one with a small foot platform, than it is on solid ground. (That’s one reason I only shoot 60 pounds for deer.) Cold weather and several layers of hunting clothes compound the extra effort you need to pull the string smoothly.
Finally, when you stare across the flat yard at a 3-D buck you see deep, flat vitals, and it’s easy to pin a sight pin there. But when you’re 16 feet or so high, you see less of a deer’s broadside; the higher you go the thinner and more hidden an animal’s vitals appear, until you’re looking straight down on its spine. Now where in the heck do you aim? For all these reasons get high for the final weeks of your bow practice.
How to Get High
Got an elevated deck or maybe a second-floor porch? If so, shoot off it at 3-D targets and blocks scattered in your yard below. In late summer I shoot more than 1,000 practice arrows off my deck. It’s only 10 feet high—not really high enough, but better than nothing.
I’ve got a buddy that practices from a small porch off his master bedroom. It is 30 feet up, an extreme height, but he’s into it. “I figure if I can center-punch targets from that high up, I can shoot all right at a buck from a 16-foot stand,” Bill told me. He’s right.
By the way, Bill’s got three bows and a bunch of arrow quivers hanging on a rack on his bedroom wall. His wife doesn’t mind. The shortest of those bows is hers!
A more inconvenient and time-consuming way to elevate your practice is to hang a stand in a tree behind your house (or in a nearby woodlot where you’ve got permission), climb up and shoot at targets below. A hassle yes, but the best practice. Commit to it now and I guarantee you’ll be a better deer shot this fall.
Hang the exact same fixed or climbing stand for practice that you’ll use in the woods. The more you get used to climbing into the stand, figuring out your footwork and shooting out of it, the better (and safer) you’ll hunt.
Depending on whether you like to bowhunt at 16, 18 or 22 feet, set your practice perch 16, 18 or 22 feet high…get it? When you practice and hunt from the same height with the same sight picture, it becomes easier to estimate the range to both foam bucks and live ones; in either case, use your range finder to confirm. Also, your practice will tell you precisely how your arrows with broadheads fly and strike—probably a tad higher than when you shot on the ground, so find out now.
Scatter three or found deer targets around, under and even behind your practice stand. Set them 10 to 40 yards away, in brush, partly behind trees, broadside, quartering-away, quartering slightly to…you get the picture, change it up. Simulate shots you’re apt to get in the woods. Vary the distances and angles of your 3-Ds every week so you’ll cover all the bases with your practice.
Climb into your stand, attach your safety harness and rope up your bow. Sit down and “hunt.” Visualize an 8-pointer coming in. Stand slowly, turn, draw and release an arrow smoothly. The more foam deer you stick like that, the better you’ll shoot on flesh-and-blood bucks in a couple of months, guaranteed.