3 Simple Drills for a Successful Archery Season

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Archery season is approaching quickly. Here in Texas, archery season opens October 3rd for White Tail, Mule Deer, and Pronghorn. These are incredible hunts to venture out on, but what do you need to do in preparation? 

Probably the biggest issue is choosing your bow. AJ has her prized compound that she has tweaked and accessorized to suit her hunting style. I, on the other hand, have had a rather ruff road progressing into a suitable setup.

I learned archery with recurve bows. You can definitely blame most of that on my traditionalist mentality…After all, our family theme song is “Tradition.” The cost-prohibitive concepts behind more advanced bows are the other major factor determining how I  started learning this sport. Back in those days, I wasn’t a hunter yet. I grew up in the city and target practice just wasn’t something kids could do back home. Archery didn’t draw attention to our activities, though.

3 of our recent archery models.

The recurve (left) is a common bow for kids to learn with. The compound (center) is the most common hunting bow on today's market. The lever bow (right) gives you the traditional feel of the recurve bow with the size and power advantages of a compound bow.

When I got older and AJ introduced me to hunting I learned very quickly that my lightweight recurve just wasn’t up to the task. I experimented with a variety of compound bows and a more heavy-duty recurve. The recurves were just too cumbersome for me as I learned the intricate details of scouting, stocking, and hunting. No matter what compound I tried, they simply never felt right. I was somewhat accurate and could get good shots off, but they always felt wrong in my hand. I finally found my place in the realm of archery hunting when I discovered lever bows. My newfound obsession are the Oneidas. I plan to use a Phoenix Lever Action Oneida Eagles Bow this season.

Once your choice of weapon is made, the biggest challenge is to figure out how to prepare for the upcoming archery season.

1: Practice, Practice, and more Practice

Obviously, the best preparation for archery is to practice. The more shots you take, the better you will become. The more you correct your shots, the more accurate you’ll become. And, the more you target your intended harvest, the better your shot placement will get. The basic repetition of taking shot after shot teaches your body muscle memory. We use the same methods when teaching women how to shoot. Repeat the action correctly and repeatedly. When you do, your body will learn to perform those actions, regardless of your distractions, when in the intensity of the moment.

Practice for archery season should include a lot of practice, especially distance shots. You must know your limits so you don't make a bad shot when the day comes.

Now, practice doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy yourself a three hundred dollar replica with replacement vitals or an Archery Target block with high-vis dots and vitals options. Don’t break the bank preparing for deer season then suddenly find yourself so broke you can’t afford to get out there into the field. Quality of practice is your goal, not the quality of gadgets. A simple 3 dollar bail of hay and 2 bucks for a couple of paper targets of a deer can easily prepare you for archery season. If you’ve got a photocopier you can even copy the targets yourself so you don’t have to buy extras. Best of all, you’re still going to have the funds to get your license, tags, clothes, and fuel for the trip with what you saved.

2: Use Exercises that Develop Proper Muscle Memory

Now I’m not talking about running a couple of miles before work every morning or doing 100 pushups at lunch every other day. I’m talking about the archery muscles you’re going to use when that moment finally comes and you have that deer in your sights. When you draw that bow back, take aim, and prepare for that perfect moment. When you’re going to finally be able to release that arrow your muscles need to be prepared. That moment of waiting, aiming, anticipating when the deer will look up and place himself in that perfect pose. I can assure you, no matter how fit you are, those muscles will begin to burn.

The Kikigoal archery bow exerciser was one of the first exercisers we tried when preparing for deer season.
The Prairie Innovators Bow Trainer has completely changed how we prepare for archery season.

Modern technology has given us a variety of toys, gadgets, and methods by which we can prepare for those incredibly exciting adventures. Two of the best exercise aids AJ and I have found to date are the Archery Bow Trainer and the Prairie Innovators Bow Trainer.

Here's a quick comparison between our 2 primary archery practice systems.

Archery Bow Trainer Prairie Innovators Bow Trainer
Cost
$18-26
$50
Size
Small/compact, transportable
Solid, similar structure to a real bow
Parts
Individual weights to pick and choose what you need/want
Package deal that comes with everything you may need/want
Drawing Form
Requires concentration to remember proper archery form
Accessories
Simple design requiring no extras
Accessories available to help improve and formalize proper posture and positioning
Draw Weight
Available in 20, 30, 40, or 50lbs of resistance
Provides various combinations up to 130lbs of resistance.

Don't just follow in our footsteps. Experiment and find what works best for you. Hunting, especially archery hunting, is a very personal experience.

These are not the only two practice tools out there. You’ll be able to find a variety of options ranging from that 20 dollar zone up to the 200-250 range. Your budget and innovation will determine what equipment is necessary or worth investing in. There is only factor AJ and I will push repeatedly. Archery uses a series of muscles that you will not normally use exercising, fishing, shooting, doing yard work, or any other common means of activity. While we were strong enough to shoot our bows repetitively, we discovered a profound improvement in our stamina and accuracy when we started exercising the specific muscle groups used in archery.

3: Develop a Strong Mental Game

Research, Training, & Observation are great ways to improve your mindset before you even set foot in the field.

Watch any of the hunting YouTubers and you will quickly notice a very constant and predictable theme. They are mentally strained to their limits on every hunt. As a new hunter, you will have even more pressures, doubts, and concerns than these established hunters. How do you mitigate those pressures on yourself? You have to create a mental strategy. In “5 Traits New Hunters Need Deer Hunting” we talked about the importance of learning your maps, the regulations, reading and tracking your prey, and the pressures you (the hunter), as well as the deer, will feel during hunting season. But those mental stressors can be greatly relieved with adequate preparation.

The less habitat the animals have, the more aware they will be of their confined space.

Scouting isn't just shoes on the dirt: Maps, Satellite Images, Topographical Drawings, Social Media Photos...

You need to scout when you are preparing for your hunt. Take those topographical maps with you and study how they look on the map versus what you’re looking at in real life. Knowing what to expect and how to anticipate where that deer should go after the shot will help alleviate some of the stress.

Always be ready for emergencies: You'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it when the time comes.

You’re going to need your day pack with you while you’re scouting so add a few extras to your bag. This will help you acclimate to hiking through those woods with the weight of winter gear. It will also help prepare you for the hike you’re about to experience setting up for that long-awaited deer hunt. Your binoculars will definitely be an added must for your scouting missions. Consider a range finder in case you find that perfect cliff or tree overlooking a heavily used trail. You could even pack a small box of lures and a telescopic pole to get a bit of fishing in should you come across a little stream or pond while out hiking. You’ll get an idea of the animals frequenting the watering hole and, maybe, get a little lunch in.

Most areas won’t let you carry your weapon while scouting unless the season has already started. It may benefit you to take your bow trainer with you. It can double as a hiking stick in those ruff terrains, give you a feel for what it’s like hiking with a bow in hand, and remind you that you’ll be hiking off balance in many areas. An added bonus will be those practice shots you can take, in the real environment you’ll be hunting in, with the actual distractions you’re going to have around you on that adventurous day.

Finding the general area they will be during off season is much easier than rushing to locate them during peek hunting season.

These are the 3 big things AJ and I do preparing for the upcoming hunting season. –Especially archery season.– Take these ideas, mold them into a method that works for you, and make the best of your next archery season.

The more I practice, the luckier I become
Byron Ferguson

Outdoors Quest!

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