Unless you are shooting competitively, archery is much like golf in that you are only competing with yourself.
This is one of the great things about our sport; it allows everyone to feel successful on some level, boosting self-esteem and providing an individual experience. The drawback, however, is that it leaves the results open to individual interpretation.
In today’s world of participation and instant gratification, this has led to an epidemic of many archers subconsciously skewing the results in their own favor. Not only does this lead to mediocrity in their shooting, but on some level, it also leads to a lack of confidence in their own ability to make the shot when it counts.
Shooting at a target at exactly 20 yards on an indoor range does not properly prepare someone to shoot a quartering animal from an elevated stand in heavy cover. Neither does “rationalizing” the fact that the arrow that flew 6 inches out of your group was a “fluke.” This leads to many missed opportunities or worse, wounded animals each fall.
Consistently successful bowhunters practice often. Read that last sentence again. Nothing else prepares you for the moment of truth like proper practice. If you practice regularly, muscle memory takes over, allowing your subconscious mind to run the shot sequence. This frees up your conscious mind to aim and focus on proper shot placement.
Archers who practice often are more confident in their ability to make the shot when it counts. They know they can do it because they have done it hundreds of times in practice. Confidence breeds success and helps to eliminate any thoughts of missing, thereby keeping target panic at bay.
We all know a guy who says, “I’m not really good shooting at a target, but I shoot really well when there’s fur in front of me.”
I’m going to call BS on this statement 99% of the time. There are exceptions to every rule, but most people do NOT perform better under pressure. If they can’t hit the bull’s-eye when it doesn’t matter, what would make them think it will happen at a crucial moment? A majority of people who say this are effectively kidding themselves, and deep down on some level, they know it. When the moment of truth arrives, they are often disappointed with the results.
A lot of people take their bow out the week before the season and fling a few arrows downrange, and they are satisfied with a 5-inch group at 20 yards. If your bow is shooting a 5-inch group at a stationary target in the wide open, you can just about double it in a hunting situation, which will put you right on the edge of the animal’s vitals. That doesn’t leave any margin for error or movement by the animal. This is a wounded animal waiting to happen. Sadly, this is easily avoidable, but it happens far too often.
Be honest, for a change
This lack of self-honesty can apply to both the tune of the bow and the shooter’s form. There is no exception for a properly tuned bow. It will shoot field points and broadheads to the same point of impact and is fairly easy to sight in. Continuing to shoot arrow after arrow and telling yourself the next arrow will be better rarely solves any problems. If your bow is inconsistent or excessively difficult to sight in, take it to a pro shop immediately to have it checked out. Remember, Albert Einstein defined insanity as continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.
Be honest with yourself about your equipment and your shooting ability. Always strive for perfection, especially when it comes to hunting. Develop a scoring system and keep score, even when you are shooting at an animal target. This way, you can measure your own progress. Be accountable for your results; accountability leads to better performance in the future. After all, we owe it to ourselves and especially to the animals we hunt to shoot as well as we possibly can.
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