Written by: Fred Eichler
A lot of fellow traditional bowhunters ask me what I do to get ready for hunting season or what my practice regimen is. In truth, practicing for season never really stops for the guy that doesn’t want it to. What I mean is that it takes effort, dedication, and sacrifice to make the time to shoot. For those that want to be consistent with a traditional bow it takes muscle memory and practice. For me, I try and practice all year with my recurve. I know a few eyes are rolling thinking that’s not as easy as it sounds. I agree.
In a perfect world I would shoot my bow for thirty minutes to an hour every day. In reality, like everyone, I have a lot of things that are priorities in my life besides shooting my bow. I film hunts, I run an outfitting business; I do some farming, and run a few cows on our ranch. That all takes time away from my shooting. I also am oftentimes busy working with my family on the ranches. Sometimes finding an hour to practice is a difficult if not impossible proposition.
What I had to start doing is making some of my practice sessions really short. By short I mean an average of a minute and forty-five seconds. That’s how long it takes me to grab my recurve off the hook in my room, walk out the front door, shoot one arrow, retrieve my arrow, and put my bow back on the hook in my room.
I figured out a while back that one arrow is the best practice for a real hunting situation. When hunting, it’s only the first shot that counts. So I set up my practice to mirror a real life hunting situation. It also works better with my limited free time. I always shoot my one arrow at unmarked and different yardages every day. I still try and work in longer practice sessions but the one arrow in under two minutes oftentimes fits my schedule and is easier to work in.
I also try and coordinate family practice sessions. The whole family has fun and the side benefit is that everyone shoots better. Additionally, I try and take advantage of small game seasons whenever I can. We hunt frogs, squirrels, turkey, rabbits, raccoon, hogs, or whatever I can chase when big game season is not going on in Colorado. By including the family, I get to enjoy some quality time with them and we all benefit from the additional shooting.
I use the so called “off season” to stay honed and also to keep my equipment ready. For example, when hunting I always like to carry a pre-stretched and pre-shot string with me on my trips in case my string breaks or accidently gets cut. During the “off season” I try and swap a few different new strings on my bow so I always have a supply of pre-stretched strings that have already been used and are ready to go.
Same goes for breaking in a new finger tab. Instead of waiting until I lose the broken in one during season, I try and break in a few during the “off season” so I am always ready with a pre-shot tab. Maybe it’s just me, but a new tab or glove always feels too stiff and I don’t seem to shoot as well until they are broken in.
On my longer practice sessions that last more than one shot I will often try and wear the same clothes I hunt in. For example, I have struggled at times shooting my recurve or my long bow in cold weather because of the additional clothes. To avoid getting a string slapping on my clothes I practice in a larger jacket or sweatshirt. I often hold down my sleeve with a couple of rubber bands spaced a few inches apart or with an armguard.
Other things I have found that practice has helped me with is struggling with a safety harness. They are way better now than they used to be but the added material outside my clothes has caused me some issues. To combat the safety harness struggles I often put a long sleeve shirt on over my harness to help keep it in close to my chest.
Another thing that I use my practice session to help me with is shooting with a head net. I always felt like I wasn’t quite anchoring the same and had to experiment with different head nets to find one that felt right and that I could shoot comfortable with. Now, most of the time, I don’t even notice that I have one on.
Getting ready for season is a misleading title. I prefer to always be ready for any season and I do that by making time to shoot. Even if it’s just one arrow.
Good luck and most importantly have fun! Fred