Serious bowhuntersknow that with both compounds and crossbows there’s always something that needs tweaking. The time to sort out the bugaboos and get your shooting form back into hunting shape is now—well before opening day.
JUMPING BACK IN
With both compounds and crossbows, starting off slowly is the key to being successful. Don’t try to do too much all at once. After a long layoff, compound shooters need to get their shooting muscles back in shape. It also takes some time to re-focus your mental game.
Don’t practice if you are distracted; doing so will only foster poor shooting form. Keep in mind that all athletes need days off to keep their game at a top level. When I find that, for whatever reason, my shooting isn’t up to snuff on a particular day, I pack it up and go home. There’s no reason to exacerbate poor form.
As the season draws closer, I like to transition from shooting bull’s eye targets to shooting at life-size 3-D targets. If you don’t have these available, there are many large cube-style targets that have animal silhouettes, or even just the vitals, on different sides. They work great, too.
Remember the old saying: "Slow but steady wins the race." Consistent practice over time will make you a much better shot than rushing a lot of practice over a week or two just before the season opens. But first, of course, you must make sure your equipment is in top-notch working order.
COMPOUND TUNE-UP TIPS
1. After months of not shooting, check everything on the bow. Make sure all screws and bolts are tight, check the string for nicks, wax the string and lightly lubricate the axles.
2. Check the bow sight. Are any sight pins broken or bent? Any loose screws? Replace and/or tighten as necessary.
3. Check your arrows for loose or nicked fletchings, cracked nocks and dangerous cuts or dings in the carbon fiber. Lightly oil (or wax with bowstring wax) the threads of your practice points and broadheads.
4. Make sure your release aid is lubricated and correctly adjusted and that the strap is in good shape. Now’s a good time to replace the battery in your laser rangefinder.
5. Roll your arrow shafts on a perfectly flat surface to make sure they are still true and not warped.
6. Paper tune your arrows to make sure they are flying like laser beams.
Note: Be sure to check all local, state and federal regulations prior to hunting with a crossbow in your state.
BIRTH OF THE COMPOUND
In December 1969, patent 3,486,495 was issued to Holless Wilbur Allen for his "Archery Bow With Force Multiplying Attachments." Allen was quoted at the time, "All I was trying to develop was a bow that would get an arrow to a 10- to 25-yard target—a deer—before the target could move."
CROSSBOW TUNE-UP TIPS
1. Check everything—string, cables, cocking device, trigger, safety—to ensure all is in good working order.
2. Wax the bowstring, lightly lubricate the axles and lube the rail.
3. Check to make sure the crossbow’s sight is level and that the mounts are properly tightened.
4. Like a compound, check your arrows, vanes and nocks for wear or damage and make sure your rangefinder has fresh batteries.
5. Give your shooting sticks a once-over (if you don’t use sticks, consider investing in a set). Heads can come loose, rubber tips on the feet can go missing and, when left unlubricated, the joints can squeak loudly when adjusted. Having your shooting sticks fail or make noise is not something you want to happen in the deer woods, and both can be prevented.
RISE OF THE CROSSBOW
Crossbows were invented in ancient China during the Zhou dynasty, around the year 700 B.C., and were used in medieval Europe as a military weapon.
1. With compound bows, start by shooting a few arrows regularly. I find that shooting a dozen arrows five days a week is better than trying to shoot 50 arrows in a single day. Fatigued muscles that are not in shooting shape can destroy your form. Slowly build up to longer shooting sessions.
2. Sight in using the same arrows you’ll hunt with. I start with field points, but as the season nears I sight in (and paper tune) with the same broadheads I will use for hunting.
3. Be sure to shoot "between" the pins. If your pins are set in 10-yard increments starting at 20 yards, be sure to shoot at 15, 25, 35 and 45 yards until you know exactly where to hold when an animal presents itself at one of these "in-between" distances—as it inevitably will.
4. With crossbows, practice shooting offhand, but also using a rest of some sort—shooting sticks, a bench, etc. A solid bench makes precision sight-in possible, and I recommend starting your pre-season practice by shooting from one.
5. As the season nears, shoot the way you’ll hunt, whether that’s standing in a treestand or sitting in a ground blind. Practice unorthodox angles. Wear the same clothes you’ll wear in the field. Final practice sessions before the season opens should be a full "dress rehearsal" so there are no surprises come opening day.
QUICK TUNING TIPS
1. To reduce string-destroying friction, always lube a crossbow’s rail after no more than 10 shots. Be sure the rail is clean and dry first.
2. Once your compound bow is tuned and sighted-in, mark the positions of your peep sight, string loop and bow sight with an indelible marker so you can detect any subtle movements that can affect accuracy.
3. Knowing arrow trajectory is important. To get a feel for this, shoot one arrow into a target at 20 yards using your 20-yard pin. Step back to 25 yards, aim at the same spot with the 20-yard pin, and shoot one arrow. Repeat out to 50 yards. This will quickly show you just how much the arrow drops at increasing distances and help you visualize how to use your sight pins no matter the range to an animal.