August 20, 2015
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Texas football legend Jordan Shipley is no stranger to the sweat and tears late summer demands in the pursuit of autumn success.
After all, Shipley – who still holds the Lone Star State's high school record for most receiving yards in a career (5,424 yards) and most receiving touchdowns in a career (73) – spent many a hot August two-a-day practice session under the broiling sun as he played wide-out at Burnet High School from 2000-2003.
Ditto for similar sessions during a remarkable career at the University of Texas in Austin where Shipley and Longhorns teammate Colt McCoy rewrote the burnt orange record book at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, much to the delight of Bevo and his legion of UT fans.
He gained even more experience as to the value of late summertime preparation during a promising NFL career, one that was cut short due to mounting knee injuries that forced Shipley's retirement from the game early in 2014.
These days, as co-host of The Bucks of Tecomate show on Outdoor Channel, Shipley continues to train hard under the triple-digit sunshine of August, albeit with a different form of fall reward in mind.
The kind of reward that means heavy antlers heading for the taxidermist shop and succulent wild game meat destined for a mesquite wood fire on the grill at Shipley's central Texas home.
For the Hoyt Archery pro-staffer, sweat-heavy practice now will ultimately pay off later this fall as he settles his sight pins on the vitals of such North American big game animals as Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer and whitetails.
With such hunts looming on his calendar, here are five ways that Shipley is getting ready now during bowhunting's version of August two-a-day practice sessions:
1. Stretching Shooting Distance: "For me, maybe the number one way I get ready for fall is by shooting long range stuff (now)," said Shipley, whose wife Sunny also helps co-host the Tecomate show along with whitetail hunting legend David Morris.
With several western big game hunts in front of him, Shipley routinely stretches his late summer practice shots out to 80 and 90 yards. While he won't take such shots in the field, such practice range distances now accentuate any sort of little flaw that might develop in his shooting form.
And the time to deal with such shooting form flaws is now on the practice range and not later this fall as a bull elk bugles his lungs out less than a football field away.
"When you practice at those distances, if you get to where you're consistently hitting the 10-ring on a 3-D target, it makes the shorter shots at 30 and 40 yards seem relatively easy," said Shipley.
2. Practice for One Shot: Another thing that Shipley will do to prepare now for later fall success is by performing what he calls a "Monster Walk.”
"Since I'll be doing a lot of spot-and-stalk hunting in the fall, I take my bow, put on a weight vest, stay low to the ground in a squat position and then walk a good number of yards," said the former UT great, who along with his younger brother, Jaxon, made the number eight burnt orange jersey at Texas nothing short of legendary.
"I get my legs good and tired and I'm shaking pretty good," said Shipley. "Then I will stop, pull up and take one shot at a 3-D target. That's just the way it will be in the field when I'm hunting and you'll only get one chance to make a good shot (then)."
3. Take a Seat: Even for his relatively stationary whitetail bowhunts later on in the fall as he sits in a treestand or a ground blind, Shipley rarely makes it easy upon himself with any of his backyard preparations.
Think about this: How many shots will a hunter get this fall that are like the easy-as-pie standing position that most bowhunters spend the bulk of their time practicing from?
Few, if any at all.
"I shoot a lot while sitting down," said Shipley. "I do that a whole lot. In fact, I very rarely practice just standing up when I'm shooting. I try to make it as realistic as possible.
4. Sight Pin Knowledge: On the practice range, archers can have all day to draw, take aim and let a shot fly downrange towards a bag target or a 3-D buck or bull.
Unfortunately, hunting shots rarely afford bowhunters the opportunity to take their time.
This means they must be intimately acquainted with their sight pins, able to put the whole process on autopilot as Shipley does when a shot opportunity walks down a trail.
"I shoot with two sight pins on my adjustable dialed-in sight," said Shipley. "It's actually a three-pin model, but I took the middle one out."
Why? "Because in a treestand situation, a lot of times you've got to be able to shoot quickly and there is no time to range an animal. I leave my top pin set at 25 yards and through practice, I know that at 20 yards, my arrows shoot ½ inch high; at 25 yards, the pin is dead on; at 30 yards, I'm two inches low and at 35 yards, I'm five inches low. Then I have my other pin set at 40 yards."
"If the shot is over 40 yards (like you get out West sometimes), I'll always take the time on those shots to use my rangefinder, get the actual distance and dial it in on my adjustable sight," he added.
Through sheer repetition and knowledge of his sight pin settings, Shipley is prepared for whatever shot presents itself.
"If I'm up in a tree and something pops out and I have only a second or two to get drawn, grunt the buck to a stop, figure out the range and make an accurate shot, I've got a simple two-pin system that works for me," he said.
5. Practice with Hunting Arrows: A final way that Shipley makes his pre-season practice as realistic as possible is to actually practice shooting with the actual arrow shafts, nocks and Rage Hypodermic broadheads that he will be using in the field.
That lesson was driven home to him last year when a western hunt – in a state that didn't allow for the use of lighted nocks – presented a golden shot opportunity.
Unfortunately, Shipley missed ... on camera, no less, in front of God and all of creation.
"Lighted nocks are a little bit heavier than normal nocks are and I made a rookie mistake," said Shipley. "At shorter ranges, it doesn't make much difference. But at the longer ranges like on that mule deer, it makes a big difference. I didn't factor that in and I missed the shot."
After the clean miss on the mulie buck, Shipley redeemed himself a day or two later with a fantastic mule deer that made a trip to the taxidermist shop and filled up his freezer.
So what is the moral from all of this?
From the distances he'll be shooting to the shooting positions he'll be occupying to using the actual arrow, nock and broadhead setup that he'll have in the field, Shipley tries to make all of his practice in late summer as realistic as possible.
"To me, (I've learned that) it's just like anything else," said Shipley. "When you put yourself in a tougher situation during training and practice (sessions), it becomes easier (to perform) when the actual moment arrives."
Whether that moment is on national television as a pigskin spirals through the mild mid-October air at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Or if that moment happens on a frosty November morning as a heavy-rack and hard grunting whitetail comes calling during the peak of the rut with a set of big headbones and enough venison to fill the freezer at the Shipley household for another year.
Either way, whatever the autumn month and whatever the ultimate goal, it's preparation in the here and now of a hot and sweaty August that can pay big dividends later on.
Just ask Jordon Shipley; he's the guy out there sweating on the practice range in the dog days of August.