So much of bowhunting's ebbs and flows are out of our control. The weather, hunting pressure, or random synapses firing away in a buck's head are completely uncontrollable.
How well we can shoot our bows, however, is something we can control, which is why bow shooting, with an eye toward achieving consistent accuracy, is so important in determining the outcome of those long days in the field chasing whitetails
Anyone who has slacked off on their summer bow shooting and then watched a big buck walk into range only to watch it run away unscathed as an arrow buries into the leaves at its feet knows what I'm talking about. Missing stinks and while it's going to happen, it doesn't need to happen often.
In order to shoot your bow better in the whitetail woods, however, you need to be disciplined in your shooting routine and practice sessions. And being disciplined starts with knowing exactly how far you're shooting, every time you draw your bow.
Make Rangefinding A Habit
Technology in the deer woods is a blessing and a curse. Woodsmanship has given way to scouting cameras and today's bows are exponentially easier to shoot better with than their predecessors of only five or six years ago.
Say what you will about the advancements in technology, but one item worth owning and using religiously every time you pick up your bow, is a quality angle-compensating rangefinder.
It always amazes me when I meet bowhunters who use their rangefinders sparingly in the pre-season because they always shoot at set distances. A good habit to get into is to pop a range reading before every shot you make at the range and in the woods.
Make the act of reaching for your rangefinder and acquiring a quick reading the first part of your shot sequence every single time. This does two things for you.
First, you will know exactly how far each shot is, allowing you to aim precisely.
Second, you'll gain great experience to be far better prepared for those times when you can't use a rangefinder because events are transpiring a little too quickly.
Think November bucks here. If you can't reasonably judge distance, you're in trouble. All of those practice sessions at odd yardages all summer long will have instilled in you a better ability to judge on-the-fly distances provided you used a rangefinder.
That way, when that big bruiser does cruise through at 33 yards with his nose to the ground, you'll be able to confidently guess to within a few yards what distance he is at.
Use Your Bubble Level
I meet bowhunters every year who tell me they've never looked at the bubble level on their sight. That's crazy! Provided your bow is set up and tuned, your bubble level is going to tell you if you're holding your bow at full draw correctly.
It's that simple, and while it may not seem like a big deal because you can shoot well at the range, ignoring that bubble in the woods is asking for trouble.
Shooting your bow well comes from using proper form consistently. It's easy to be consistent in the backyard while aiming at a block target, but everything changes when a living, breathing buck strolls by your stand.
You might have to shoot sitting down, or shoot straight behind your stand, or contort yourself somehow to thread the needle with a shot between two trees.
This alteration from the typical routine might very well cause you to cant your bow. If you're not checking your cant with the bubble level on your site, you're going to make a bad shot.
Every time you shoot, confirm your shooting form with the bubble level. This will help enforce better form for all of your shooting, and might just save you from an embarrassing miss or worse, a sparse blood trail resulting from a poor shot.
Make Aiming Easy
During the pre-season, a lot of bowhunters shoot at one type of target all summer long. This also happens to be the same target they bring to deer camp with them come September.
Most of the more-popular targets are those block-style options with high-contrast aiming dots or diamonds. There is nothing wrong with these targets, but they aren't the best option for the hunter really looking to shore up his shooting game.
After all, when was the last time you had a black buck with a white circle on his ribs stroll past your blind? Realistic 3D targets that represent actual deer are a much better choice to practice on, especially as the season closes in.
There is nothing wrong with high-contrast targets, in fact, everyone should have one if for no other reason than portability. But to get a lot better at shooting deer, you need to shoot at something that looks like a deer.
Practicing on 3D targets also allows you to play the angles game, which is what bowhunting is all about. Practicing quartering-away shots on a 3D target does wonders for solidifying point-of-impact on real deer, especially when you consider that a live buck can change everything about your shot by simply taking one step.
Invest in a good 3D target that can handle field points and broadheads, and you'll shoot better in the woods.
Develop A Shooting Routine
You can't control whether the wind is going to blow 40mph during your hunt, or if a random, deer-chasing hound plans to make his way past your treestand.
But you can control how well you can shoot. And it all starts now with a routine that solidifies range judgement, shooting form, and realistic practice.
This goes for the pre-season, but also throughout the heart of the bow season where maintaining a shooting schedule will keep you from getting rusty.