Category Archives: Archery Basics

Best Pre-Hunt Preparation: The 3D Archery Range

With the Utah archery hunt only a few weeks away, it’s time to get serious about pre-hunt preparation. Over the years we’ve discussed several ways to prepare for the hunt; things like exercise, scouting, mediation, and shot execution. But I would argue that nothing gets you ready like hitting the 3D archery range.

What is a 3D range?

A 3D range is simply a series of life-size, foam animal targets set up in a natural environment. The targets are roughly the same size and color as the real animal. Just like regular square targets, 3D targets have a series of concentric circles overlaying the vitals, but are nearly impossible to see at any distance. This aids in proper shot placement, yet allows for scoring your shot.

Fun for the whole family:
Russell and his son harvest some foam.

How is a 3D range beneficial?

How is it NOT!? A good outdoor range is set up in a life-like manner so that some shots are uphill/downhill, often through brush and trees, and at various random yardages. Add to that odd angles, wind, bugs buzzing around your head, uneven terrain, sun in your eyes, back lit targets, and sweltering heat…well it’s a recipe for a real-life hunting experience! And that’s why it’s so crucial to try it at least once before the season starts. Besides, it’s a ton of fun for everyone.

Jerry missed high and right…

What can I expect to learn at the 3D range?

A lot! Right away you’ll be disappointed at your lack of skills; and that’s the point. Most people start the summer by shooting in their backyard on flat ground, all while shooting square targets with brightly colored bullseyes. That might be great for sighting in your bow, but over time it does more harm than good because you’re training your mind to shoot under very predictable circumstances. The 3D range–on the other hand–mimics the adverse conditions you’ll certainly find in the woods, and really trains the mind to expect the unexpected, a skill that’ll prove invaluable afield.

Esther nails a 55 yard bison bullseye.

How can I maximize my 3D experience?

I’m glad you asked. The most effective way to practice is to shoot two arrows per target: the first arrow is shot without using a rangefinder, and the second is shot after ranging the target. This really helps to train your eye to judge distances for situations where there’s no time to range the animal before the shot.

Next, you’ll want to shoot in various body positions: standing, kneeling, or even squatting to keep your arrow from hitting an overhanging branch.

For the best possible experience, hit the range with a buddy or two, and be sure to keep score. After teaching archery for four years, I’ve found the best way to tighten up an arrow grouping is to engage in a little competition. Pride is usually enough, but toss in a few bucks and watch the competition soar.

Splitting arrows on a wolf target.

Conclusion

No matter what state you live in there’s likely a 3D range nearby. (Just google it). If you don’t have a range, you can always purchase 3D targets from any outdoor retailer. Unfortunately 3D targets are quite expensive, but having one or two will prove invaluable if you apply the aforementioned regimen.

I suggest visiting a few different ranges, and then concentrate on the most challenging one. For best results bring some friends and really push yourself. Shooting the 3D range is the most effective way I’ve found to improve your shooting skills before entering the woods. And believe me, golf will never be the same.

Why I Switched to a Single-Pin Slider Bow Sight

Montana Black Gold Ascent single-pin “slider” sight.

Watching my arrow sail harmlessly over a world-class buck at 50 yards wasn’t heartbreaking; it was traumatizing! After replaying the shot over and over for a year, I concluded it was either an error in ranging, or more likely I settled the wrong pin (60-yard?) due to buck fever. Consequently I made some drastic changes to my bow setup last year, starting with my bow sight.

Standard multi-pin bow sight.

For years I used a standard multi-pin, fiber-optic bow sight. When the single-pin (slider) sight came out, I wrote it off as just another unnecessary gadget which would likely introduce more problems than anything. But after carefully weighing the pros and cons, I decided to try it–and I’ll NEVER go back.
Here’s why:

1) It’s far easier to focus a single pin on a small target than to wade through multiple-pins–or worse yet, shooting between the pins–especially under high stress.

2) Multiple pins–whether 5 or 7–take up way too much space in the sight picture. A long row of pins is not only distracting, but blocks too much of the target or animal’s vitals.

3) If you’re shooting heavy arrows and/or pulling a light draw weight, the pins on a multi-pin sight will be spaced widely apart. This adversely affects accuracy. A single-pin sight that can be dialed to the exact yardage has proven to be far more accurate in my experience.

The Cons:

1) The most obvious drawback to a single-pin sight is that every time the animal moves, you have to re-adjust the sight. If the animal moves a lot, or is walking towards you, it can be very frustrating. But after actually using it in the field (and arrowing three animals in 2016), I realized just how rare these scenarios occur. In most cases you’ll have plenty of time to range the animal and move the slider; it only takes a second.

2) Moving a single-pin sight creates extra movement. Again, this proved to be a nonfactor. When hunting thick timber, I leave my pin set at 20 yards and don’t worry about it. If an animal busts out at 25-30 yards, I just have to hold a little higher. When I’m hunting more open terrain I leave the pin at 30 or 40 yards, but it really doesn’t matter because animals that far out are usually calm and won’t notice the slight movement of my hand. After all, just drawing your bow creates far more movement than scrolling a slider wheel.

Final Note:

Just about every archery manufacturer makes a single-pin sight now. My only recommendation is buy a sturdy, all-aluminum model that can stand up to the rigors of hunting.

If you’re not yet ready to commit to a single-pin sight, then you should consider a hybrid sight. In a hybrid sight the top few pins are fixed, but the bottom pin is movable. This solves most issues listed above, but again, you still have multiple pins blocking the target. My advice is to keep it simple: one pin, one man, one giant buck.

Ultimate Archery Instructional Video

I’ve been collaborating with my videographer friend, Shane Thompson, on an awesome archery instructional video. The content for this video is based on lessons I’ve put together and used to teach hundreds of people over the years.

The first instructional video will be out within a few weeks and I will post the link here.

Below is the intro video. Pretty cool, huh?!

Blog Site HACK!!! (June 2015)

I was doing so well; adding new and exciting posts to my blog, so hopeful for a promising 2015.

THEN, in June I noticed my links and photos were being re-routed to malicious websites. MY BLOG SITE WAS HACKED!

How wonderful, I thought. All the hard work and countless hours spent building my site and posting lengthy articles, now ruined. Thanks evil world! Just what I needed!

In July I began diligent studies of ways to fix this problem. Basically the hackers are so careful to hide the hack within the site code, that it’s almost impossible to fix this problem without nuking the site and starting over. So that’s what I did.

Long story short, I spent most of July rebuilding this site from scratch, spending countless hours re-uploading 88 posts and several pages of content.

Not only did I rebuild the entire site, but I then added several complex security measures to avoid future hacks. One measure tracks the number of attempted hacker logins. As it turned out, I was getting up to 60 attempted hacks per day! That’s crazy! What’s wrong with people! Pure EVIL! To say that I’ve lost complete faith in humanity would be an understatement.

Finally, as of today, it’s done. The site is back up and running. This new and SAFER site is running at full steam. Just in time for the hunting season too!

Top 3 Tips to Improve Your Archery NOW!

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Now that spring is here, you’ve probably taken your bow out, dusted it off, and sent some arrows downrange. Maybe some were bullseyes while some were errant, but it’s early yet and there’s always room for improvement.

In the last ten years I’ve worked tirelessly at becoming a better hunter. But at the same time, I’ve also developed some bad habits. These habits are common to most archers and include punching the release and lack of follow-through. What you do at the end of your release has the greatest effect on accuracy. So in today’s lesson we’re going to relearn how to shoot.

Bad shooting habits develop because we’re too focused on hitting the bullseye. Everyone knows that humans can only focus on one thing at a time. Ironically, if we focus too hard on the bullseye, we’ll actually miss it!

Here’s the fix:

  1. RELAX!:  A famous target archer once said, “A relaxed mind cannot exist in a tense body, and a tense mind cannot exist in a relaxed body.” More than anything else, the bow and arrow fights relaxation. First, there’s the mental stress of hitting the bullseye, especially in a hunting or competition. Second, when you draw your bow, your whole body becomes physically tense as it struggles to crank back and hold all that weight. So, now your mind and body are under duress. Your fight and flight response takes over and all that matters in the world is getting rid of that arrow. Now STOP! Tell yourself you will not release until you calm down. Breathe in and out a couple times. Put your sight pin on the bullseye, then take it off, and put it back on again. Who cares if you miss? Refuse to shoot until you are completely calm. Eventually this will become habit and will have the greatest effect on your accuracy.
  2. The Open Grip:  By now you probably know how to grip your bow, but it’s worth another look. First, your bow’s grip should begin at U-shape between your thumb and index finger. Second, your grip should contact your hand along your life line (the line that separates the fleshy part of your thumb and middle of your palm. Third, the grip should end at the center of your palm where your wrist begins. If you do this correctly, the middle knuckles of your bow hand will form a 45-degree angle slanted away from your grip. NOW, this is only the beginning. When you draw your bow, your fingers should be relaxed and open away from the bow’s grip. Your fingers should remain relaxed throughout the entire shot. The best way to do this is to make an “okay” sign with your index finger and thumb lightly touching. Your hand must remain like this throughout the entire shot.
  3. Follow-Through: Seems simple, right?! It’s not. Again, you can only focus on one thing, so if you’re still aiming at this point, then you’re not following through.  Aiming should go as far as letting the pin float tiny circles around the bullseye. At that point, your only focus should be on pushing the bow forward with your bow arm, and steadily pulling the string back with your release hand. The pin floats almost subconsciously while your focus floats freely and relaxingly between back tension, breathing, and oblivion. Oblivion is where you are free of all anticipation, free of all tension, and free of all distraction. All the technicalities of archery have become one simple action (form) and relegated to your subconscious mind. With nothing left to distract you, you are free; you are in the moment, perfectly centered between the future and the past.

The goal of archery is to relax: relax your grip, relax your body, and relax your mind. At this point, the bow is loosed on its own terms. The bow-and-arrow is accurate every time, subject only to the laws of nature which are fixed. The only variable is the shooter. The greatest obstacle YOU and how you influence the shot. When can master yourself, you will experience perfect archery with every shot.

Note:  I posted a video in my next blog that demonstrates the 3 steps to better archery. Here is the Video Link.

Archery Effective Range

range Spring is in the air and that means one thing: archery! It’s time to dust off that old bow and drag your pasty, out-of-shape, winterized carcass outside and do some shooting. Today we’re going to talk about effective range. Effective range? Yes, effective range. In this post we’ll answer the following questions: At what range are you an effective bowhunter? How do you find out? And why does it matter? Question #1:  What is effective range? Answer: Effective range–or effective distance–is the distance at which you can get all your arrows within a “kill-zone” size area of a target every time. Question #2: How do you find out? Answer: The kill-zone on an average big game animal–like a deer or elk–is a circle 8-10 inches in diameter. This circle encompasses the heart/lungs area known as the vitals. The easiest way to learn your effective range is to shoot four arrows at a paper plate. A standard size paper plate is nine inches, so it makes a perfect kill-zone target. Starting at close range (say 20 yards), shoot four arrows. If all arrows hit within the paper plate, move back ten yards and repeat. Continue doing this until you miss one arrow. WHEN you finally miss a shot, you will know your effective range: It’s the last place you shot where you didn’t miss! So if you miss at 40 yards, then your effective range is 30 yards. At this point, you should begin working on your form and follow-through until you can consistently get every single arrow in the plate at farther distances. Until then, you should never take shots at game over 30 yards. Question #3:  Why is it important? Answer: When you don’t know your effective range, you will end up shooting beyond your abilities and injuring an animal, and this will be a horrible experience for you and the animal. Shooting at animals is a lot harder than shooting at a paper plate. There are many psychological factors involved–primarily buck fever–which will cause you to miss. For this reason, you should also practice shooting in adverse conditions such as wind and steep elevation, as well as different body positions like kneeling and crouching–anything that will simulate an actual hunting scenario. Knowing and sticking to your effective range is the most important first step you should take before going bowhunting. Not only is this a fun exercise, but a valuable measure of your skills. Expanding your effective range will force you to set goals and hone your skills. Happy shooting!

Zen Hunting Now Available on Amazon Kindle

In valiant effort to get with the times, an eBook version of my book,

3dbook1

is now available on Amazon for only $4.99!

This is a spectacular value for this limited edition, 200-page, 70-photo literary work. Order and read Zen Hunting now by clicking the link below:

Zen Hunting: A Bowhunter’s Path to Purpose and Enlightenment

(A signed paperback or hardcover copy is still available by request).

Armguard Basics: Avoiding String Slap

armguard

Oh, the all important armguard. With all the available archery accessories out there, the armguard is often overlooked. In fact many advanced archers don’t even use them. But for the beginning archer, the armguard is absolutely necessary. It’s just a matter of time before you hit your forearm with the string and break all the blood vessels in a three-inch swathe. It’ll take a couple days for the swelling goes down, but the bruise will linger for a week.

Armguards are worn on the inside of your bow arm, somewhere between your elbow and wrist. It should be worn snug enough to not slip around. They come in all shapes, sizes, and materials and attach around your arm with straps, buckles, Velcro, or string. In ancient times they were fashioned out of leather. Nowadays, it’s mostly stiff plastics, fabric, and cushioned material. You could easily make one out of duct tape if you were so inclined. The important factor is that you have something to protect your arm while you’re learning proper form and techniques.

Armguards come in all shapes and sizes.
Armguards come in all shapes and sizes.

Obviously the armguard serves to avoid hitting your forearm and wrist with the bowstring, but it also holds bulky clothing out of the string’s path. If the string contacts anything during the shot, then the arrow will be thrown off trajectory.

The most important reason to wear an armguard is so you don’t develop target panic. Target panic is caused by flinching. If you have a very painful experience in the beginning, then you’ll anticipate the shot and lose your focus. You’ll jerk the string loose instead of letting it release on its own. Remember, the release of the arrow should always be a surprise; the result of your back muscles squeezing together, not your fingers letting go. If you develop target panic early on, it could take months to fix it. So it’s best to avoid it by wearing an armguard.

Hitting yourself with a string (string slap) is easily avoided by holding the bow correctly. Remember to hold the bow with your elbow bent slightly outward. If you lock your elbow inward—a common newbie mistake—then you’ll inevitably hit your arm. At the same time, don’t bend your elbow too much or it will force your arm muscles to do the work instead of your arm bones.

If you still have problems with the string hitting your arm, then it’s likely caused by two other factors:

  1. Short brace height. Brace height is the distance between the bowstring and the bow grip when the bow is at rest. Most bows are somewhere between seven and ten inches. If the string is too long for your bow (traditional bows only), then you’ll have a short brace height. Upon release, the bow will pull the string into your wrist. You can easily remedy this problem by buying a slightly shorter string.
  2. Over-gripping your bow. This happens when you rotate your wrist too far around the grip and let the bow settle in the center of your hand. Remember, the bow should settle at the base of your palm and in-line with your forearm. Over-gripping pulls your wrist into the bowstring’s path.

So much for the basics! I’ve touched on a lot of information here, but in the end just remember to wear an armguard. If you practice with proper form, then soon you won’t even have to wear one.