Tag Archives: preparation

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.

Hunting Checklist

I just got back from an impromptu deer scouting trip, and right away I’m inspired to share my own personal “hunting checklist.” My wife and I were both in a hurry to get out-of-town, so naturally we forgot several items. But believe me, I won’t make this mistake during my actual hunt.

Since bowhunting deer is the most important thing I do, I am very thorough in my preparation and gear packing. I have been compiling this list for more than fifteen years and frequently add new items. Note: Some items don’t apply to short trips, or even every trip. Did I forget anything? Let me know.

Here it is:

hunt-list

Pre-hunt Meditation

DT2

Bowhunting success for general archery deer in Utah is about 20%. That’s about double what it was 20 years ago, mostly due to better equipment. Still, the average bowhunter is looking to harvest a deer only once every five years. That’s bleak!

Zenbowhunter.com is dedicated to raising those numbers for people looking to expand their outdoor knowledge and shooting skills.

Bowhunting success hinges upon five factors:

1. Luck: The truth is most big bucks are stumbled upon by chance, not skill. By improving your hunting skills, you also increase your luck.

2. Equipment: Having precision weaponry, optics, and gear certainly helps tightens your arrow groupings and reduces the chances of error. But it doesn’t contribute anything to actual hunting technique or woodscraft. These factors come through experience and diligent study.

3. Technique: This is the actual hunting part: learning everything about your prey, then locating it, and finally executing a successful stalk. Humans are as much a part of nature as the deer are, so the goal is to reconnect with your natural predatory instincts and use it to your advantage.

4. Information: Learning your area through scouting, studying maps, and collecting data from your state’s wildlife division will provide an outline of what you can expect to see in your area.

5. The Unknown: This is what separates the consistently successful hunters from the rest. The great “unknown” is what Zen Hunting is all about; aka, turning the unknown into the known. You might call it “advanced hunting techniques” but it’s really just the natural process of human development, or Zen enlightenment. The purpose of Zen is to achieve clarity and ultimate truths through meditation, and then finally harness greater powers over the elements by expanding your consciousness.

The bowhunt is only a week away! As with most years, I won’t be hunting the opener. By holding off for a couple weeks I can avoid the hunting pressure and the extreme August heat. In the meantime I’ll remain in a state of pre-hunt meditation. I will go about my work and other responsibilities in a seemingly normal way, but my consciousness is consumed by hunting; in my mind I’m already in the mountains. Phones ring, people talk, distractions arise, but nothing can assuage my focus.

Pre-hunt mediation can be a lot harder to achieve in this modern era, mainly due to constant distractions. Most people are just too busy and/or too distracted to relax and meditate. Between work, texts, emails, family, and the myriad of other responsibilities, we can’t seem to get in the zone. Sure, we’re excited about the upcoming hunt, but we can’t really break free from the busy life until we pull out of the driveway and head for the hills. It will then take at least a few days of hard hunting to get into the rhythm of nature. By then, the hunt could be over! Pre-hunt mediation might sound like a bunch of hippie-hogwash, but it has worked for me for many years.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, then you’re in luck. I’m going to share a few techniques for getting into the rhythm of nature:

  • Spend some time in nature alone. Drive to the mountains and take a short hike. Spend some time sitting near water, trees, etc. Just sit and listen. Take some photos. Taking pictures forces you to look for beauty in nature, which in turn helps you appreciate and connect with it.
  • Watch hunting videos and read hunting books and magazines. By observing how animals act and react to other hunters, it will help you prepare for similar encounters. It will also get you into the hunting mindset before the upcoming own hunt.
  • Study topo maps of your hunting area. Look at places you’ve had success before, and even places where you’ve failed. What are the differences? Can you find similar places on the map? Mark places where you’ve seen big bucks in the past. Chances are there will be more. Make a skeleton plan of your hunt; where will you be hunting on opening morning, and then where will you go from there?
  • Shoot daily. Even if you already shoot daily, do it differently. Instead of just seeing your same old target, make up scenarios. Before you draw the bow, imagine a deer feeding along. Take a second to let the scenario play out. The deer is behind cover, steps forward and looks the other way. Now shoot. On the next arrow imagine an elk, a bear, a rabbit, whatever. Just make it more realistic. Brain studies show that the subconscious mind has a hard time distinguishing between reality and make-believe. This exercise will put you into the hunter mindset. Plus it’s fun.

These are just a few of the methods I use to get into the spirit of the hunt before I set foot in the woods. Establishing the hunter mindset ahead of time will contribute more to success than anything else you do.

The few hunters who have consistent success are the ones who don’t view bowhunting as a hobby or a sport, but a lifestyle. Try to make that commitment in yourself, set a goal, and make hunting a way of life. The numbers say your odds are 1-in-5, but you can beat the odds by putting forth a little extra effort. I truly believe that success in bowhunting is a decision, not luck.