John’s Note: Nathan Brooks from Alma, Arkansas, has won the IBO (International Bowhunting Organization) Triple Crown team championships, numerous individual tournaments on ASA’s (Archery Shooters Association) Pro Am tours and the NFAA’s (National Field Archery Association) national championships back to back, is an avid bowhunter and is on PSE’s Pro Staff (http://pse-archery.com). Today, Brooks coaches tournament archers and believes that any bowhunter who wants to become better should shoot tournament archery.
“Bowhunters tend to squirm around a lot in their trees. They read books, play with their cell phones and eat candy bars.” ~ Nathan Brooks
I believe one of the biggest mistakes that bowhunters make is they believe their camouflage covers all sins.
Don’t get me wrong, camouflage is important, and it’s very effective. However, camouflage still doesn’t allow you to hunt with a bad wind, to move around and to squirm in your tree stand or to be totally silent. Many years ago, I watched my dad hunt very successfully in a plaid shirt and blue jeans. I don’t believe deer have very good eyesight. However, if they see you move, they’ll peg you. In many states, it seems as if deer are born looking in trees for hunters. I think the movement spooks the deer more than the color or the style of camo you’re wearing.
Bowhunters tend to squirm around a lot in their trees. They read books, play with their cell phones and eat candy bars. If they don’t see a deer, they believe there’s not a deer in their area. However, one of my favorite sayings is, “Just because you don’t see a deer doesn’t mean he doesn’t see you.” If you’ve got the best camouflage in the world but you’re moving around in your tree stand, more than likely, the deer will spot you, before you see him.
Often we overlook the fact that deer stay alive by hiding – they are masters at hiding. They can hide better than we can hide. Most of the time I believe the deer sees the hunter before the hunters spots him, if the hunter is moving at all. If you’re moving around in your stand, you may not see a deer all day long. However, there may have been 5, 10 or 20 deer that have seen you. When you go deer hunting – whether you’re bowhunting or gun hunting – remember your best defense to keep the deer from spotting you is – don’t move.
I’ve found that most of the archers I coach have the same problems about shooting accurately whether they’re bowhunters, tournament archers or both – if their bows don’t fit them properly. The bow is to the archer what the track shoe is to the runner. If a runner’s shoes don’t fit properly, or they’re uncomfortable, the runner won’t be able to run as fast as he can.
If the archer’s bow doesn’t fit him/her exactly, that person won’t shoot as accurately as he can if his bow fits them properly. This problem is especially true with young archers. As an archer gets older, he or she usually is more conscious of having a bow that fits him. The biggest mistake I see older and more experienced archers make is they don’t know how to aim their bows.
Most people are impatient. Most archers feel they have to shoot the bows as soon as their sight pins overlay the spots they want to hit.
I call this a float-by shot. They squeeze the triggers on their releases as soon as the pins float by the target they want to hit. You can’t shoot effectively and consistently shooting this way. You have to let the pin settle. Before you release the string, you have to get still on the target. This is one of the best ways I’ve found to help an archer get over float-by shooting.
I have the archer draw the bow, settle the pin on the spot he wants to hit and hold it there for awhile without shooting. Instead, he lets the bow down and goes through that same process again. I reinforce this teaching technique by telling them when their bows are still enough to shoot. I have them draw, aim and hold. Then let down three or four times or maybe more until they can feel and see the length of time required to aim and settle their pins, before they release the arrows.
Here’s another technique I use. I’ll get a student to draw the bow, put his finger behind his release and not touch the release. Once I see he has the pin settled, I reach up and fire the bow for him, making sure he can’t see my hand as he’s aiming. After I fire the bow for the student three or four times, the student sees that he’s grouping his arrows tighter and tighter. Another definition of the same problem is called punching the trigger – when a bowhunter fires the bow before he aims accurately. This problem is also called target panic, because the archer has the fear of missing the target.
Bowhunters call this problem buck fever.
Many times in pressure situations, bowhunters are in such a hurry to rush their shots that they forget to aim. We have to prove to the archers that they can, in fact, aim their bows and not fire them. They can aim their bows, settle the pins and hold steady before they fire. Another great tool that forces the bowhunter to aim is to encourage them to shoot a back tension release, which doesn’t have a trigger on it.
The other most-common mistake that target shooters and bowhunters have is they don’t remember to follow-through on their shots. Shooting the bow is a process, and the last step in that process is to follow-through. Drawing the bow is a push-pull process. You have to be conscious of pushing and pulling every time you draw the bow. To achieve a great deal of accuracy each time you shoot the bow, you have to follow-through on the shot. If your follow-through becomes as consistent as your aiming system, you’ll shoot much more accurately. Bowhunting and shooting accurately is a lot of little steps – before, during and after the shot. If you make sure you do every step in the process exactly the same way every time, you’ll shoot more consistently.
To get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, “Bowhunting Deer: The Secrets of the PSE Pros,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” and How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” or to prepare venison, get “Deer & Fixings.” click here.
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About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.