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.
One of the biggest problems that bowhunters have is how to make their shots under the pressure of the moment.
Many people can stand in their backyards and make great shots all day long, when no one’s watching, and there’s not an animal they want to take in front of them. This kind of practicing is called practicing in your comfort zone. However, when you’re in the woods in either a tree stand or a ground blind, and you have a trophy animal in front of you, you have a lot of pressure on you to make that shot.
If you shoot tournament archery, you get accustomed to pressure to shoot accurately. Because sometimes, there’ll be hundreds or thousands of eyes looking at you, to see how you’ll perform, when you have to make that pressure shot. As bowhunters, we may practice everything we know about shooting the bow, except how to shoot when there’s pressure. The best way to learn how to perform this critical skill is to shoot 3D archery – when all eyes are on you, and everyone is expecting you to hit the 12 ring.
When I’m bowhunting, depending on how much time I have to judge distance, and/or how quickly I have to get off a shot, I always aim for the heart on a deer. This shot is low and in the bottom third of the animal. I don’t aim for the shot right behind the shoulder or the center mass of the animals, if the animal is broadside, or if the deer is quartering away. As a bowhunter, instead of just looking for the spot you want to hit with your arrow, you have to visualize where you want the arrow to come out on the deer, before you release the arrow.
I want to mentally see where the arrow will come out of the animal if I place the arrow in a certain place.
This is where bowhunting and target archery differ. You can turn a 3D target in several different directions, but the 12 ring remains the same. When you’re trying to take an animal in the woods from a tree stand or a ground blind, you have to determine where the heart is depending on the way the animal presents the shot. In other words, if I have a hard quartering-away shot, I know I have to aim farther back on the deer than I will if the deer is broadside to me, so, as the arrow enters the deer from a tree stand angle, it will go through the heart and/or lungs. However, you have to aim small to shoot accurately. The smaller the target you aim at, the more accurately you’ll shoot.
Most bowhunters believe they’re successful if they get a double-lung shot, but I always shoot for the heart, even though it’s a smaller target. If I’m shooting from a tree stand down to a deer, the heart is even a smaller target. But nine times out of 10, unless the deer is extremely close when you release the arrow, the deer will drop down. If you’re aiming center mass or for the lungs, and the deer drops down, your shot will land high, or you’ll completely miss the deer, because the deer’s reaction time is so quick, and the animal can drop down so quickly.
If you aim for the heart, which is a lower shot, and the deer drops down, you’ll either cut the top of the heart, get a double lung shot or both. So, by shooting for the heart, you have two chances for an accurate shot. If the deer doesn’t drop at the sound of the bow, you have a lethal heart shot. If the deer does drop down at the sound of the bow, you have a lethal double lung shot.
Tournament archery season runs January through mid-August. The archer who shoots competitively has been shooting and practicing bowhunting usually up to within 4 weeks, depending on the state, before archery deer season, elk season or antelope season starts. This gives the 3D archer from the end of August until the end of December or longer, depending on where you live, to bowhunt. The two sports don’t compete with each other. Each sport – target archery and bowhunting – actually enables the bowhunter to be a better hunter and a better shooter.
Some years I may hunt a lot. Other years I may not hunt as much, because I have other things that have to be accomplished before tournament 3D season starts. But generally, I have plenty of time to deer hunt or hunt other big game.
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 to get these books.
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.