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Don’t Overlook Anything When You’re Scouting

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Pattern Your Bowhunting after the Greats

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John’s Note: The little things that may seem insignificant can make or break your bowhunt. Here’s how to spot potential problems.

Pattern Your Bowhunting after the Greats 1I was fortunate enough to have met and interviewed one of the greatest archers who ever lived, Howard Hill of Harpersville, Alabama. Hill was a legend in his own time and set a standard for accuracy in bowmanship that never was surpassed. The first white man to take an elephant with a bow, Hill did all of the trick shooting in the movie “Robin Hood,” which starred Errol Flynn, and was actually the bowman who split the arrow with an arrow in the film. Hill took ducks on the wing and deer on the run, besides shooting an apple off a man’s head, like the legendary William Tell.

Hill was an instinctive shooter. Many outdoorsmen believed that his talent with a bow was a God-given ability. But Hill also was a master of detail. Every day until just a few months before he died, Hill shot a minimum of 100 arrows a day at targets – constantly going through the procedure of draw, aim and shoot. “To be a good bowman, you’ve got to shoot arrows,” Hill explained to me one time. “But just shooting doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a better bowman. Shooting arrows correctly improves your marksmanship.”

Hugh Blackburn, a member of Archery’s Hall of Fame and a representative of the Fred Bear Archery Company for many years, agreed that, “Practice alone doesn’t make a better shooter or a better archer. Practicing properly will train the archer to shoot correctly. The little things like being sure you come to the same anchor point each time you shoot, having a clean release, positioning your body properly for shooting and gripping the string correctly are often-overlooked details that are required for consistent shooting and must be practiced regularly. Perhaps 90 out of 100 times when an archer misses a deer, more than likely he misses not due to a major mistake but because of some small thing that’s been overlooked. If an archer isn’t shooting correctly – hitting the target or arrowing the deer – then the best thing he can do is go to an archery instructor and let that instructor analyze his shooting to discover the mistake the bowman is regularly making. Just because you’ve been bowhunting for several years doesn’t mean that you know how to shoot accurately. So, put your ego in your hip pocket. Allow someone else to evaluate your shooting and help you to correct it. Then when you have the opportunity to draw-down on a deer, the arrow will strike true when it flies.”

Pattern Your Bowhunting after the Greats 2Many times a bowman can be deadly with an arrow. He may be an outstanding woodsman who is able to read signs, predict deer movement and analyze the best place to set up an ambush. But because he fails to foolproof his equipment, he may be unsuccessful. Such was my problem with the tree stand I mentioned earlier (see Day 1). My hunt was flawless, and the shot should have been simple. However, since I’d failed to oil my stand properly, it squeaked before the shot. Therefore the deer vanished.

Pattern Your Bowhunting after the Greats 4“I expect every piece of hunting equipment I own to fail at some time,” nationally-known bowhunter Dr. Robert Sheppard of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a bowhunting instructor at Westervelt Lodge near Aliceville, Alabama, and Bent Creek Lodge in Jachin, Ala., says. “Before I leave to hunt, I try and anticipate how, when and where my equipment may fail, and then I attempt to prevent this from happening. I check all my tree stands each season before I hunt. I test my bow. I sharpen my broadheads. I inspect my clothing. I go over every piece of equipment with a fine-tooth comb checking for worn places and repairs that need to be made. There’s nothing worse than spending the time required to become proficient with a bow and to find a nice-sized deer to shoot at and then failing to take that deer due to an oversight with equipment. Most equipment failures are minor, but those little things are what makes a difference and prevent success in bowhunting. You can learn about Dr. Sheppard’s new book at

To get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and print books on hunting deer, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” “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,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” and “Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows,” or to prepare venison, “Deer & Fixings,” click here.

For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from

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