by Bill Winke - Monday, June 18, 2012
To make good, clean, killing shots at game you need skills, and most of these skills take many hours of repetition to build. Fortunately, there are a few quick tips that will have you shooting two times better than you currently shoot between now and the start of the season. Here are four of them.
Narrow Your Focus
You will see a big improvement in your accuracy when using a simple mental drill. After settling in at full draw, narrow your focus to the smallest aiming point you can identify. I am sure you have heard the statement “aim small, miss small.” It works with archery too. Lock on to that spot like a dog on a bone and don’t let go until the arrow hits. As your focus gets stronger, you will feel like you are steering the arrow as it heads to the target. A disciplined mental follow-through will hold all the pieces of the shot together.
Squeeze the Trigger
You have probably heard this advice, so before you tune me out and say, “I already do that,” I issue this challenge: I bet you don’t. Most casual archers are much more aggressive on the trigger than they think. You have to feel the correct release before you can learn to recreate it repeatedly. Try this: When you get to full draw, make a conscious effort to reach your finger deeper into the trigger on the release (if you use an index-triggered release). Now, squeeze the trigger as you pull the string into the back wall of the bow’s let-off valley. Don’t try to hit anything, just focus on the squeeze.
Unless you have done this before, the shot will startle you when it goes off. It is supposed to feel this way. This is how you learn to reach your potential as an archer. You can make the surprise release easier to accomplish by shortening the release aid stem so that only the second pad of your finger contacts the trigger.
Aiming will feel strange now as it takes more time to get the arrow airborne and there is no conspicuous “now” command in your head. Here is another surprise for you: The pin doesn’t have to stop on the spot you are trying to hit in order to shoot very well. Just let it float and focus on squeezing.
Find the Perfect Fit
A half-inch change in your draw length can make a big difference in the size of your groups. I shoot much better (as do most people) when the elbow of my release arm points straight away from the target (in line with the arrow). Many people try to shoot a bow with a draw length that is too long. When that happens, the elbow tends to point more around behind you, which puts side-pressure on the string and causes inconsistent accuracy. Either record or ask someone to study the position of your release arm at full draw to see if you are guilty of this common problem. If nothing else, try shortening your draw length a half-inch. I bet you will shoot better.
Rehearse for Reality
Accurate shooting at game requires both mechanics and composure. I won’t pretend that I am the most composed person on the planet when a big deer approaches, but I do know a way to improve this. You need to rehearse the encounter in your head as often as possible so that success is an expectation rather than a hope. This is a very important point because there is a big difference between the two mental conditions. If you are merely hoping to come through during the moment of truth, you still have too much doubt for peak performance.
You can train your brain to expect success by repeatedly visualizing the events until subconsciously your mind accepts that you have already done it. That is what top athletes do when preparing for their events. The act of seeing a positive outcome in your daydreams makes you much more decisive and positive when the opportunity actually comes. The state of your subconscious mind may be all that stands between you and a perfect shot.
Each of these tips has the potential to improve your accuracy in just a few short months. But taken together they can revolutionize your hunting. Follow these steps on every single shot you take during the offseason to commit the new method to instinct, because when the pressure is on, you will naturally revert to your instinctive shooting form. The more disciplined you are when practicing the better your instinctive technique will become.
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