It’s not the only month holding 31 days, but it’s still the longest month of the year in the life of a bowhunter.
August. It’s the 31-day stretch of time that leads up to the arrival of bow season. Sure, archery antelope season kicks off in August, but the true arrival of bow season begins in September with the opener of elk and early season whitetail in states across the U.S. They are the days we dream of all year long. But it’s what you do in those 31 days prior that can make a difference in whether you punch your tags, or simply enjoy the scenery. Here’s a 31-Day Preseason Shooting Regimen to help you build up to opening day.
August 1-5 – Shaking the Dust Off
For those who have not already been shooting all summer, now is the time to shake the dust off your gear and do a thorough inspection of your bow, sight, rests, and arrows. Do you need a new string and cables? Give them a close look for any nicks, fraying or abuse that you may have forgotten from last year. Is your bow tuned or are there adjustments to be made? And nothing signals the arrival of hunting season like the chore of building a fresh batch of arrows to reload the quiver. It’s time to get your gear in order, and step up to the target.
Use this first week to knock the rust off your shooting skills as well. If your bow has been hung up all summer, you’ll need a few days to get back in the groove. Start flinging arrows down range. Don’t worry about precision shooting at this point. Just begin to work on getting your body (back & shoulders) back in shooting shape. Shoot tons of arrows this first week as you stretch those muscles once again.
August 6-12 – Form & Function
After nearly a week of stretching your muscles and getting back into the groove of your shooting routine, it’s now time to begin focusing on your shooting form and how you and your gear will function at the moment of truth. Regardless of how long you’ve been shooting, bad habits always seem to try and creep in. Target panic really doesn’t care whether you’re a pro or a rookie. It just wants to mess with your life. Pay attention to your form in this second week. Don’t focus simply on shooting, but shooting right. Don’t fling countless arrows at this time. Rather, concentrate on shooting perfect arrows. It’s all about proper form and follow-through at this time.
Keep in mind that we are preparing for hunting season now. Our mission is to kill critters and punch tags. You can’t always function the same way you did during 3-D competition. I like to practice maintaining proper form, yet doing it in the midst of simulated hunting scenarios. We’ll have more on this in later weeks, but begin to work on maintaining proper form when shooting fast, while sitting, kneeling, in the rain, while your hands are sweating, with gloves, and while you’re wearing a face mask.
August 13-19 – Deadly Out to 50
You’ve been working on your form at close range, but now it’s time to stretch things out and make sure you’re getting your money’s worth out of all your sight pins. Get your 30, 40, and 50 yard pin dialed in, and begin gaining confidence in your shooting ability at these distances. Maintain the proper form you’ve been working on in the last week, but begin hammering away with plenty of arrows at these varying distances to build confidence in your ability to make the shot on game, whether it’s standing at 5 yards or 50.
This is also a great time to work on your distance judging. Sure, you’ll probably have a rangefinder around your neck. But far too many opportunities are blown each year as hunters fumble to get a range on a deer. Distance judging is a skill. Build that skill, and you’ll punch more tags.
August 20-26 – Build Confidence With Long Bombs
Hopefully at this point your confidence out to 50 yards has you feeling good about opening day. But don’t stop there. Spend much of this week launching long bombs at even further distances to build confidence. How far are we talking? That, of course, is up to you. But I can promise you that if you’ll spend a week shooting targets at 80, 90, and even 100 yards, your confidence and ability to hold on the target at 50 yards will go through the roof. Practice long to make your short game strong.
And it’s okay if you have to use bigger targets for these long distance shots. My eyes are not good. I need to be wearing glasses. So I can’t even begin to shoot small dots out at 80 and 90 yards. I like a target with a big black dot or square that I can see and put my pin on. Again, the bottom line is building it in to your brain that you and your gear are ready and able to make the shot when that animal steps out.
August 27-31 – Hunt Ready
Far too many bowhunters climb into the stand or ground blind on opening day not having ever fired a shot from the scenario they now find themselves in. Be sure to spend time this week shooting from an elevated position. You’ll be surprised at how different things are when you’re shooting from 15-20 feet up. Place a target 5 yards from the base of your tree and see how difficult it is to place an arrow in the kill zone. Everything seems to change when elevation comes in to play. Don’t get caught off guard here. Shoot plenty of arrows to get a feel for how you need to compensate with a variety of shot angles. Hang a stand in the yard to practice these shots, or shoot from an elevated deck or upstairs window.
The same goes for shooting from a ground blind. Pop a blind up in the yard, and go through the routine. Can you make the shot at 5 yards? Will your arrow even clear the window at this distance? What chair will you use when hunting from a ground blind? Is it tall/short enough to allow you to shoot out the window system of the blind? Answer these questions ahead of time so you don’t find yourself in a mess on opening day.
Have fun this last week of practice. Put yourself into the hunting scenario the best you can. Shoot targets that are too close, too far, and those that are moving. Practice from a variety of quartering angles to ensure that you can slip an arrow into the goods when a more challenging shot presents itself. Again, eliminate the surprise, and you’ll be better prepared for success.
The season will be here before you know it! It’s the best time of the year, no doubt. Be sure to spend the next 31 days making sure you and your equipment are ready for battle.