Standing in the backward and burning arrow after arrow into foam targets is the best way to get your bow and arrows tuned, your shooting muscles toned and your release and follow-through down pat. But along about mid-July, it’s time to raise your game and shoot from an elevated platform, just like you’ll do when deer season rolls around in a few short months.
On the ground you stand fence-post straight, plant your feet in a baseball hitter’s stance, stare across at your target, draw with ease and let an arrow fly. Pretty simple. In a tree stand, you often have to turn and contort your body, sometimes wildly so, and your footing is trickier. Leaning left, right, back or out, you draw, bend at the waist and aim down. Your draw elbow might brush the tree at your back…or you must cant your bow an inch to keep it from catching a limb. Not so simple.
It takes more effort to pull a 70-pound bow in an 18-foot-high stand, especially one with a small foot platform, than it does on solid ground. (That’s one reason I shoot 62 pounds or so for deer.) Cold weather and several layers of clothes compound the extra effort you need to pull the string smoothly.
When you stare across the flat yard at a 3-D buck you see deep, flat vitals, and it’s easy to pin a sight pin there. But when you’re 17 feet or so high, you see less of a broadside picture; the higher you go the thinner and more hidden an animal’s vitals appear, until you’re almost looking straight down on its spine. Now where do you aim?
For all these reasons get high for the final weeks of your bow practice.
How to Get High
Got an elevated deck or maybe a second-floor porch? If so, shoot off it at 3-D targets and blocks scattered in your yard below. In late summer I shoot practice arrows off my deck. I’ve got a buddy that practices from a small porch off his master bedroom. It is 30 feet up, an extreme height. “I figure if I can center-punch targets from that high up, I can shoot all right at a buck from a 18-foot stand,” Bill told me.
A more time-consuming but realistic way to elevate your practice is to hang a stand in a tree behind your house (or in a nearby woodlot where you’ve got permission), climb up and shoot at deer targets below. Commit to it now and I guarantee you’ll be a better deer shot this fall.
Hang the same fixed stand for practice that you’ll use in the woods. The more you get used to climbing into the stand, figuring out your footwork and shooting off that platform, the better (and safer) you’ll hunt.
Depending on whether you like to bowhunt at 17, 18 or 22 feet, set your practice perch 17, 18 or 22 feet…get it? When you practice and hunt from the same height, it becomes easier to estimate the range to both foam bucks and live ones, and you get a good sight picture of a deer’s vitals at various yardages. Also, your practice will tell you precisely how your arrows with broadheads fly and strike—probably a tad higher than when you shot on the ground, so find out now.
Scatter three or found deer targets around and under your practice stand. Set them 10 to 50 yards away, in brush, partly behind trees, broadside, quartering-away, quartering slightly to…you get the picture, change it up. Simulate shots you’re apt to get in the woods. Vary the distances and angles of your 3-Ds every week so you’ll cover all the bases with your practice.
Climb into your stand, attach your safety harness and rope up your bow. Sit down and “hunt.” Visualize an 8-pointer coming in. Stand slowly, turn, draw and release an arrow smoothly. The more foam deer you stick like that, the better you’ll shoot on flesh-and-blood bucks in the coming weeks, no doubt.