Bow Zone — Think Positive!
Many years ago, after a long morning hunt of watching deer just out of reach I decided it was time to move. From that vantage, I had already picked out the perfect tree. It did not take me long to gather together some treestand equipment from the truck to prepare a tree. With my pole trimmer, I cut away a few problem branches and secured a stand high in the branches of this old oak tree.
After making so much commotion I did not expect to see much that evening. But it was late October and anything can happen. So instead of heading home I climbed high into the branches of the sturdy oak tree. The temperature was cool with grey drizzly clouds glomming overhead. I was just getting settled when I picked up my head to scan the area around me. Suddenly I saw a tall white rack coming down the ditch.
It was a surreal moment; I remember it as if I was drawn out of my body viewing the experience from above. Then I was slapped back in the face with the realization the I needed to draw, draw, DRAW! I then realized I needed to capitalize on this moment and drew back my bow. Taking careful aim right on his vitals I slapped the trigger on my release.
Yes, it happened — I missed. The arrow buried into the dirt. To my surprise the buck was still standing, confused at the whole ordeal. So I grabbed a second arrow as he started to back away. Getting a bead on this buck for a second time was amazing. This time the arrow smacked a branch sending the deadly broadhead down into the dirt. I was crushed but realized there was one remaining arrow left in the quiver. In the confusion he was circling my stand to get through this perfect creek bed funnel. I couldn’t believe I was able to get the third arrow released. This time my aim was true.
This can happen to anyone, buck fever, commonly referred to as target panic. I hate to admit it but I let the situation get the best of my emotions, along with punching the trigger and a number of other mistakes. All of these mistakes combined into two terrible misses. This is the real deal, what happens to hunters every fall. To make sure I minimize the mistakes I have made in the past I sought after the advice of pro shooters.
When I was younger the sight of any buck would rattle me. I do not just mean my nerves but the whole shaky hands and uncontrollable breathing. You can just imagine what that does to your accuracy. Your emotional control has to be the biggest challenge to overcome. Tournament shooting has taught me the necessity to get back to the basics. I put it in my mind that I can shoot, and I can shoot well. In my practice routine I go through one step at a time keeping myself relaxed and focused.
I don’t hesitate to take aim at 50 yards in the back yard. I do this to improve my 20 yard confidence. Because anything done wrong at 50 means a big miss. While aiming at whitetails it’s easy to aim at the whole target but instead pick a hair. One of my coaches taught me to float my sight pin over the bull’s-eye. If you try to hold it exactly on the bull’s-eye your body will become stiff. Additionally I have put together a check list that must happen each time I pull the trigger. This forces everything to be exactly the same and everything comes together as planned. Here is my shooting list, hand under jawbone, kisser button on tooth, string on nose, center sight level, tuck fingers, open hand, squeeze trigger, float the pin, exhale. That is a lot but right now I do those without thinking.
All of these help wrap your head around a perfect shot. This forces a positive attitude because it is a routine that I have done a thousand times prior. Thinking positively is the major key to success. Keep thinking about the perfect practice that has been done all summer. This puts your mind in a place that allows you to stretch your archery ability.
Be in the present mindset. Forget about how he will look on the wall, what you are going to say to your buddy, or anything else. Be there thinking about perfectly placing the arrow in the boiler room. Think about anything else and you’ll make a mistake, turning the situation into a story about the one that got away. Put it all together and consider where he is going to enter the shooting lane, what is his demeanor, and when are you drawing your bow. Be there, enjoy the current situation and celebrate your success after a perfect shot.
Perfect practice makes perfect shots routine. It is important to add the word “perfect” into that statement. Practicing bad habits ingrains poor shooting. This is where my coach has helped tremendously. He has provided insight into my form that allows better shooting.
Part of target panic is punching the trigger. While you’re punching the trigger you get movement in your aiming point. When I was dealing with a bad case of this form of panic, I was coached out by allowing my body to be surprised by the shot again.
Standing behind the target (in a secure shooting area with a spotter) shoot with your eyes closed. Learn to settle into a perfect position and squeeze the trigger. Surprise yourself on the release. This sounds strange but it makes you focus on feeling that everything is right. You are not looking to fire bull’s-eyes, just focus on the form and feeling. After a while you will begin settling into the right feeling.
It happens, you peak at the rack. That is when “Rack Attack” happens. Last year I was hunting southern Ohio when I looked down to see a rack sneaking in from behind. I knew it was a shooter right away then turned my focus on making a perfect shot. That is exactly what happened, perfect placement. When I called my buddy from the treestand for tracking help he asked, “What is he, how big is he?” I honestly couldn’t answer. I said, he is a shooter but let’s go see what I have killed.
I give myself five seconds to decide and once that decision is made it time to focus on the opportunity. Never again do I allow myself to look up and get a case of “Rack Attack.” I will have plenty of time to admire his head gear after a good blood trail.
Pulling together all of these techniques have helped me become more successful. It doesn’t mean that I am a machine, it just helps me control myself. My heart still skips a beat when I see a big buck, I become unraveled once the arrow is released, and I thank God for every opportunity. If it wasn’t for my safety harness, I would have fallen out of the tree a dozen times after the shot because of my excitement. Go into this season beating the legendary buck fever disease.