Bowhunting Practice on Live Animals

In this video from Bowhunter.com, Randy Ulmer share a tactic that he like to use, which is to “draw and aim at every legal deer that comes along within shooting range.”  Randy concludes that the two or three shots most of us get a year at live animals just isn’t enough practice.  And, no matter how much practice we do at the range, you can’t replicate what it is like to draw on a live animal, or aim at one.

By stepping through his shot sequence on an animal that Randy doesn’t intend to actually kill, he learns what he can and can’t get away with, and get a chance to study the animal’s behavior during the encounter.  Randy concludes that, more often than not, he has more opportunities and more time to take a shot than he would have thought.

Watch the video at Bowhunter.com

Really?

I hate to be the guy to question the almighty Randy Ulmer, but I’m not so sure that this is a good exercise to practice regularly.  I agree with Randy that conventional practice cannot adequately prepare someone for an encounter with a wild animal.  I wish that there was a way to practice for such a moment, but I think the only way gain that experience is through, you guessed it… hunting experience.

A huge problem that I see with this exercise is that you are breaking a standard safety rule.  To borrow an idea from our firearm shooting brethren, “Never point the weapon at anything you are not willing to kill or destroy.”  This principle obviously applies to bowhunting as well.

I don’t think it is a good idea to draw on, nor aim at, an animal that we don’t intend to kill.  I know that Randy stressed he only practices this exercise on legal animals, but even so – do you really want to draw, anchor, settle, and aim on a small buck when you only intend to harvest a trophy?  Or, what if you are hunting on an either-sex tag and plan on harvesting a buck, would you practice this exercise on a doe?

One of the reasons that I practice my shot sequence is to be able to go on “auto pilot” and execute a shot when the moment counts.  Going through all the motions without unleashing an arrow is not only potentially dangerous, it is breaking-down the mental “programming” and muscle memory that I have worked so hard to build up.

Additionally, one of the purposes of this technique is to see what you can and can’t get away with.  Is that a good idea?  Do you want to risk spooking that doe and having her blow out surrounding deer?  Should you really go through all of this movement when the trophy of your dreams may be making its approach behind the animal that you are ‘practicing’ on?

Maybe I am over reacting.  I would love to hear what you think about this idea!

 

The Author

Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors. Learn more about Sole Adventure or get in touch with Mark...

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  • Chris Pung

    Nothing wrong with shooting as much as you can.  I used to shoot small game heads at squirrels and rabbits during small game season when going out to the clear cut up north.

    • SoleAdventure

      I’m with you there, Chris.  Hunting small game can be great practice!  I’m not so sure that “practicing” on deer in the way that the video references is a good thing though.

  • Brogdogg

    Hmm, yeah don’t think this is good practice at all. And if you are like me, I didn’t hear the fact that he said he only draws back on legal animals, didn’t really know he did that until I read your article. (I am bad at listening sometimes).  All I was picturing was someone that watched this video up in a tree stand drawing back on a large buck, accidentally releasing and then having to explain to the game warden why a buck was taken with a doe tag. :( Regardless, I definitely don’ t think this is good practice.

    • SoleAdventure

      Ha ha!  “Uh, yeah, sorry officer.  He is a dandy though, isn’t he?”

  • http://twitter.com/SoCalBowhunter Al Quackenbush

    You know I like a good debate, Mark, but I have to agree with you on this. Drawing on ‘live’ animals just opens up too many disaster situations. I don’t think it’s a good idea at all. There are other options, like small game hunting with your bow to help hone your skills. I know when I am testing a situation, I won’t physically draw, but I will go through the hand/arm motions of drawing to see if I can get away with it. Actually drawing my bow back? Heck no. Not unless that animal is ready to take a dirt nap.

    • SoleAdventure

      No argument here, Al?  No playing the Devil’s Advocate?  Man, I’m disappointed.

      I feel like I could have done a better job on this post if I didn’t give you anything to debate.  Ha ha!

  • Ben Adams

    I can see both sides of the issue. I have drawn back on legal deer that I have no intent on shooting  just to get used to the “rush” and help myself cope with it later on. I don’t do it on every deer that walks by but have found that it has helped me when it is time to make the shot. On the other hand, it does present a situation that could end in disaster. I guess it’s just up to the hunter on what they feel comfortable doing. Great topic to talk about!! 

    • SoleAdventure

      Ben, I wonder if you would get that same “rush” if you visualized and mentally went through all of the steps?  I’m not saying you should draw back, I’m just curious.  I’m definitely interested in working through these ideas this season.

      • Ben Adams

         I’ve never tried that way before. I’m not sure it would provide the same feel to it. I’m up for anything so I’m sure I’ll give that a try this season as well!

  • Bhuntin

    Mark, I like the post and I like that you disagree with Mr. Ulmer and chose the other side of the fence as it were. While Ulmer for the most part is an out west guy and I don’t think he does much treesand hunting here in the Midwest which makes it hard for me to swallow all of his advice right off the bat, but let’s take a closer look at what he has say and what we can learn from this article/video. As Ulmer says he does this on every legal animal (that you have a tag for), so if we are thinking in terms of rifles for a moment it would mean the safety is off and you are ready to shoot. You need to be ready to punch that tag should you touch the release and send your arrow on its way. If you are ok with filling your tag on whatever animal you draw back on then by all means go for it. On the other hand by drawing on every deer you not only risk spooking that deer with your movement but you also risk other deer in the area seeing you as well, which is something I like to try and avoid.
    Here is what I think we can all agree on and learn from this article. If you play through in your mind as every deer walks through when you think you should draw, pick that spot to aim at, and where and when you would release. Then as Ulmer says you can see if that was in fact the best choice or if a better shot presents itself.
    No matter what you chose to do this season there are some things here to help us all become
    better bowhunters.

    Happy Shooting!
    Bhuntin

    • SoleAdventure

      Great points!  I think you are right…playing through the steps (draw, aim, timing, etc.) is a valuable exercise to try when we get the chance.  I have done that informally in the past, but I think I am going to be more intentional about walking through each step in all of my encounters this season.

  • Bill Howard

    I have pulled up an arm and anchored plenty of times…with the bow laying in my lap.  I don’t have to have the pull of the string to still set an anchor and visualize the hunt.  As far as pulling back the bow only on legal animals and even if the release was accidentally shot…this has happened to me a few times shooting at targets.  NEVER has the arrow hit where I was intending.  The surprise threw the arrow off.  So I would just play it ‘air guitar’ style, using a pretend bow and ging thru the motions if I felt the practice was warranted.

    • SoleAdventure

      You are right, Bill.  Harvesting an animal that we didn’t mean to put our tag on is one thing, but wounding that animal is another.  In the 
      thousands  upon thousands of shots that I have taken there have been a couple of times when I have mistakenly released an arrow; those arrows, like yours, did not find their mark.

  • AMP

    I agree with you! Dont draw back on something youre not going to kill!!!

    However….

    During preseason and scouting trips if i find some cow elk or does i will stalk them and draw back a pretend bow and go through my shot sequence. I take a loaded pack and a rangefinder with me during scouting trips so it is a really good practice without ever endangering the life of an animal you dont intend to kill….

  • AMP

    I agree with you! Dont draw back on something youre not going to kill!!!

    However….

    During preseason and scouting trips if i find some cow elk or does i will stalk them and draw back a pretend bow and go through my shot sequence. I take a loaded pack and a rangefinder with me during scouting trips so it is a really good practice without ever endangering the life of an animal you dont intend to kill….

    • SoleAdventure

      That sounds like a good practice!

  • Adam Henrie

    This seems not only silly, but unethical in my opinion. I guarantee you a fish and game officer wouldn’t agree with this practice. It’s one thing for a pro who probably has private land to do this on. It’s a whole different thing when he is telling others to do it. The biggest problem I see is the guys out there who aren’t as smart using his advice and illegally killing animals! If I was a professional I wouldn’t want the liability of teaching bad practices bordering on breaking the law!

  • Adam Henrie

    This seems not only silly, but unethical in my opinion. I guarantee you a fish and game officer wouldn’t agree with this practice. It’s one thing for a pro who probably has private land to do this on. It’s a whole different thing when he is telling others to do it. The biggest problem I see is the guys out there who aren’t as smart using his advice and illegally killing animals! If I was a professional I wouldn’t want the liability of teaching bad practices bordering on breaking the law!