There are things that we know, and then there are things that we know.
We know that 40 degrees with a 20 mph wind is chilly. But it is one thing to know that as a fact in our heads, and it is another thing to know it in our bones when we encounter those conditions for the first time after a long, hot summer.
I was in the stand for about 30 minutes on opening day before I realized something – shooting in a hunting situation is vastly different than all the target practice that I had done all summer long. This, I know.
My surroundings were vastly different. My level of excitement was heightened. My position was radically changed. Everything felt new. After all, it had been many months since I was in this situation.
Leading up to opening day I had the utmost confidence in my equipment and my shooting ability. I had been practicing more than ever, including shooting at long distances, in hopes of making the shorter shots feel like slam dunks. I still have that confidence, but I am also aware that there are other factors that I need to consider as I set about making an effective shot in a hunting situation.
Here’s a quick look at 5 important factors that we need to consider as we assess our shooting opportunities in hunting situations…
An up close and personal encounter with a truly wild animal is something that will get your heart pounding, your knees shaking, and your mind racing. Whitetail hunters have often referred to this excitement as “buck fever”. This reaction is what makes hunters tick, but if we are not careful this core instinct can turn into shot-wrecking anxiety. Shooting in this condition is something that we likely haven’t experienced in the months of practice leading up to opening day.
Now that we have encountered the animal we are after, we are now on the clock. Is the wind going to shift and blow our scent to the deer, spooking it into the next county? Is the deer going to hear us as we get situated for the shot, or see us as we draw our bow? The bowhunter needs to read the animal and learn to be patient when possible, but swift and effective when necessary.
The majority of bowhunters chasing whitetail will be shooting from an elevated treestand. Others will be seated in a ground blind. Fewer still will be on the ground, still-hunting their way into range. Regardless of your hunting method, the odds are slim that you will be able to shoot from a position that is stable, level, and square to a perfectly broadside target. What will sitting, standing, kneeling, twisting, bending, hunching, leaning, or some other type of unfamiliar contortion do to your shooting accuracy?
A 400 grain arrow traveling at 300 feet per second is moving with an astounding amount of energy. It is amazing that this arrow, which can easily penetrate through a deer’s chest cavity, can also be so easily deflected by one wayward branch. It is also curious how a saggy sleeve can interfere with our bow and result in a poor shot. Or, how about the fact that we didn’t realize we don’t have the same finger dexterity with our hunting gloves on, and we inadvertently fire the trigger on our release?
In whitetail hunting you never know when the moment is going to present itself. Shot opportunities often don’t come until we have spent hours patiently waiting in the bitter cold. It can be difficult to fire-up our muscles after they have been resting in the cold; which means that drawing our bow becomes a challenge, fighting off the shivers of cold and anxiety can be burdensome, and feeling the small trigger on our release can be problematic.
As you can see, making an effective shot in a hunting situation can be vastly different than all of the shots that we take in practice. This immediately brings two thoughts to mind for me…
1) We can’t assume that we will be as accurate in a hunting situation as we are in a nice, comfortable, controlled practice environment.
2) We need to be aware of these factors and come up with ways to address them into our practice routines, so that we are preparing for real hunting situations and not just rehearsing unrealistic shot scenarios.
Which one of these factors do you think affects your hunting accuracy the most? In what ways do you address these factors in your practice routines?