A slight click resonates as the arrow knocks. A smooth draw brings the 20-yard pin up to rest on the target. An inhale of breath clears the mind. An exhale steadies the limbs. Seconds later, the slightest pressure of the release sends the arrow downrange. It center punches the 12 ring. You remain in the lead; on to the next target.
Three-dimensional archery tournaments have always been a popular choice among sportsmen. Today, that tradition continues. More and more, individuals are turning to the thrills that the course provides. Here are a few key ways to improve your odds this tournament season.
Become a Yardage-Judging Pro
Judging the distance of a target is often an archer’s Achilles heel. It is, for most hunters, the toughest component of 3D archery. Calculating the distance of an object using only the eye is no easy task. Here are a few tips to simplify things.
Practice makes perfect. That’s why it’s time to break out the range finders. No, don’t take them to the shoot with you. You’ll get shunned by the locals and me in trouble for telling you to. What I do encourage, though, is to practice with it beforehand. Use your rangefinder to range targets after trying to guess their distances. It won’t make you a pro overnight. But it will aid in your endeavor to become a more accurate archer.
Another key method for gauging distance is to listen to the flight time from release until impact. A shot from 40 yards will sound much different than a shot at 20 or 30. Believe it or not, it works. However, it is one of those things that takes practice. The only downfall to using this method is someone else must shoot first. If shooting in a group, this one could come in handy. If not, best to forget this method. Bow speeds come into play, too, and won’t work if you don’t know your shooting partners’ rigs.
It’s also very important to step it off in your head. Stand and look from the stake you will be shooting from. Imagine yourself pacing off the distance. I personally like to find an object that is at my “best guessable distance” and then guesstimate the rest beyond that point. If this is your preferred method as well, take the time to master the 20- or 30-yard distance before heading out to the range. Imagine the distance broken down into 10-yard increments.
It’s also important to consider the size of the target. A black bear will look much closer than a whitetail, especially when they are at the same distance. Don’t overanalyze, but make sure to thoroughly guesstimate the yardage.
The main thing to remember is to go with your instinct when shooting 3D. Listen to your gut. Generally, when executing an analytical decision, your first answer will be the right answer. So unless you come upon hard evidence to change your mind, keep the initial yardage you decide on.
There are several things to know about your bow before heading out into the field. There are a multitude of things archers can do mechanically to improve (in their stance and on their bow) before competing. Here are just a few.
The first thing to remember is to choose the right bow for you. If you already have yours, chances are good you have already selected one that fits you personally. And believe me, bows aren’t like flex-fit hats — it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. Make sure to research your specific needs in regard to size, weight, shooting style and other key points.
This tip might be elementary for some. But I like to paper tune my bow periodically. It will break down the mechanics of the bow and show you (on paper — literally) exactly what your bow is doing and the adjustments needed.
So do you remember how you went on that elk hunt last fall? Do you also remember cranking it all the way up to 80 pounds? If you did, crank it back down. Lighter poundage leads to more accurate shooting if a heavier poundage is not easily drawn and held. You are not looking for penetration when shooting 3D. You are looking for pin-point accuracy. You will shoot much better with a poundage that is comfortable for you. It will lead to a smoother draw and better shot placement.
In contrast to my previous thought; if you are a burly, brisk, stronger-than-an-ox type guy (or gal). Then a heavy draw weight will benefit you. A heavy draw weight leads to faster speed. Faster speed leads to less of an arch once the arrow is released. This translates into fewer differentials in how you hold your pins at different yardages. In essence, it leaves you with less room for error.
This leads into my next bit of advice. Get measured for your draw length at your local bow shop. Don’t just assume you’re a “28-inch kind of fellow.” Having too short of a draw length will decrease stability. Having too long of a draw length will forfeit your ability to maintain a consistent anchor point. Either way, you’ll lose accuracy.
Late in a shoot, it can be tough to hold your pin on the target long enough to touch the shot off. That is why I personally like to hold the pin slightly above the target and allow it to drift downward until it is over the desired point of impact. Once it reaches that point, release the arrow. I always use this “drifting” method whether I am fatigued or not.
The follow through is a simple concept with a simple composition. But it is one that we often need reminding of. It is paramount to hold your sights on target until the arrow has reached its destination. Too often do we drop the bow as soon as we release. This is the worst thing we can do as archers for accuracy. Stay on target until the arrow has reached its destination and finish with a smooth follow through.
I started shooting 3D in the bowhunter class when I was fairly young. I loved the taste of competition shooting. It thrilled me to know I was competing against others and fighting for the same goal.
On one particular outing, I noticed the guy in front of me “sneaking a peek” with his rangefinder. A few of the guys I was going through the shoot with noticed it as well. It didn’t suit very well with some of the other shooters and one guy gave the unlucky son of a gun an earful. The moral of the story, don’t cheat others and don’t try to cheat the system. Rules and ethics are important.
Each club you shoot at may or may not have additional rules for their courses and competitions. If you aren’t familiar to their way of doing things, ask them for specifics. As the old cliché goes, “It’s best to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” The same goes for knowledge.
It’s also a good idea to be courteous. If a shooter or group of shooters come up behind you and have to continuously wait for you to finish with a target, let them through. Unless rules say otherwise, keep others in mind and allow them to pass you if they are traveling at a faster rate than you are.
If you arrive at the shoot with a bus full of people; don’t shoot through in one big group. This will hold up other participants trying to make it through the course. If specific tournament rules allow, I have found it best to group no more than three people together. Any more than that will clog up the course and keep others from moving through at a smooth pace.
If shooting through the course with a group of guys, choose a rotation. Don’t make little Billy Bob go first on every target. Rotate in and out so that everyone gets the same amount of rest between shots and time to recover.
Remember, archery is like golf, so keep the talking to a minimal between shots and to a halt during them. The slightest noise can potentially break the concentration of the most skilled archers. Keep their success in mind and do not speak when someone is toeing the line.
In the end, common courtesy and a good understanding of the rules will leave you with a solid understanding of proper etiquette. So make sure to get out and kill the summer doldrums this year with 3D archery this year. See 3D in HD.