10 Reasons You Aren’t Improving as a Bowhunter


Do Any of These Hit Home with You?

Your Draw Length Is Too Long

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1 | Your Draw Length Is Too Long

Shooting a bow that is properly fitted to you is critical to consistent accuracy. When at full draw, the bow arm should have a slight bend at the elbow and the shoulder should be in a natural position. The release hand shouldn’t be beyond the back of the jaw line. One piece of archery gear that often plays into incorrect bow fit is a release aid that is too long. This issue often compounds the problem of having a bow with a draw length that is also too long. Wrist-strap releases often have a neck or strap that can be adjusted so that the head of the release falls deeper in the release hand. From my experience working in a bow shop, most bowhunters shooting a wrist strap release are using a release that’s too long. To make sure your draw length is set correctly, visit your local pro shop to get your rig checked out.

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Your Grip Is Off

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2 | Your Grip Is Off

The way in which you grip your bow is one of the most important aspects of sound shooting form. Where your hand meets the bow is the primary source of influence where the human element enters the weapon. Consistency is crucial to accuracy when shooting a bow and a consistent grip is the foundation of all other aspects of shooting form. The grip of the bow is where the shooter’s hand rests, but a bow should not be gripped in the traditional sense. Instead, the bow grip should settle into the hand with the fingers relaxed and the only point of pressure residing in the vane line of the heel and palm of the hand. Developing a proper grip is the first step in becoming a better archer.

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You Don’t Broadhead Tune

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3 | You Don’t Broadhead Tune

The introduction of mechanical broadheads, as well as fixed-blade heads with marketing claims of field-point accuracy, has led many bowhunters to believe they don’t need to practice with broadhead-tipped arrows before heading afield. While there are more accurate broadheads available today than ever before, the need to practice with and tune for broadheads is still absolutely necessary.

There are three main components that effect broadhead flight. The first is the broadhead design and its flight characteristics. The second is the arrow; the spine of an arrow shaft is far more impactful to arrow flight when shooting broadheads. This is especially true for arrow shafts that are under spined. The straightness of an arrow and the alignment of the nock to the arrow shaft is another critical aspect of arrows that affects broadhead flight. The last element that affects broadhead accuracy is the bow itself. Ensuring your bow is properly tuned so that the arrow is squarely aligned with the bow string is a major factor to broadhead flight. Making these tuning adjustments is referred to broadhead tuning, however, when addressing broadhead tuning, all three of these components should be addressed.

To evaluate arrow straightness and broadhead characteristics, an inexpensive arrow spinner can be used to visually check these areas of possible concern. Bow-tuning issues can be seen through the use of several tuning practices. A few of these tuning exercises include bare-shaft tuning, French tuning, paper tuning, and broadhead tuning. When shooting and tuning broadheads, stretching the range at which you’re practicing beyond the standard 20-yard mark will help you to more precisely tune your setup.

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Your Posture Isn’t Correct

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4 | Your Posture Isn’t Correct

Body position is one of the integral aspects of proper shooting form and can often be overlooked when addressing shooting issues. Areas to look at when evaluating archery posture are the orientation of the neck and head, foot position and distance apart, and most importantly, straightness of the upper body. It’s common to see archers canting their upper body forward into the shot or backward away from the bow. A forward lean can sometimes indicate an over-aggressive stance or a draw length that’s too short. Leaning away from the bow can often be attributed to shooting a bow with a draw length that is too long or with a poundage that’s set too high. While these are common causes for incorrect posture of the upper body, issues can arise without a relationship to gear. Regularly shooting with focus on posture throughout the off season can help build good muscle memory to correct form issues.

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Your Elbow Is Low

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5 | Your Elbow Is Low

Another form-related problem that is commonly seen with archers across all experience levels is proper elbow position. A low and/or outward pointing elbow is the most prevalent issue that arises in shooting form. Holding a bow at full draw with a low elbow requires the muscles of the arm and shoulder to hold draw weight, making it nearly impossible to shoot using proper back tension. By raising the elbow so that the forearm is parallel with or slightly inclined to the ground, the weight of the bow is transferred to the larger muscles in the back where there is more strength and holding power. Correct elbow position is another element of shooting form that should be routinely practiced — ingraining the correct muscle memory and make the proper positioning habit.

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You’re a Release-Puncher

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6 | You’re a Release-Puncher

The release of the bow string is one of the most critical components of the shot process. A clean, surprise release can make or break the accuracy of a shot. Punching the trigger of a release is a manifestation of target panic. This issue will arise for almost any archer who shoots long enough. The best way to overcome target panic is by addressing it as soon as it begins to creep into your shot routine. There are a few training exercises and aids that can be used to help reverse target panic and instill proper shot execution.

One exercise is blind-bale shooting. This is done using a large target and shooting at close range with your eyes closed — focusing only on pulling through the shot so that the bow fires as a surprise and no thought is given to aiming. Just make sure you have a safe backdrop.

Another tool that can be used is a training release. Wrist-strap releases can be purchased with spring triggers so that the shooter must squeeze slowly and pull through the shot. Another type of release that can be used is a handheld resistance release. These training releases have a safety instead of a trigger and can only be fired by building pressure on the release aid. If you’re struggling with target panic, or develop it in the future, use these tools and exercises and focus only on resolving it before you get back to your standard practice routine.

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You Don’t Push Your Limits

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7 | You Don’t Push Your Limits

Backyard shooting at distances of 20 or 30 yards is good fun and sound practice, but it doesn’t push you to improve your shooting ability. Stretching out the ranges that you practice at is the best way to hone your skills and see where issues lie. Practicing at longer ranges doesn’t mean you should take long, unethical shots in the field, but doing so during practice sessions will build confidence for shooting at live targets.

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You Don’t Shoot Year-Round

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8 | You Don’t Shoot Year-Round

A lot of bowhunters pull their bow out of the case a month or so before the season opens to get dialed in. Once opening day rolls around, most hunters hit the woods and don’t take another shot until an animal presents an opportunity. From an ethical standpoint as bowhunters, we have an obligation to the animals we hunt to be as proficient as possible with our weapon of choice. Practicing for a short time leading up to archery season simply isn’t enough. Shooting during the season is one of the most overlooked areas of a sound shooting regimen. It’s the time of year we all look forward to most and no matter your personal schedule, days in the field are limited and special. However, making time to take even a few shots each week will ensure your bow is still on point while building confidence in your shooting ability.

Keep shooting once archery season ends. The off season is the best time to introduce and get familiar with new gear and address any issue you may be facing with form or shot execution. Joining a winter indoor league is a great way to keep yourself shooting throughout the year and they’re a ton of fun.

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Your Practice Routine Is Stale

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9 | Your Practice Routine Is Stale

Backyard shooting at a bag or block target is good practice, but it’s good to mix things up from time to time. One of the best ways to add diversity and challenge to your practice sessions is by shooting at various archery events. This doesn’t mean you need to buy a target bow or start shooting competitively, rather look for fun local shoots. Most archery clubs and sportsman’s clubs hold these types of shoots throughout the spring and summer and they’re generally open to the public and very reasonably priced. Shooting different 3D- and field-archery courses will provide shot scenarios that mimic hunting situations and shooting in different environments at an array of targets will keep you on your toes. Along with providing good practice, hosted shoots are a great way to spend time with family and friends.

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You Use the Wrong Peep Sight

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10 | You Use the Wrong Peep Sight

The peep sight is one of the smallest pieces of archery equipment that a bowhunter must select when setting up their rig. Many bowhunters choose to shoot a fairy large peep with the belief that they’ll be able to see their sight pins through the peep better in gray-light conditions. It’s true that a larger peep opening will restrict less light, but the minimum amount of shooting time that a large peep provides may not be worth sacrificing accuracy. When aligning the round housing of the bow sight and the opening created by the peep sight, there shouldn’t be a visible gap between the two. When using a properly sized peep, fine tune by adjusting the bow sight at its mounting points. The sight ring and peep opening should naturally align with one another. When set up in this fashion, there is far less room for variation in sight alignment. This will improve accuracy, especially at longer ranges. Also, sight acquisition will happen faster and more naturally.

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Editor's Note: This was originally published September 8, 2018.

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Bowhunting is a sport that requires dedication and discipline. It takes a unique skillset as an archer, as well as a woodsman, to routinely find success. Becoming a proficient archer doesn’t happen overnight, simply sending arrows downrange on a regular basis doesn’t ensure you’ll improve in the discipline unless you’re shooting fundamentals are sound and your gear is in check. Below we’ll look at 10 aspects of archery that can help you improve your shooting skills and become a more effective bowhunter.