The bowhunter has much to gain from summertime 3-D target shooting. The first thing to understand though, is while 3-D is highly realistic, it's not bowhunting. Three-D targets include vital areas/score rings designed, for the most part, to be shot on flat ground and broadside. In the real world "score rings" shift as angles and topography change. Aiming to score instead of to kill can lead to "entrance" and "exit" angles that wouldn't get the job done on real animals; especially on targets not set square to the shooting stake or situated steeply uphill and downhill from you.
Too, in the real world you don't get five points for a gut shot or leg hit.
This bothers me only because shooting under pressure while bowhunting depends on a honed subconscious. An entire summer shooting realistic animal targets in the wrong place can lead to trouble later. When shooting with friends, and more interested in bowhunting practice than prizes, devise you own scoring system -- five points for a "kill" (determined by group consensus), negative 10 for a wound. Each shooter tosses a dollar into a pot, winner take all.
The competitive aspects of 3-D are important for preparing you for stressful shots while bowhunting. No one likes to lose. The anxiety of losing to a buddy in 3-D can't match that found while bowhunting, but learning to control anxiety during competition is a step in the right direction. Another skill 3-D helps hone is the ability to focus concentration at will. A weekend of 3-D means maintaining a high level of concentration through 40, 60, even 80 targets. Tempering your concentration through such marathons helps making it happen on hard-earned game easier.
Finally, judging range on your own is what 3-D is all about; practice against those situations when time or circumstances don't allow a laser rangefinder pop. Practice makes snap judgements more reliable, simply learning what a particular range "looks like." Remember, though, whether dealing with real animals or foam fakes, judging distance from the animal itself can lead to gross errors in range judging. Concentrate instead on judging from the ground the animal stands on.
The archer can also judge range by counting known increments. Take a range you know well, five or 10 yards say, and attempt to count these increments to the target. This requires a bit of practice but is normally more accurate than mere guessing. Some archers also develop methods of gapping targets inside pins to gauge range.
It doesn't matter if you're a bare-bones traditional shooter or shoot high-tech compounds complete with sights and release, shooting summer 3-D targets is fine practice, engaging your mental visualization skills through realistic settings absent in the backyard. This type of target shooting is not bowhunting, but it's as close as we can get in a target-shooting context. This is why I take the sport seriously; why I strive to shoot the best I can during summer tournaments, knowing that when bowhunting seasons arrive I'll be better prepared for high-pressure shots at game.
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