With the beginning of the whitetail archery season closing in, most of the larger projects and preparations should be in place. Late winter is usually the time when archery hunters’ efforts are focused on shed hunting, and monitoring trail cams to see which of the “hit list” bucks have made it through the hunting season and the long winter. Attention will quickly turn to food plot preparation, property management and herd evaluation throughout the spring and summer. Off season efforts are time consuming, and in many cases, labor intensive endeavors. It’s easy to overlook the finer points of the hunt, and one of the most crucial components that will determine success or failure during the season—shooting accuracy and confidence
I typically make it a priority to visit the range during the offseason. And when the weather permits, I head outdoors to shoot as often as I can, but never as often as I’d like. This regimen usually consists of flatland target shooting, which allows me to keep the rust to a minimum.
That being said, my first set at the beginning of every season, typically involves a little apprehension and anxiety. The unfamiliar feeling of being 20 feet plus above the ground takes a moment to adjust to. I’ve also added a few new elements to my hunting experience this season that calls for extra practice and preparation. I’ll be using a Lone Wolf climber tree stand for the first time, and this will be the first season I’ll be filming my hunts. With introducing these new elements, I decided to begin working out the kinks of my set up and stand game this past weekend.
The goal was to build confidence and accuracy by creating a scenario similar to an evening hunt. By acclimating to being off the ground, getting my camera gear in place, and ultimately shooting from the stand while wearing my safety gear, I’m building upon the work I’ve done at the range and outdoor target shooting. I’ve done a few climbs with the stand in the offseason, so the ascent was smooth to twenty feet. Getting the camera gear in place was a different experience (one HD camcorder and one action cam), but all-in-all, wasn’t as challenging as I had thought. The practice shots…? I’m glad I took the practice run.
Prior to climbing, I released a few arrows from flat ground to make sure my bow was accurate. My grouping at 40 yards was approximately the size of a baseball, which I felt was a good starting point. From the stand, the first shot was centered, but high. Next shot—high again. Next shot—still high. After 7 arrows I finally settled into a softball-size grouping at 30 yards. The feeling of shooting from the stand quickly came back, but had those first few shots been at the 11 point I have on camera, I’d have been more than a little upset.
There’s no replacement for practice from a tree stand. And I feel that we as hunters owe it to the animals we hunt to be accurate, and to have done everything in our power to be prepared to make an ethical kill when the opportunity presents. Whether it’s to calm the uneasy feeling of being off the ground, or to hone mechanics in the stand, stand practice is time well spent. So grab a friend (helps with arrow retrieval, and will usually perform the task for a cold beer), a stand, your bow, and put in some preseason stand time. Practice how you plan to perform, when you encounter your moment of truth from the stand.