It’s hard to believe how fast the rut in closing in on us. The late spring we are having here in the west seems to be blanketing the reality of how close elk season truly is. With only three month away it’s time to start honing our skills – we need to get outdoors and shoot some arrows! Whether it’s 3-D shoots, stump shooting, or punching paper, it’s time to drive your confidence level as high as possible. We can have all the latest gadgets, the best camo clothing, a new bow, and everything else under the sun, but if we’re lacking in confidence none of that other stuff really matters when it comes to bringing home that big bull.
It didn’t seem that long ago when life was much simpler. My bow was usually in the back seat of my truck and I always made time to shoot. I would shoot before work, after work, and during lunch if I could. Most weekends consisted of a date with my bow and countless hours of practice. It was very easy to keep the confidence high. I was a regular at the local 3-D shoots and hiked around stump shooting every chance I got. As life gets busier it’s easy to neglect consistent practice. Along with the desire to exercise, diet, research, and scout, the desire to practice needs to be at the top of the list to consistently bring home back-straps.
I still love shooting my bow but I have to admit punching paper isn’t as fulfilling as it used to be. I do still drive my bow around quite often hoping for an opportunity to stop and shoot when I get the chance.
During the winter months here in Idaho we are mostly limited to the indoor stuff. To maintain confidence we all need to shoot year around. Besides shooting outdoors, join and support your local clubs and pro shops for some indoor training as well. There are always leagues around to help you stay on top. If you’re in the Boise area, Idaho Archery Company has a great bunch of guys and they offer a nice range to keep you and your bow tuned up. Even if it’s only once a week, make that time and you will be glad you did.
When spring finally arrives I’m a firm believer that the 3-D shoots are toward the top when it comes to beneficial bow hunting practice. Take advantage of the hard work from the clubs to make these possible and go show your buddies how to shoot. I don’t hit nearly as many shoots as I used to but I know all the years of shooting them has helped my confidence climb to where it is today. Hiking the hills for some stump shooting is also recommended, as it puts you in realistic, fatigued situations while judging yardage and shooting. Don’t let yourself become dependent on your rangefinder either; 3-D shoots and distance judging are a must if at all possible.
A big part of my spring shooting involves hunting something. Of course there are bears and turkeys to hunt, but this doesn’t offer much shooting. Don’t get me wrong, nothing can replace the confidence after sending an arrow through the vitals of big game animal, but it’s still low quantity shooting. I still get very excited about rock chuck and whistle pig hunting, and in the right area this can offer a whole lot of shooting. These critters are small targets and really force concentrated shooting with confidence. I take my two young boys along and we have a blast. After countless successful long distance squirrel and chuck shots, my brain doesn’t even consider missing an elk. As you’re out and about be sure to carry some sort of predator call. If you can call in, and put an arrow through a coyote, you will surely be able to do the same with a bull.
Continue shooting as much as possible all summer. The shoots typically continue till the end of July, which is the perfect time to screw on your broad heads. I recommend practicing with them from that point continuing through the end of season. I also advise shooting from your knees as much as possible, as this is the typical position while hunting. Again…practice, practice, practice.
We are so lucky to have the opportunity to hunt. It’s our responsibility as bow hunters to practice as much as possible. The elk we chase around the mountains with our bows deserve to be brought down with a confident, lethal shot. During the moment of truth, while at full draw, if your brain is saying “I hope I don’t miss”, chances are you didn’t practice enough. Don’t let this be you and make the commitment today. The rut is just around the corner. Good hunting and God bless.