His tall, white tines glinted in the early-morning light as the buck stepped through the cedars. I immediately reached for my bow, knowing he would be in range within seconds. As he paused in a shooting lane, my pin settled behind his shoulder. I knew where the arrow would hit before I even touched my release.
While this was my first time releasing an arrow on a mature whitetail, I felt I had already made the shot a thousand times over. And in a way, I had.
We're Talking About Practice
Every bowhunter understands the importance of regular practice throughout the year. Physical repetition allows our bows to become an extension of us. There’s simply no other way to fine-tune our archery equipment, form, and shooting prowess. Time at the range is an essential part of our preparation. However, there is another type of practice many hunters often ignore.
The Power of Visualization
Using visualization to accomplish goals is not a new concept. This technique has allowed major league players to crush fastballs, Olympians to stick landings, and inventors to change technology forever. Gurus use it to break bad habits, tame unbridled anger, and even treat depression.
Don’t worry, there’s no need to take off your shoes and sit cross-legged on the floor just yet. (Although you can if you’d like.) Simple visualization is actually much more natural than it sounds, and hunters are usually quite familiar with its close cousin—daydreaming.
Hunter's Can Practice Anytime, Anywhere
When it comes to conjuring up images with our eyes wide open, hunters are in a league of their own. How else would we survive long sits in a stand? While this practice may help us pass time in the woods, it’s been known to carry over to everyday life.
The next time you notice a bruiser buck walking through the boardroom or a bull elk bugling in rush hour traffic, turn that wishful thinking into a productive drill. Take a moment to mentally come to full draw. Check your grip, anchor points, and sight picture. Control your breathing and squeeze your release, visualizing exactly where your arrow will go.
You can take this exercise a step further by envisioning the view from your stand or ground blind. Anticipate where animals are likely to step out, then use cover to draw and wait for them to step into shooting lanes. Rehearse your shooting procedure and always visualize a perfect shot. Congratulations, you just turned a pointless meeting into a productive practice session—without being escorted out by security.
Take it Outside
Be sure to carry this drill over to your physical practice—training your muscles to execute the steps you’ve mentally rehearsed. Holding at full-draw for an eternity in your head is useless if your trembling arms can’t handle it in the field. Visualize an animal walking into range, pausing behind a tree, then stepping into your shooting lane as you release an arrow towards your target.
The final step to this process occurs after you’ve climbed up into your tree stand. Continually anticipate where an animal is going to appear. Mentally rehearse the shot, while noting the yardage of physical reference points. The more information you have, the better. This practice will also keep you mentally engaged and stave off those daydreams of a big country breakfast a little while longer.
When the moment comes to take a shot, you’ll feel like you’ve done it a thousand times. Because, well, you already have.
Looking to ramp up your practice routine? Check out Allen Treadwell's advice on preparing for 9 Real World Hunting Situations.