With the bow season for deer just about 7 weeks away, I'm kicking my archery practice into high gear. Part of that process includes frequent stump shooting excursions.
There's probably no need to explain stump shooting to most bow hunters, but for those who haven't tried it, here's a quick definition: You walk the woods and fields with bow and arrow in hand and take random shots at rotted stumps or logs, dirt clods, tufts of grasses or leaves from unknown distances. Needless to say, the target should be arrow friendly and the background safe. And while you can use field points or blunts of the same weight as your broadhead, Zwickey Judo points are the best bet in my opinion.
Stump shooting helps you gauge ranges and teaches you to shoot from unconventional positions. It also illustrates your limitations in field conditions. For instance, even though you might be able to hit a pie plate consistently at 35 yards at the range, an overhanging limb blocking your trajectory might prevent that in the woods.
One of the most valuable things it helps you hone is your range estimation skills. Stump shoot enough and you'll learn that estimating distance across an open field is very different than doing so in the woods where you can break it down tree by tree. These little skills help on a hunt.
The great part about stump shooting is that it is versatile, fun and helpful to those of us who hunt from the ground but also surprisingly useful for tree stand hunters, if you can find a steep slope or bluff that simulates your tree stand height.
At other times of year it is a bit of a social archery sport, but, at this stage of the game, the idea is to take each shot very seriously.
Whenever I see a likely target, I play out a scenario in my mind. That rotting blown down log is a deer and that dark mark on it the vitals; that tiny stump is a grouse and so on. As always, I try to make each shot count and draw my bow just as I would if a live game animal were present. Sometimes, I'll stalk a few steps to get a better shot angle and when I do this my goal is stealth too.
Eventually, when you do this often enough, you'll see marked improvements in your shooting and stalking skills in practical field conditions. And with that improvement comes confidence in your ability and gear — the most important mental tool an archer has.
Stump shooting is just one part of the preparation for that all-important shot during hunting season. Take it seriously, do it often, and you'll improve your chances of success.