By Aaron Farley:
Archery deer season opened in the middle of September here in GA (which means I’m probably hunting now or at least soon!). As summer is coming to a close, and fall activities are getting kicked off, it’s easy to stay busy. Family, school, church, fairs, events, work, sports and the world at large seems to get busy during the fall deer season. People are busy making preparations for the winter as seasons change, and folks are trying to schedule events before the weather gets too cold.
Before the fall arrived this year, I’d been working hard all summer at a few preseason preparations that will make a difference. My hunting season is an important investment in my own life, and in the freezer supply that will feed my family for several months (hopefully 12) of the year.
I’ve been working hard this year to up my game before hunting season opens. There are other things I could have done that may have helped more, and I’m sure that I’ll find new things as the season passes that I’ll add to the regimen next year. But for now, here are some preseason preparations that I think will make a difference.
Scheduling blocks of time that I’m “working”
Last year, I found myself fighting a schedule that made it hard to put in the hours necessary to kill deer. This year, I’ve actually put hunting on the calendar and set aside time to hit the woods. My family uses the meat I get from hunting, and I take it seriously. Like it was a side job, I’m creating myself blocks of time in a “working schedule” that I will be hunting this year. If I don’t create the time, it has a way of slipping through my fingers.
We all know it’s not a good idea to pick up our bow a week before season opens and shoot for the first time in months. Yet that’s exactly how many guys I know operate. Some don’t even bowhunt anymore because this type of preparation has caused them to wound deer without retrieval.
Honestly, this one is easy for me. I love shooting my bow and do so almost every day. It’s a stress reliever, a family activity we enjoy together, and a way for me to stay in good shooting form all year long. I’ve been shooting at least 4-5 days a week since spring turkey season ended, and I am a much more confident shot going into this archery season than the last.
Shooting long distances, makes the short ones easy
My standard practice distance is 60 yards. Most of my hunting spots won’t present a shot over 40, and I want to practice well past my limit. After a summer of shooting long distances (sometimes 80 yds), I’m able to keep my arrows in the vitals of a deer at 60 yards consistently, and those 20-30 yard shots are almost givens. I don’t think I’ve done anything that has helped my shooting as much as regular practice from long ranges.
Climbing in the treestand.
Last year, I used hang on stands. Hunting primarily on public land and with friends at their private property from time to time, I realized a climber would be more useful. I’ve been practicing working the climber up and down trees in my yard. I want to be so familiar with it that I’m comfortable climbing a tree in the dark.
I also want to figure out where the contact points are on the stand that cause noise. I’ve added moleskin felt to areas that I commonly bump, or where the stand touches itself while being carried. This has reduced the number of “clinks” and will make me more confident as I slip up a tree in the early morning timber.
Shoot with my gear on, from weird positions, at dusk
I practice too much in my “street clothes”, from easy positions. As the season opener inched closer, I increased the amount of time I spent practicing my shooting form from hunting-like scenarios.
Fully decked out in my camo, with my pack on, and my neck gator pulled up. This affects how my nose touches the string, and how my knuckle sits against my earlobe. It changes how my wrist strap release contacts my finger with sleeves and gloves in play. If my point of impact is going to be different with my gear on, I want to know it before opening morning when I launch an arrow at our groceries.
I shoot from my treestand at steep angles to see what changes.
I shoot from the ground with my butt on my heels and my knees planted in a V for stability.
I draw behind a tree and lean around for shots.
I draw slowly, pulling through the draw cycle with as little movement as I can allow (and I shoot less poundage so I can be stealthy).
I shoot through brush to learn how my arrow arches at various distances.
I shoot broadheads next to field points to ensure consistent point of impact.
I shoot quartering shots on my 3D and bag targets concentrating on the exit and wound channel through the vitals.
I shoot during the daylight when I typically have a shot, dim dusky lighting.
I’ve never had an opportunity to stand flat footed, square to a deer, draw openly, and then make a perfectly arranged shot. So, I’m trying to spend less time practicing for that scenario. It works great on foam animals at the 3D course, but not in my real-life hunting experiences.
Making hunting a family event
It won’t be long until the Saturday mornings I’m now spending with my family, are spent apart from them. It is only for a time, and will be over before we know it. Nonetheless, as a dad of 3 little boys, and as a husband with an expecting wife, it weighs on me.
To help bridge the distance, my wife and I work diligently to make hunting a family event. She and the boys have bows, and they shoot with me. We play “hunt the turkey” where we slink through the wood line beside the house and “hunt” my 3D turkey target. Currently we’re 100% successful on all our hunts.
We also get the whole family together to “test” my gear before I leave. The guys like to make sure my treestand is working (2 feet off the ground), and they like to check my binoculars, gps, and hunting clothes for proper function. Boots are usually worn around the yard on stubby legs with knees barely clearing the tops, and I’ve lost more than one facemask to our family’s quality control department.
Lauren and I talk to the guys about why we hunt, where our food comes from, and what it means to be responsible. We turn our kitchen table into a home-butcher’s shop and everyone takes part. We ask the kids what they want us to cook with our fresh meat, and let them pick some of their favorites for after successful hunts.
By making hunting something we do together as a family, I am not leaving them behind when I go off to hunt. I’m doing my part – going out and getting the animals. Then, they do their part – preparing my gear, helping me skin and quarter the deer, and of course their favorite: eating.
Well, there you have it. These are some of the things I’m trying this year as season approaches to prepare for success this year. What do you think?
Do you have a new piece of your pre-game training that you think will make a difference? What have you added to your practice in the past that has proved to be an advantage come hunting season? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.
– Aaron Farley, RusticMan.com