Archery has been a passion of mine since I was 13 years old. Many know me as a competitive target shooter, but I began my journey into archery with my dad as a way to spend more time in the woods during hunting season. My father bought me a beginner bow setup not knowing how long I would stay interested. My first fall in the stand was a very memorable one and helped push me toward the tournament side of archery.
The first year I bow hunted, I missed everything I came to full draw on. This was before rangefinders became popular and since it was our first year bowhunting, we were really kind of winging it. The following spring, my father began looking for local 3D archery shoots to attend to help me prepare for the following fall. As I began to shoot more and more local shoots, I started to enjoy the competitive aspect as well as develop skills that would help me during hunting season.
I learned early on there are a number of benefits of shooting local 3D tournaments. It's a lot different than practicing at home where you are comfortable. There is an added level of stress since you’re shooting in front of other people, and no one wants to look bad in front of their buddies. This drove me to work harder at home between shoots. With the added stress of shooting in front of people and competing, it represents a similar pressure and nerves that you feel when shooting at an animal. Everyone gets nervous, even the best in the world. How you handle the nerves when they come to the surface is largely determined on your practice and preparation.
Learning how to handle my nerves and be able to execute a good shot while under pressure has been one of the biggest benefits I have found of shooting local tournaments. I have become a much more confident and efficient bow hunter because of shooting tournaments. The "buck fever" nerves were no longer a factor for me and I could rely on my skills that I had engrained during the summer. Having put so much time, effort, and practice into preparation for the fall had given me a huge confidence boost.
Working on shot placement during the 3D season helped tremendously once it was time to head into the woods. Mostly all 3D targets have some sort of scoring rings on them related to the vital area on the animal. Learning the scoring areas made it a little easier for me to pick spots on live animals during hunting season. There are a number of different 3D targets on the market, some have actual vitals and some just scoring rings. So if you’re interested in hunting, I would definitely suggest purchasing a 3D target to practice on during the off-season to help prepare and become a little more comfortable and confident aiming at an animal.
I'm also a firm believer that everyone should be educated about their equipment. Spending time shooting during the summer definitely has some side effects that you can't help but run into. One of those is learning about your equipment. Undoubtedly, problems are going to come up, whether you're hunting or shooting competitively. I believe that knowing how to fix those problems is your responsibility as a bowhunter – we owe it to the animals we hunt to put in the time and dedication. Take the time and educate yourself on bow tuning, broadhead tuning, leveling your sight, or anything archery related. Doing this preparation and learning during the summer will definitely help prevent problems or help you know how to fix problems during the hunting season. Good luck out there this year.