Keep your archery practice realistic

In less than five weeks our much awaited early archery deer hunting season will make its grand debut, beginning October 1. For many, it is one of the greatest holidays of sorts. With the door about ready to swing open now is the time to begin honing your shooting skills while also testing your equipment.

It was last year when a perfectly symmetrical ten-point buck stood perfectly, 20 yards in front of me. The angle was steep and a few small limbs obscured a totally clean view but it was still a decent shot, or so I reasoned. Regardless, dressed in full camouflage, I slowly pulled the string of my Mathews bow to full draw. When the site pin settled on the sweet spot, behind the buck’s left shoulder, I dumped the string sending the broadhead tipped shaft on its way. There was no need to wait the proverbial 45 minutes before following up on my shot.

In less than a second the sick feeling of disgust fell heavy in my gut. “Pathetic” I said out loud. The arrow hit off my intended mark. “How could I have blown such an easy shot?” I questioned. On the bright side of this scenario was the fact the deer was not harmed – and not real.

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With each passing year the bow hunting world experiences advancements far beyond the scope of traditional recurves and instinctive shooting styles. The real truth – there is probably not a bow out there that isn’t capable of humanely taking a deer if set-up and shot properly.
Everyone heralds the benefits of drop-a-way rests, laser rangefinders, carbon arrows and bows capable of spitting out arrows as fast as light, and they should. These advancements make us more efficient in our means, but what about targets? To me, they are the unsung heroes of the bow hunting world.

Shooting at simple paper plates stuck on bales of straw are quickly becoming a thing of the past. There is no doubt flinging arrows at mundane circles can become monotonous. It becomes hard to stay focused. What happens becomes all too familiar. Boredom and loss of concentration leads to sloppy form and poor results.

With 3-D targets, practice not only becomes fun again, but realistic. This is a necessity for the serious bow hunter, especially when the outcome of an entire season may hinge on a few precious seconds.

3-D is a generic term for life-sized, three-dimensional models of wild game. In reality, these types of targets have been around for years and are made by dozens of manufacturers. The good thing about competition is the quality of these types of targets has risen dramatically and prices remain so affordable that no serious bowhunter should be without one.

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Some of the best 3-D targets are made of self-healing foam that can stop the fastest arrows tipped with either field points to the largest broadhead. One of the most important benefits is arrow removal is safe and easy. High quality targets can literally absorb thousands of shots. Some even have removable cores that can be replaced when worn out adding years of life to the target.

Although I honestly believe 3-D targets are one of the greatest tools available to bow hunters, traditional bullseye targets do have their place. Bullseye or crosshair style targets are necessary when meticulously dialing in your equipment. They are also great to help hone proper shooting form and to extend your maximum range. But for realistic hunting scenarios, nothing can compare to a life sized, 3-D target modeled after the game you hunt.

If there is one bowhunting proverb stated more frequently than any other, it’s the admonition to “pick a spot” when shooting. When we pick a tiny spot on any target, whether fake or alive, we almost always become more accurate.

Life size targets quickly demonstrate the need for precise arrow placement. There are no black circles, fluorescent bullseyes or graduated cross-hairs pasted on any wild game I have ever seen. Just like when hunting, you have to pick an exact spot, then concentrate – really hard! And when that arrow flies off the mark, as they sometimes do, instead of simply thinking “well, I missed that one,” you should say to yourself, “Wow, if I was hunting that could have been a wounded animal.”

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Prior to each season when practicing with my 3-D’s I get a sick feeling each time an arrow hits off course. No paper target ever made me feel like that!

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John Martino
Martino is a well-known outdoor writer throughout Indiana and has served as longtime outdoor columnist for the Kokomo Tribune newspaper. Martino has won numerous awards for both his writing and his service to youth, conservation and the community. He recently retired as Superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the City of Kokomo and now works as Ivy Tech Executive Director for Facilities for the Kokomo region.

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