Shooting Your Bow In Camp? Hah!

Somewhere along the line, you start shooting your bow before archery season. Now I don't know about you, but I don't practice year-round like some do. I'll start sometime during the summer and increase my shooting frequency as the season gets closer. I find that most archery hunters follow the same routine.

Now, before I begin, this is a short topic that I've been wanting to write about for quite some time but never got around to it. However, during this last archery season, I found myself a recipient of the consequences of not doing the very things I'm writing about and know to be true.

Here's the way I look at my need for shooting the "volume" of arrows that I feel is needed to be proficient:

- The first thing is muscle memory. I haven't been using "those" specific muscles in "that" specific way since last year's season. So, they need to be reminded about the purpose at hand.

- The second thing is muscle conditioning. As any gym rat will tell you, if you want to build or strengthen muscle and retain muscle mass, exercise must be done on a regular basis. For bow hunters, muscle memory and muscle conditioning are two separate things but yet intertwined for one purpose.

- The third thing is technique retention. Although this includes the above, it's so much more, such as anchor point, stance, follow-through, or even how you align and setup your shot. In other words, going through all your "checks and balances" to ensure everything works in perfect harmony.

Fast forward - archery season is finally here. You've spent a lot of time slingin arrows and now it's time to go hunt. All that time and preparation is, hopefully, about to pay off. My occupation allows me to spend more time hunting and being out in the woods than most, so from my observation, what do most hunters do, or rather not do, once the hunt begins? Unfortunately, they either totally quit practicing or do very little. After "approximately" 3 days of inactivity, muscle memory, conditioning and technique start to fade!

Why would you spend all your time and money to go hunt - not to mention the physical demands of carrying your heavy pack up and down mountains for miles and miles - and not continue to do the very thing that may make the difference between success or failure?

Here's some of the trade-offs, all of which I have experienced, other than the obvious of only coming away with tag soup.

- Making a bad shot and wounding an animal. Most "real life" hunting opportunities are not back-yard-perfect-conditions.

- Less-than optimum proficiency is limiting. If you are a well-oiled machine and you have a less-than perfect setup, your skill, confidence and proficiency will allow you to make adjustments to make a successful kill shot. If you've been lax in maintaining your proficiency, well, you've become your own nemesis.

- Case #1: Staying at full draw for long periods. Face it, when your quarry is at a point where you can draw your bow, there's no telling when it will present a shooting opportunity. How long can you hold? Every day you skip shooting your bow will knock off seconds when it matters the most. If you can't hold and have to release, game over!

- Case #2: Staying at full draw for long periods. What eventually happens when you hold at full draw for a long time? Well, your muscles start to shake, and shake, and shake. Even if your quarry moves into a possible shooting position, what are you gonna do ... you can't even hold still, as if you're in the middle of an earthquake. With all that movement going on, you're gonna get nailed anyway.

- Case #3: Staying at full draw for long periods. All muscles have a point when they build up lactic acid and eventually fail. And, there's always a possibility that you can force that muscle beyond it's capacity resulting in either a really sore muscle or a season-ending injury. Whichever one you end up with depends upon your conditioning. For example, if you've been shooting regularly and your muscles are in prime shape, your muscles will probably fail before any injury occurs. On the other hand, as the days of not shooting increase, your odds of moving from a point of soreness to injury increases. Restoration and rehab may be quick ... or not.

In summary, when you get to hunting camp, keep the status quo of shooting regularly. Being lax in maintaining your optimum proficiency can cost you when it matters the most and make the difference between tag soup or back-straps on the grill.