Common Shooting Mistakes to Stay On Top Of
Posted on March 27, 2013
I eased into the Double Bull blind around 2:30 in the afternoon on a beautiful day in early May. After getting my gear and the blind windows arranged, I gave a few yelps with a Primos Power Crystal. I grabbed a notebook out of my pack and settled back to try and catch up on a few writing projects. I don’t think 10 minutes passed when I glanced up and noticed a big, shiny, black tom walking toward the blind. I quietly laid down the notebook and picked up my longbow that was leaning against the blind with an arrow nocked. The turkey paused broadside at 10 yards away from the blind. His beard was at least 11, probably 12, inches long and the sunlight reflected with an iridescent sheen off his feathers. I drew my bow almost to anchor, fought it a second and collapsed as the string slipped away. The arrow missed low and right, and the tom exited the scene quickly.
“You are an idiot,” I thought to myself, fighting the urge to administer a punch to my head. Don’t get me wrong; everyone misses. It happens, but not giving your best can be infuriating at times—especially when you’ve put so much work and time into learning, training and practicing to do things right.
The next day Rod Jenkins, my buddy and archery coach, called to check in. I told Rod about my miss and he chuckled. “Well, there is one thing I know about that. No matter how much game you have killed, or the number of tournaments you’ve won, including world championships, you still have to do your job.”
“Why though? Doesn’t it ever get easy?” I whined.
Rod chuckled again and replied, “Well think about it. You’ve just come off some very successful bowhunts, your confidence is up and I think it is human nature for you to think you are a bad dude! While this confidence is great, you still have to do your job on every shot to stay on top. I don’t care who it is—we are all only one step away from a screw-up. I know I never had farther to fall than right after I won a world championship.”
“OK, so how do I stay on top?” I asked.
“First let’s define ‘top.’ It’s different for archers with different goals. For example, I would guess that your goal is to shoot your very best shot at a game animal when it presents itself. Another shooter might want to shoot a top 300, indoor-round score. Different goals and one might take more precision work to achieve. But, in my opinion, the path to getting to the top and staying there is pretty much the same for both goals.”
“So the secret to staying on top is…?”
“I don’t know if it’s a secret, but I believe staying on top is simply paying attention to details—back to the basics and fundamentals of a good shot. This is, of course, assuming that the archer had a solid shot sequence with proper form and the steps in order. Archery really isn’t that hard. If we would just stick to the fundamentals, we would all stay at the top longer than we do.”
Shoot Before Anchor: “OK, I know I let myself get away a few shots before I anchored solidly and I kept right on shooting. Looking back, I can see I was setting myself up for a fall,” I stated.
“Absolutely!” Rod replied. “When a warning sign pops up, you must immediately address the issue. Again, different archers have different problems to be aware of. For example, your short-draw problems are more of a steps out-of-order condition. You get ahead of yourself by aiming too early and skip the anchor step. When you make anchor a priority again you’ll be back on top.”
Drive-By Shooting: Rod and I shot with a nice young man a couple years ago at a large summer 3-D shoot. He was hitting decently and the guys in our group were giving him “atta boys” constantly. The problem was that you could tell he was pulling up and anchoring off to the side of the 3-D target. He would slowly swing toward the target and release when it looked right. I commented to Rod about it and he said, “Ah, that’s too bad. When you aren’t comfortable holding on-target you are just a train wreck waiting to happen.”
I talked to the young man the following winter and asked him how his hunting season had gone. “Terrible,” he replied. “I missed six easy shots. I don’t know what went wrong.”
Anticipation: Anticipation occurs when we can’t wait for the shot to break. We anticipate the release and can do several things to throw off an otherwise good shot. Grabbing the bow, throwing the string fingers open and peaking are common forms of anticipation.
3-Day Cures: Watch out for the many three-day cures out there. Sure you have to try something out to see if it works for you, but remember that many times changing something in your shot routine will get you back on track for a few days. The really good fixes last for years and usually won’t happen instantly. Rod refers to these three-day cures as Band-Aids. They are only temporary and don’t get to the root of the problem.
Getting Lucky: Rod believes getting lucky can set you up for failure, if you let it. For example, you make a series of shots and hit dead-center, but you really didn’t shoot them well. If you allow yourself to buy into the idea that you are a “badass” shot and don’t have to do your job, it won’t be long before the fall.
Rod told me one time that everyone has days when they shoot well. “The stars and planets line up just right and they have their day. The problem happens when they want a repeat performance and it rarely comes. Without a solid shot routine, most archers will never reach their goals.”
Before we hung up the phones, Rod said, “You’ve fixed your problems before and I know you will again because you’re dedicated and not afraid to put in some bale time. Get your priority back to making a good shot and work on the basics.” He hesitated a second and said, “I hope we are having this same conversation 20 years from now.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Well for starters, it would mean we’re both still around and healthy enough to shoot. And I’m not sure, but maybe that’s why we enjoy this sport so much; because it isn’t easy to stay on top.”
By Denny Sturgis Jr.