How to Stay Mentally Tough at Crunch Time: Gaining confidence

Posted on May 24, 2013

Exclusive BOW & ARROW HUNTING Feature Series: Check out this excerpt from Joe Bell’s recent book, “TECHNICAL BOWHUNTING, The Ultimate Guide to Shooting Performance.” Learn how to stay mentally tough and deliver at the moment of truth. This segment covers how you can gain confidence and be a better hunter. If you missed the first segment on the importance of practicing or part two on the pre-shot checklist, be sure to check them out first!

The author remembers feeling a strong dose of buck fever while drawing down on this Wyoming whitetail. His saving grace was aiming intensely at where he wanted to hit, which seemed to force a good shot.


How to Gain Confidence

Following your checklist during the moment of truth won’t be enough. You’ll have to put it into practice well before this moment—over and over again. Stump shooting, small-game hunting and 3-D tournaments are perfect places for refining your execution.


I like combining all three, since each has qualities to offer. Stump shooting and small-game hunting allow you to “suit up,” just like you do for a big-game outing. When hunting small game you are out stalking and/or ambushing, just like you would with a buck or bull. You use camo duds for concealment, a binocular to enhance visibility and a rangefinder for accurate shooting distance. You’re essentially big-game hunting, only the target is smaller. Fact: Picking a spot and focusing on that spot is the most powerful medicine to cure buck fever.


3-D shoots, though different from hunting, bring on beneficial pressure variables. Small crowds of people watching you shoot can create nervousness, and this is just what you want. If you can master shooting “under the gun,” chances are, you’ll do well at combating buck fever.


Visualization practice is very helpful as well. During practice sessions, Slinkard practices a lot of visualization, imagining a real shot on a live animal. “The interesting thing is that your subconscious mind—for all of its strengths—cannot tell the difference between reality and vividly imagined events,” says Slinkard. “So, by actively practicing while vividly imagining performing well under the stresses of a hunting situation, it is possible to actually gain a simulated high-stress hunting experience. When the real-life shot occurs, the subconscious mind thinks that it is just something it does all the time, and stress levels and corresponding mistakes fall dramatically.”


With this technique, Slinkard says it’s important to visualize some things not working out either, such as the animal moving too fast for a shot, presenting the wrong angle or spooking. This way, it’s much like reality in the hunting woods. Shots don’t always work out, so you want to visualize that as well, and eventually move on to other images where it does.


By Joe Bell
Stay tuned for the remaining segments of this exclusive series!

And be sure to pick up your copy of Technical Bowhunting, available at or by calling (866) 834-1249, and requesting item #216. Cost is $21.95; shipping extra, CA residents pay sales tax. Direct dealers e-mail or phone Becky Silvas at; (800) 332-3330, x259. 


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