How to Stay Mentally Tough at Crunch Time: The Pre-Shot Checklist

Posted on May 22, 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 an important part of the preparation stage: the pre-shot checklist. If you missed the first segment on the importance of practicing, be sure to check it out!



Have a Hunting Pre-Shot Checklist

Before shooting at an animal, develop a mental checklist, similar to the kind of routine the top experts use. Well-known bowhunters Randy Ulmer and Chuck Adams have good ones.

“My checklist has evolved over the years,” says Ulmer. “If I know a shot is eminent, I start to focus my mind on certain variables; this helps me combat buck fever. I try not to do anything without thinking about it first.”


Ulmer’s Pre-Shot Checklist:

1. Examine Shot Angle (mostly applies to mule deer and sheep hunting). As an example, if he estimates the animal is on a 25-degree slope, he knows to take off 10 percent from the shot distance.

2. Establish Exact Shot Distance (Ulmer wants to put his pin exactly where it needs to be for a perfect shot, not a close-enough hit.)

3. Examine Arrow Flight Path (possible interferences like tree limbs, etc.)

4. Determine that I am using the right pin in exactly the right place

5. Patience…Patience (His mantra: Patience seldom goes un-rewarded)

6. Aim…Aim…Aim…Until the Shot Breaks


Adams’ Pre-Shot Checklist:

1. Is the shot clear? Have an overview of possible obstacles. Visualize the arrow’s path when necessary.

2. Angle of shot—compensate accordingly. (Adams has carried an angle meter for about 30 years.)

3. Get the range. (If time, use laser rangefinder; if not, eye the distance as best as possible.)

4. Pick a spot,

5. Point the bow straight at the target, pull straight back,

6. Relax bow hand as much as possible

7. Take the first good high-percentage shot,


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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