Having What It Takes

Does the bulk of your hunting practice include doing everything right to make the shot? Ok, so how do you practice getting yourself into position to make that heavily practiced shot?

The bull crested over the horizon, standing on top the mountain, looking over the valley below. The rut was in full swing and he was on the prowl for cows. Slowly, he made his way down the mountainside, bugling as he closed the distance.

Time was running short, but the terrain was open … giving him the advantage. All I could do was say a silent prayer that he would drop far enough down the mountain so that we could cow call with the hopes of getting him within archery range. Over an hour had passed and the bull had moved into a location that we would be able to call to him.

My heart was in my throat as this royal giant closed the distance by crossing the creek below. He was committed and coming in to pick up the “cows” he was hearing. Making a wide circle around my caller, the bull took his time. At 57 yards he disappeared behind the only tree on the hillside, and this was my only moment to draw my bow.

There I stood at full draw waiting for the bull to emerge out the other side. At nearly 60 yards, he approached quartering to me—no shot—but I could not let down or he would surely see me, and my dream of tagging this bull would be over.

My bow was drawn for what seemed like an eternity, when in reality just shy of 2 minutes had passed. There I stood— ready—and when he turned ever so slightly and offered me the broadside shot I had been praying for, I let my arrow fly.

Keeping my eyes on the bull for as long as possible, I watched him run down the hill and out of sight. Shaking does not begin to describe the rush of adrenaline I was experiencing. The shot felt great, I was steady and had ran through my mental checklist of biomechanics before releasing my arrow.

I found the bull laying just down from where I had last had eyes on him. All of my hard work and preparation had paid off.

Luck Is Made
When I started shooting archery in my early 20s, I shot a youth bow set at a mere 18 pounds with a 26-inch draw length, aiming at a target only 10 yards away. Having arrowed my largest bull elk, I had come a long way. Practice and training made the perfect partnership for success.

When starting out in archery, a light draw weight on your bow gives the shooter an opportunity to learn correct fundaments comfortably without physical injury that can potentially ruin an entire archery season. There is certainly a learned technique for drawing a bow, so taking this process slow, building upon each gain in draw weight poundage, is very important.

Supplementing your practice sessions with strength and cardiovascular training allows the shooter an opportunity to expand on physical strength and enhancing overall in field performance. To build the strength required to hunt big game is not difficult; however, it takes a disciplined approach to the specific fitness of the muscles of the back and shoulders.

Here are some examples of a few beneficial strength-training exercises:

The push-up is a great way to train your chest, triceps, shoulders, back and core without any needed equipment.

  • Step 1: Start in the prone position. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Step 2: Raise up on your toes, keeping your body in a straight line. If you cannot do a push-up while maintaining correct form, simply modify the exercise by starting from your knees.
  • Step 3: Engage your core muscles, as you slowly bend at the elbows, lowering your body toward the floor, stopping 1-2 inches from the ground. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle.
  • Step 4: Push back toward the starting position. Repeat.

Pull-ups work a large number of muscles in your back, shoulders and arms all at once, which will translate into you being able to steady your rifle for longer periods of time.

  • Step 1: Grab the pull-up bar with your palms facing forward, arms extended.
  • Step 2: Pull your body up until your chin clears the bar. Concentrate on squeezing your back muscles together once you reach the fully contracted position.
  • Step 3: Slowly return to the original starting position.

Tip: If strength development is required in order to achieve a complete pull-up, there are several options you have to counter-balance your weight ratio. The goal of all of these assisted variances is to gain strength and eventually not require assistance.

Assisted Pull-Up Machine: The machine allows you to select how much of your actual body weight you want to remove from the range of motion.

Bands: Different bands have varying levels of thickness, hence varying levels of assist. These are straight up and easy to use. Simply hook the band around your bar and step into the band.

Spotter: Grab a friend and have them assist you up by putting their hands under your feet.

Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Training your shoulders will improve the stability that is delivered to your arms which will ultimately translate into a steadier shot.

  • Step 1: Stand straight, shoulders back and down, core tight. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Step 2: Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height, palms facing forward. While contracting the shoulder muscles, press the dumbbells up toward the ceiling until they touch together at the top. Be sure not to lock your elbows at the top of the motion.
  • Step 3: Keeping a full contraction of the muscles, with a slow and controlled movement, return to the starting position and repeat.

Rowing Machine
This is a great low-impact way to get in some cardiovascular training and increase muscular endurance while activating almost every major muscle in in your body. Feel free to adjust the rowing resistance to meet your current level of fitness.

  • Step 1: Sit on the rowing seat and secure your feet in the footrests, strapping them in tight enough so that your feet don’t slide around. Bring your knees up to your chest at the top of the machine. Grab the handles, palms facing down.
  • Step 2: Pull the handle with you as you slide back, extending your body away from the front of the machine, leaning slightly back. The handle should end pulled up to your chest, legs straight, knees slightly bent.
  • Step 3: To return to the starting position, first extend your arms toward the front of the machine. Keeping your back straight, slide your seat and body forward, returning to the starting position.

With a qualified personal trainer, or by joining a crossfit class, you can get started in the right direction with a training program designed to enhance your in-field performance.

When the moment of truth arrives, we do not rise up to the occasion, we fall to our level of training.