Deer season does not begin the opening day of the season. It needs to be on your mind year-round. This entails a lot of different things, but something you should be doing right now is shooting your bow. Yes, it is good to fling a few arrows every chance you get, but you should set some goals to accomplish before the season ever opens. This will build confidence in your abilities, it is a great summer activity that you can do with your family and friends, and you will be a better hunter for it.

Practice at Longer Distances

As a hunter you should have limitations as to how far you would shoot at a deer. A lot of different factors goes into play here. How far you can effectively shoot on the range, how the deer is acting, and open versus tight terrain is just some things that should be considered when taking a shot.

When on the range it is great to practice at distances you feel comfortable shooting a deer at and closer. But you should also be proficient at shooting at longer distances even if you would not shoot at a deer at that distance.

For example, if you would never shoot at a deer past 30 yards, get to where you can consistently hit the target out to 50 or 60 yards, or more. The reason for this is it is a great confidence-builder. If you can hit your target at 55 yards, you will feel really good about making a shot at half that distance.

Another reason to shoot at longer distances is that it will allow you to have tighter groupings at close distances. If there is anything about your form or follow-through that is off, you will notice it at 60 yards because your grouping is not going to be as tight as it was when you were shooting at closer distances. When you are able to notice something is off you will be forced to make changes to correct it.

Realistic Practice Sessions

It is very easy to get into the routine of going out in your shorts and t-shirt and practicing.  This is great, but if you are realistic, you will realize this is not how you will be hunting.  Instead, at the very least you will have on pants, a long-sleeve shirt and maybe gloves and a face mask. As the season progresses, you will have on more clothing to stay warm, and oftentimes this clothing is very bulky.

Once you are confident in your abilities to hit your target in your summer outfit, try doing it in the actual clothing you will be wearing while hunting. It might be a little hot to be in these clothes, but you are likely to notice some differences while shooting in your hunting gear.

You might find it is more difficult to pull your bow back with a lot of clothing on, you might not have the same line of sight or your string could rub against your clothing. Now is the time to be certain that you are just as proficient at shooting with your hunting gear on as you are in your summer wear. If you realize that some changes need to be made, now is the time to find out, not when a monster buck is just mere yards away.

Because you are hitting the bull’s-eye from the ground consistently doesn’t mean that everything will be the same when you are shooting at a downward angle from a tree stand or sitting within a ground blind.

Some of your practice should be from realistic hunting scenarios. If you do not have an archery range with an elevated platform, consider hanging a tree stand in a tree. Doing this a few times throughout the summer and consistently hitting the target will build confidence in your shooting. When the moment of truth arrives this fall, you will feel comfortable in your abilities to hit your target. Practice shooting from the sitting position, standing, twisting, and so on. If you can imagine it happening while hunting, practice it now.

The same holds true if you hunt out of a ground blind. Set up the same ground blind that you hunt out of and practice. Shooting while sitting down might make you realize some changes need to be made as to how your body is angled toward the target, which might throw off your ability to pull your bow back. Become consistent shooting from your ground blind now.

Whether you are a treestand hunter, ground blind hunter or both, practice from your setup a few times while wearing your hunting gear, too.

The best practice for a bowhunter is shooting on a 3D course. Today’s 3D targets are lifelike and provide realistic practice sessions. I often place my personal targets in positions and terrain to imitate a hunting situation. Don’t forget the opportunities of shooting 3D archery courses. They provide many targets for a variety of animals. Distances vary from very close to far. The terrain is often similar to hunting. Where else can you shoot a coyote, moose, caribou, turkey, and rabbit all in one day?

Concentrate on Just Making a Few Good Shots

It might sound as if in order to be a proficient shooter that you need to shoot a lot of arrows every day to stay on top of your game. That is not true. You are better off going out and shooting just a few arrows every day if possible, and concentrating on your form and making the best shot possible than shooting a lot.

Long practice sessions tend to tire out the hunter, and before you know it your shots are getting sloppy and you are wanting to make changes to your setup because your groupings are not as good as you would like. By shooting just a few arrows and putting everything you have into those few shots, you will be better for it. And, always quit on a good shot so you are not second-guessing yourself and thinking of changes that you need to make.  Everybody makes a bad shot from time to time, even on the range. Don’t let one bad shot get you down.


This is the time you need to be thinking about being the best shot you possibly can. Think about what you are having trouble with as far as shooting and think of ways to make it better. Practice may not make you perfect, but it will make you a better, more confident hunter this fall.

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Jason Houser
Jason Houser is an avid traditional bowhunter from Central Illinois who killed his first deer when he was nine years old. A full-time freelance writer since 2008, he has written for numerous national hunting magazines. Jason has hunted big game in 12 states with his bow, but his love will always be white-tailed deer and turkeys. He considers himself lucky to have a job he loves and a family who shares his passion for the outdoors. Jason writes full time and is on the pro staff of two archery companies; in his free time, he fishes and traps as much as possible.