If you grew up playing sports like me – in my case it was hockey – I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase before: practice like you play. I believe it applies to bowhunting just as much as sports. In this article, I will explain how I stay in shooting form all year long, what has helped me in the past, and some of the things that I believe get overlooked and not practiced at all – or at least not as often as they should by many mountain bowhunters.
As the snow melts and the temperatures being to rise, the springtime feel is slowly starting to move into my part of north-central BC. It’s the perfect time of year for archers to get back outside after a long and cold winter and get the bows, and minds, dialed in.
It feels great to grab a half-dozen arrows, step back to 80 yards in a t-shirt, and send them downrange into the kill zone of your 3D target. What bowhunter doesn’t love doing that? If you ask me, is it necessary to shoot and practice long distance shots? Absolutely. Will shooting lights out on flat ground, in a perfectly clear shooting lane on a sunny, calm day with no pressure and low heart rate get you ready to take on the mountain backcountry? Absolutely not. Practice like you play!
Tackling the mountains as bowhunters is hard enough as it is; I think it’s safe to say we can all agree on that. So, when we finally do manage to get within bow range of the ram, bull, or buck of our dreams, what can we do to prepare ourselves for that steep, 54-yard, downhill, quartering away shot on poor footing? How do we keep the bow and mind sharp all year around?
STEEP ANGLE SHOTS
There are many different ways that are great to practice steep angle shots. What I have been doing for years is shooting out of a treestand that I have set up in my backyard. I have 3-5 targets ranging anywhere between 30 and 70 yards. I always change up the target layout so I don’t get used to shooting the same distances. Throughout the year I will increase or decrease the treestand’s elevation for different degree angled shots as well. Anything that will give you a higher elevation is great practice. I shoot off my house deck, out the hay barn window from the second floor; at times I even shoot arrows off my house roof! Don’t have the room in your yard? Easy; strap your 3D or block target to your pack and take it to the hills with you. Often I carry a target with me in the summer months when I’m scouting or setting up/checking trail cams. Traditional shooters, with their lower velocities, can just carry blunt-tipped arrows and go stump shooting in the mountains. Any kind of angled shooting practice will get you that much more prepared for the mountain country.
When bowhunting the mountains, of course you will be on rocky, uneven, and uncomfortable surfaces throughout the duration of your hunt. With that being the case, it is very likely if a shot opportunity presents itself, that you will not be standing flat-footed, feeling great and familiar like you do flinging arrows in your backyard. How do I prepare for that? What I have found works great for me is shooting off of a ladder. I place my feet at different step heights to position myself in an awkward stance, I focus on maintaining perfect upper body shooting form and do my best to execute the perfect shot. If you have a tall ladder that is set up safely, step up a few feet with one foot higher than the other and take a few shots; it’s a great way to practice angled, uneven-footing shots, a situation you can easily find yourself in when getting ready to draw back on that big ram, billy, buck or bull you’ve been thinking about for months!
It’s very important to be comfortable shooting your bow in many different positions. I also practice shooting from a sitting and kneeling position often; you never know when you need to take a shot from your knees or behind! We all know that things can change on a stalk very quickly and we may not always be able to adjust to the situation and get on our feet and into our perfect shooting stance. Get used to shooting from as many different positions as possible, because the standard shot is not always possible.
What’s the best way to keep your archery game strong throughout the year? That’s pretty simple. Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. Like most of us, I shoot my bow on a regular basis (every day, right?). Of course we all like to shoot in the spring and summer months in the sun, but what about the rest of the year? For some it may be a little harder to find the motivation to step out in the rain, wind, and snow to get some shooting in but that makes a great time to practice. When we hunt in the mountains the weather doesn’t always cooperate; in fact, it seems like more often than not the weather is working against us. Do your best to understand your equipment and gear in all kinds of weather situations. It’s important to know how your bow balances in the wind at full draw, how much the rain/snowfall affects arrow flight, how wearing different clothing or gear feels when shooting a bow. Those are all points that we can individually practice to further improve our shooting and hunting preparation.
I can say with confidence that these shooting exercises have helped me in the backcountry. In the end there are always numerous things that have to come together on a hunt to have you walking down the mountain with a pack full of meat and horns. We can’t control many of the mountain hunting obstacles that we may face on our backcountry adventures, but putting in the time, effort, and focused shooting practice that we need in order to give us a better chance of coming out heavy is something we should control.
About the Author:
Luke Ramousch was born in Switzerland and in 1998 his family moved to northern British Columbia. His parents ran big game guiding businesses for over 15 years and he was surrounded by hunting his whole life. He guided for several years but now mainly hunts for himself. He really likes the challenge of a good solo mountain bowhunt for sheep or goats but also loves to be in the backcountry with family and friends. He currently lives in the geographical centre of BC with his girlfriend Kally. When not shooting a bow or exploring the mountains he enjoys writing and photography. You can follow Luke’s adventutres on Instagram via his handle @lukeramousch.