Training Under Stress By Rob Shaul Founder Mountain Tactical Institute

 

The Background

At the beginning of last year’s bow hunting season, I was nailing tacks at my home archery range. My 20-yard groups were under 2”. My 40 yard groups were right at 4”. Out to 70 yards, I was hitting inside a 12” circle 7 of 10 shots. Then, during the actual hunting season, I missed an easy 60 yard shot on a monster mule deer. An easy 50 yard shot on a young buck antelope, and an easy, 40-yard shot on another monster deer. With no pressure, on my flat range in the yard, I was cool, calm and lethal. My fundamentals were solid.

Out in the field, with an animal standing there looking at me, I was an emotional wreck. Heart thumping, hands shaking, release finger twitching. My fundamentals sucked. I made many mistakes hunting last year, but not systematically training accurate archery marksmanship under stress is especially embarrassing.

The worst part? I should know better. Over the past number of years, we’ve worked hard to develop our Range Fitness program for our military and LE clients – a program that systematically trains accurate marksmanship under stress using assault rifles and sidearms.

Turns out that all that matters in bowhunting is accurate marksmanship under stress. No different than or military and LE focused work with firearms. And to improve this skill, bow hunters need to practice it.

Looking back now, a couple major distractions blinded me to what was important last year. First, I spent a lot of time and money trying to develop a reactive archery target. Our stress marksmanship systems require reactive targets – where the shooter immediately gets hit/miss feedback. We use metal targets for our firearm Range Fitness system. Last summer I hired an engineer and together we spent several weeks trying to develop a fancy similar reactive target for archery. It was a huge distraction. Truth is, balloons are a simple, cheap and super effective reactive archery target. Stupid distraction number one crossed off the list.

Second, I got sucked into the bowhunting circle jerk of gear-centric thinking. The black hole of researching and comparing bows, sights, releases, arrows, bow-tuning and the advice of “experts” all trying to sell me something. They made a lot of money off me last year – two bows, multiple sights, three different releases, dozens of arrows, hours at the bow shop tuning and tweaking. None of it mattered. The newest bow, best reviewed release, highest-end bow sight, and fanciest carbon arrows won’t stop your heart from pounding, hands from shaking, and total abandonment of archery fundamentals when you’re exhausted from a four-hour stalk on a buck antelope and finally lined up for the shot. Stupid distraction number two now removed from the list.

Here is a concise list of my archery marksmanship mistakes from last year:

– Thinking a gear “upgrade” would make me a better shooter. Gear is never the reason.

– Placing way too much value on target shooting improvement. Never will the target I shoot at (big game vitals) be smaller than 8-inches in diameter. “Experts” argue that shooting at small targets on the flat range will give you a greater margin of error during the real thing out in the field. This certainly didn’t work for me, and hasn’t for many others. In my opinion it’s bad advice or at best far from the most practical approach.

– Not systematically training accurate archery marksmanship under stress – like I’ve done so many times using firearms. This is a big one.

Moving Forward

For months now, we have been developing, designing and tweaking the MTI Archery Stress Marksmanship system. The word “system” is important to emphasize here. We want to apply the rules of “purposeful practice” quantified by researcher Anders Ericsson, an approach we’ve already successfully deployed in our firearms Range Fitness system. I strongly recommend Ericsson’s book Peak if you are not familiar with his work. It is especially applicable to any weapons based training.

In general, the goal is to develop a system to constantly push the shooter to his/her edge of performance. We’ve deployed many of the lessons learned from our firearms based Range Fitness system. Here are the stressors:

– Fitness stressor (simple shuttle sprints): it’s amazing what just 4x 15-yard shuttle sprints can do to your breathing and heart rate.

– Time limit: still tweaking this component, but first level is 30 seconds, second likely 25 seconds.

– Ammo Limit: you only get one shot at the target – just like during hunting season.

– Competition: in the video, you’ll see Wyatt and myself conduct this event individually. Later we conducted it side by side…and it increased the stress.

Below is a video of one of our first iterations of the Archery Stress Marksmanship protocol:

What About Practicing Fundamentals?

With our firearms Range Fitness system, we learned fast that we could only improve so much doing these stress events over and over. We had to back up, and take time to purposefully practice shooting fundamentals. At the end of our development period, every Range Fitness training session evolved into a full “event” as we like to think of it. They began with a stress shoot, then allowed for time practicing one or two fundamentals, then finished with another stress shoot.

However, we also learned that all shooting fundamentals are NOT equal in terms of the impact on our stress shoot performance. Specific to firearms, trigger control was by far the most difficult to master, but also had the greatest positive impact on stress shoot performance. Next came follow through, then breathing, and finally weapon handling (shooting positions, etc.) For archery stress marksmanship, we also assume that trigger control for mechanical releases will be the most important fundamental impacting our stress shoot performance. We’ll learn more over the next few months and, as usual for us here at MTI, we’ll continue to adapt, improve and evolve the system.

If you decide to give the most recent version of our stress event system outlined below a try please do not hesitate to reach out to me personally at coach@militaryathlete.com with questions or feedback.

The “Full Event System”

For balloon size, cut an 8″ hole in a piece of cardboard (also the exact diameter of a 10 lb metal plate). Inflate the balloon to fit.

For the stress event, knock an arrow and run with it knocked. During the 30 second rest period between shooting positions, re-knock an arrow.

You can’t progress to the next distance until you hit all 3 balloons in the “Full Stress Event”, both at the beginning and end of the training session (Part 1 and Part 3 below). When you can hit all 3 balloons for both stress events, bump up the distance.

We recommend beginning at 30 yards.

The full stress event session below takes 55 minutes:

PART (1): FULL STRESS EVENT

Set a repeating countdown timer for 30 seconds

(a) Sitting Position

  • 30 second time limit
  • 4x 15-yard sprints (down/back, down/back aka 2x round-trip)
  • 1x shot on target (8″ Balloon)

Rest 30 Seconds (Re-knock arrow)

(b) Kneeling Position

  • 30 second time limit
  • 4x 15-yard sprints (down/back, down/back, aka 2x round-trip)
  • 1x shot on target (8″ Balloon)

Rest 30 Seconds (Re-knock arrow)

(c) Standing Position

  • 30 second time limit
  • 4x 15-yard sprints (down/back, down/back, aka 2x round-trip)
  • 1x shot on target (8″ Balloon)

PART 2: SHOOTING PRACTICE (NO STRESS AND STRESS)

(a) 9x Shots Sitting, No Stress

Target Size: 1/4 Sheet of 8X11 Paper

Focus on trigger control and follow through. Take as much time as needed/desired.

(b) 3 Rounds Sitting, Stress

Target Size: 1/4 Sheet of 8X11 Paper

1x Stress Shot Sitting (1x 15 yd sprint down/back, 30 sec. time limit)

Rest 1-2 minutes between shots

(c) 9x Shots Kneeling, No Stress

Target Size: 1/4 Sheet of 8X11 Paper

Focus on trigger control and follow through. Take as much time as needed/desired.

(d) 3 Rounds Kneeling, Stress

Target Size: 1/4 Sheet of 8X11 Paper

1x Stress Shot Kneeling (2x 15 yd sprints down/back, 30 sec. time limit)

Rest 1-2 minutes between shots

(e) 9x Shots Standing, No Stress

Target Size: 1/4 Sheet of 8X11 Paper

Focus on trigger control and follow through. Take as much time as needed/desired.

(f) 3 Rounds Standing, Stress

Target Size: 1/4 Sheet of 8X11 Paper

1x Stress Shot Standing (2x 15 yd sprints down/back, 30 sec. time limit)

Rest 1-2 minutes between shots

PART (3): REPEAT FULL STRESS EVENT

Set a repeating countdown timer for 30 seconds

(a) Sitting Position

  • 30 second time limit
  • 4x 15-yard sprints (down/back, down/back, aka 2x round-trip)
  • 1x shot on target (8″ Balloon)

Rest 30 Seconds (Re-knock arrow)

(b) Kneeling Position

  • 30 second time limit
  • 4x 15-yard sprints (down/back, down/back, aka 2x round-trip)
  • 1x shot on target (8″ Balloon)

Rest 30 Seconds (Re-knock arrow)

(c) Standing Position

  • 30 second time limit
  • 4x 15-yard sprints (down/back, down/back, aka 2x round-trip)
  • 1x shot on target (8″ Balloon)


Rob Shaul
Coach/Founder – Mountain Tactical Institute

Charlie Bausman
Coach/Researcher – Mountain Tactical Institute

 

Posted by JOMH Editor

  1. […] whitetails, elk or mule deer, your adrenaline will be making your heart beat out of your chest. The Training Under Stress article by Rob Shaul in a past issue of the online JOMH goes into more detail on this topic and […]

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