You would never consider bow hunting deer without making sure that your bow was in great shape, and the same is true for your body! Never forget that bow hunting as a sport is far more involved than just the weapon you carry. You need to train your body in order to be successful and to enjoy the experience more!
There are a lot of ways to get yourself prepared for a deer hunt, but let’s break it down a bit.
Working Out with your Bow
The most practical exercise for bow hunting is shooting your bow. This will not only help strengthen all of the necessary muscles, but it will also help with target training.
- Try to shoot a minimum of 50 arrows per day. The point here is not about speed or even aim, but on perfecting your form and building up your muscles.
- Whenever you have a practice session, take a few minutes to work on your strength. At the end of a session, pull your bow back as many times as you can without stopping. If you are using a hunting bow, you will have a smaller number than with your target bow. Set a realistic goal with either. Use the same movement in pulling the bow that you would if you were hunting. Extend one arm in front and pull the string back to anchor. On your last pull, hold it as long as possible while aiming at the target. When you feel like your muscles are going to give out, shoot the arrow at the target. Be sure to let your muscles recover.
Training for Bow Hunting: Drills
Okay, so you’ve got your muscles primed and ready, now you need to get your skills up to par. While there are a lot of ways to refine your skills with your bow, here are three drills to work on before your next deer hunt.
Drill 1: Mind and Body
Stand 30 yards away from your target. Shoot three times while aiming for the bull’s-eye. This is about forming your pre-shot routines. Select an aiming point and take a deep breath. Raise your bow and draw. Focus on your breath and on relaxing your mind before you fire the arrow. There is nothing there but you and your target, with the arrow to connect you. The point of this drill is to combat any kind of target panic or trigger punching. Shoot when your breath is still and your mind is focused.
Of course there will be a lot of excitement and nerves when you are on an actual deer hunt, but this drill should help you to clear your mind and center your entire self before shooting your arrow.
Drill 2: Quick Draw
This drill is all about timing. You want to be ready for moments when a deer comes charging and you only have a couple seconds to make the shot.
If you have a 3D deer, use that as your target at around 20 yards away.
In five seconds, raise your weapon, draw, and shoot. Focus on one part of the deer’s body and practice training your eye to aim for that same spot every single time.
This drill is tricky because you need to combine speed and precision. While five seconds might seem incredibly fast, it is probably only a few seconds faster than your normal shooting time. Keep your shooting routine exactly the same, just do it faster. If your normal shoot time is ten seconds, work to get it to nine. Then try to get to eight, and so on. You will get to five seconds faster than you realize.
Utilize the skills from Drill 1, where you calmed your mind and focused all of your energy into connecting with the target. Never sacrifice precision and technique for speed. Keep practicing until you can manage both.
Drill 3: Holding
The whole point of strengthening your muscles is to make you more successful on your deer hunt by working the parts of your body that are going to be working the hardest. This drill is going to test your endurance, especially for situations when you need to wait out the deer.
Stand 30 yards away from your target. Using your same shooting routine, draw your bow and then hold it. Aiming is not really the focus here, so just concentrate on holding it for two minutes. At the end of those two minutes, take aim and hold for another 15 seconds. Then shoot for your target.
Holding a bow at full draw will wear your muscles, but what makes this particular drill tricky is that your muscles will probably be shaking a bit by the time you finally take aim. You will most likely have to work up to the two minute/ 15 second timeline, but make that your goal by the time you are done training and ready to go on your deer hunt.
When you first start training, hold your fully-drawn bow as long as you can until your muscles start shaking and then let down without firing. Build up to holding it until your muscles are tired and then aim and fire. Extend the time until you are able to make it to this time.
When two minutes of holding and 15 seconds of aiming no longer feel challenging, move back to 40 yards and practice from there.
Working out: Arms and Shoulders
In order to draw your bow well, you utilize several upper-body muscles. The muscles in your back and shoulders can definitely be put to the test when hunting with your bow, so make sure those areas are in shape or you won’t be able to get the shot. Here are some exercises you can do to help work these muscles out.
- Try using dumbbells in a bent over row. Make sure your back is flat, your abs are pulled in, and you are maintaining proper form.
- Work your shoulders! Still using those dumbbells, try rotating lateral raises and front raises. This works across your shoulders and will help you hold the bow for longer periods of time.
Working Out: Legs and Core
Strong legs are essential for hiking and climbing, and a strong core will help for shots from above where you need to bend. You’re definitely going to want these muscles ready for the weight of your pack at the end of the hunt.
- Try stepping up on a large box (24 inch) while wearing your hunting backpack with weight in it. A good weight for training is 40 pounds, but you can work up to that and go beyond it when you’re ready. Don’t overdo it if this is your first time. Step up onto the box with one leg, be sure to pull yourself up with that leg rather than pushing off with your resting foot. Keep a strong, straight back. Alternate legs.
- Using barbells, do lunges (it is really important to use proper form and posture) while keeping your arms locked over your head. Shrug your shoulders as you lunge and be sure to take your time. Aim for quality in your lunges, rather than just quantity.
Keep training and practicing and you will be sure your quiver and your body are both fully equipped for your next bow hunting deer adventure.