There are many common archery mistakes that people of all skill levels can make. Once hunting season begins, all those months of practice don’t always help. In fact, too much practice can sometimes be a bad thing.
Some of the common mistakes range from your gear to your scouting, but mostly hunting mistakes come from your bow hunting habits.
Habits are easy to make, but they are one of the hardest things to change. By pinpointing some of these archery mistakes, you can find out which habits you have and if they should be changed or built.
1. Your Bow is Too Heavy
When you are training, it’s normal to use a heavy bow. With a bow above your standard size, you can have more power on your draw. This can improve your strength and endurance as an archer.
A common mistake is to use that same heavy bow when you are hunting. When you are in position for hours at a time, you will not be able to draw the string back as far as you would in practice. If you find that it is difficult to pull the string back or hold it in place, you could be using a bow that is too heavy.
You may think that a stronger shot will be valuable, but agility and stealth are far more important than the strength of your shot. The bow you choose for hunting should be significantly lighter than your regular bow. In sudden, often unexpected conditions where a buck appears, a hunter should have a bow he or she can shoot quickly.
A good rule of thumb is for your hunting bow to be 10 to 15 pounds lighter than your practice bow.
2. You Shoot too Far or Short
Another common mistake is that, when it comes time to make the big shot, you shoot too far or short. After all of the practice, your judgment of distance falters and your arrow goes well above the buck and scares him off.
This can be caused by Buck Fever, which has its own solutions, but it can also be a failed understanding of your surroundings. An easy fix is to pre-range the area.
When you have decided where you will be setting up for the day, it is smart to use markers on the expected grazing areas. These markers can be surveyor flags, wood flats, or any object that is visible from a far distance.
Around mid-day, or whenever you know there will not be animals coming in, mark the places you’d expect a buck to be. Write the general distance from your position on the marker to keep a clear understanding once you are back in position.
Once you are back in position, practice shooting at the different markers until you are comfortable. Not only will you get a good warm up by shooting targets, but you have the markets in relative muscle memory which makes for a quicker shot.
3. Grip is Too Tight
If your arrow goes into a “fishtail,” meaning that it wiggles in the air, then your grip is most likely too tight. If you notice that your aim is not accurate, then that might also be due to your grip.
The tight grip will lead to extra bow torque. Bow torque occurs when the archer contorts his hand to compensate for pressure. When at full draw, if the bow is moving up, down, left, or right, then trying to fix that movement causes torque and leads to an inaccurate shot.
A sling is a quick fix. There will not be a need for a grip at all. It will catch the bow when you release, so you can have your fingers open when you shoot.
Another solution is to grip lighter. By relaxing your grip, you lower the risk of fishtail and put less wear on your hand. Your thumb and forefinger are usually the only grips you need for a good shot. This article goes into further detail about proper hand position
If both of those do not help with the steadiness of your arrow, then the problem might be the grip of the bow. Test out several other types of grips and see if any of them feel more comfortable. You can also get your current grip sanded or shaped if it is wooden.
4. Forget Proper Form
Once you are up in your position, most of the time you are in an awkward stance. This can lead to taking shots without focusing on the form techniques you learned in more comfortable situations. Without good form, your shot will be unpredictable and inaccurate.
The most common example of bad form is a bad anchor point. Just because you are in an uncomfortable position does not mean you should change where you draw back your string. There are many other examples of bad form, including poor stance and poor finish, which all contribute to a missed shot.
The most common bad form when hunting is a bad anchor point. For those that don’t know, an anchor point is a place where you consistently draw your string every time you shoot. A common anchor point is to put your knuckle in the soft spot underneath your ear.11Finding the perfect anchor point for you takes practice, but once you get it you can add predictability to your shot.
A note on anchor points is that, not only do you need to place your hand on the right place on your head, but your head must also be in the right place. A common mistake is to not consider the angle you are looking when you are setting up your anchor point. Keep aware of the angle your head is when you shoot, and factor that into your anchor point.
Other examples of the poor form include:
- Elbow Rotation
A good measure of flexibility is to see if you can rotate your elbow so your arm is facing up to facing down. You can’t be sure exactly where a buck will stop, so with full flexibility, you can turn and draw at multiple angles.
When shooting, your elbow should be straight up and down. An elbow in poor stance will mean your whole upper body is not rotated correctly. This will not just mean a bad shot but can cause injury.
- Proper Archery Stance
Proper Archery Stance is the fundamental element of archery.1You know you have a poor stance if it is not completely consistent from shot to shot. Without a proper stance, you will lose balance and your center of gravity.
First, your feet should be in proper position. If you are a right-handed shooter, your left foot should be forward of the shooting line and your right foot should be behind it. Both feet should be in a ‘square stance,’ meaning that both are parallel to the shooting line.
Next, your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
Your posture is key, with your back straight up and your chin rotated over the shoulder of your bow arm. Your hips should be directly under your upper body, your shoulders should be down and your chest and ribs should be lowered.
This article covers a proper archery stance in more detail.
- Dropping Your Arm
Another common mistake is to drop your arm right after shooting. An archer fights gravity the whole time they are aiming their bow, so it is tempting to drop your arm immediately. If you drop your arm too quickly, your shot will be low. By holding your position until the arrow reaches the target, you can be assured that there is no gravitational effect.
- Improper Follow-Through
If you try to get a good view of the arrow before it reaches the target, you could be affecting the shot. This could mean picking their head off the string or moving the bow at release to get a better view. By remaining in position until the shot lands, you will erase any of these possible errors.
The shot will go wide if you flinch. That means that you contract your muscles anticipating the shot. By staying relaxed, with your back muscles keeping your shoulder blades together, you can avoid any unwanted movement.
- Plucking the String
The final bad form mistake is to pluck the string on release. This means that your hand moves out from your face after you release. To fix this, ensure that your release hand moves directly back from the string. This way, you can be assured that it is a straight shot.
5. Careless About Broadheads
Broadheads are the cutting point placed at the front of the arrow. A common mistake is to not spend enough attention on the right broadhead for your bow. There many different types and sizes, and each one has a specific benefit for a specific bow.
When an arrow was shot with power but did not penetrate enough, you know your broadhead was too light. The broadhead could also be heavy but not sharp enough. Knowing the right tool for each bow will help make the rare buck shots successful.
Before you go hunting, test-shoot the broadheads you want to bring with you. If your bow shoots too fast, you don’t want a heavy sharp broadhead. It will be more likely to buckle in the air.
Preferably, you should test the broadheads with three to four months before you go. The broadhead might not always be the problem, and you should save time in case it is not the solution you needed.
If you are already out hunting and you only have one type of broadhead, then test-shoot your arrows on your downtime. If your arrows are causing too much damage or buckling in the air, then you should decrease the power of your shot. Less power in your shot will compensate for a broadhead that is too sharp or heavy.
As a general rule of thumb when you are at the store:
- Longbows do not have as powerful a shot, so a heavy draw weight broadhead is necessary. With a smaller broadhead or any expandable option, the arrow will have trouble penetrating.
- Compound Bows (30-50 lbs.)
- Lighter compound bows should have a fixed blade, cut-on-contact head. A small or expandable broadhead will not penetrate well enough, and a large broadhead will be too destructive.
- Compound Bows (50+ lbs.)
- Hunters using this bow can choose from any broadhead they want, but there are still some considerations.
- Large expandables will cause the most damage, but will not make for a good trophy kill.
- A small diameter fixed blade will ensure the best penetration without as much risk of additional damage.
- Hunters using this bow can choose from any broadhead they want, but there are still some considerations.
6. Not Scouting Enough
Choosing the right location is key to a successful hunt. The skills you learn at home will not help you if you do not have a good spot.
A common mistake is to go right for the biggest parcel. The biggest plots of hunting land are often the most popular. There might even be more deer, but every extra hunter is a liability of noise and missed shots.
When there are a lot of deer, but also a lot of hunters, the deer will not be easy targets. The location will be louder than a small parcel. Also, when one deer runs, the others usually catch on and follow.2
Another common mistake is to not prepare the area once you choose it. If you wade in the tall grass or unkempt trails, there is a large chance of making a noise.
It is noble to try not to change the environment, treating it like a natural obstacle you must defeat. If that is not your intention, then it is a mistake to not inspect the trail and clear obstructions.
The solution for both is self-explanatory. Try to find a parcel that is around medium size, 50 to 100 acres.3More important than specific size, find hunting land that has the least hunters and the most hunter-friendly locations.3
As for clearing the path, you should try to imagine the most likely path of the deer. Deer will almost always choose the path of least resistance. Use that to create a clearing that will be visible from your position.3
7. Packing too Much
It can be tempting to pack all of your gear when you go hunting. Not only will you not use most of it, it will weigh you down and keep you from focusing on the important tools.13An article on Wide Open Spaces gives a good checklist of essential hunting equipment. In that list, there are several you need to bring and several you need to leave at home.
❖ What to Bring
- A backpack is essential for a successful hunting trip. Not only does it need to carry your equipment on the way to the hunt, but it needs to bring meat on the way back.
The article mentioned above recommends an external frame pack with large removable pockets. An external (opposed to an internal) frame pack will help to hold the quarry while the pack is holding equipment. Simply remove the pins holding the pack to the frame and strap the quarters on instead.
- A shelter is also crucial for a hunting trip. Either a lightweight tent or a tarp would be fine, but it is necessary to have some sort of cover during the nights.
- A sleeping bag is just as crucial as a shelter. Your body will be incredibly sore from the hiking and the often-uncomfortable position you chose for the day.
A lightweight, comfortable sleeping bag will help restore tired muscles and make you feel rested for the next long day ahead.
These three are the key essentials for survival, but there are also other things you need for general health.
A day pack is necessary to pack your lunch. A fanny pack is very efficient because you do not need to carry anything additional and it is lightweight.
A 1-liter water bottle is necessary because you could be out hunting all day long. Dehydration could end the entire trip with a race to the hospital, so ensuring you have more than enough water for the day is crucial.
Extra socks will also help avoid a trip to the hospital. Hunters who don’t rotate the socks they wear often end up with trench foot and the trip is cancelled.
A first-aid kit, food, and rain clothes should round out your gear.
You can find a full checklist at Gander Mountain.
8. Buck Fever
You can practice all of the techniques mentioned above, but it’s different when the moment actually comes. When the hours of waiting for pay off and you see the buck stopped in clear view, nerves can erase all of your training. By thinking too much about the buck and not about the shot, you make all of the mistakes you normally would never make.
A solution to Buck Fever is to have a consistent pre-shot routine. The routine may not do much on its own, but it is helpful to keep you focused on everything besides the buck itself. The routine should be personalized so that it keeps you the most engaged, but it should feature:3
- Determine the distance
- Pick a spot on the deer and place an imaginary object on it
- Ensure that the path is clear
- Breathe deeply
- Place sight pin on the imaginary object you set on the deer
- Pull, aim, and do not punch the trigger on release
During the last step, it is also helpful to count to ten. Ten seconds, on average is the amount of time it takes for the human eye to focus on nearby objects to distant objects.5This final step will help calm you in the moment right before the shot.
These 7 common archery mistakes while hunting should be recited every time you go hunting. Just because an archer has enough practice and experience does not mean they do not need to remind themselves of these crucial mistakes.
By keeping an eye out on how the heaviness of your bow makes you feel on the hunt, you can ensure you do not get worn out too quickly.
By examining how you perceive different distances from your position, you can ensure you won’t make judgment mistakes in the moment.
By focusing on your grip and your form, you can make your shot straighter and more accurate.
By considering which broadhead to bring, you can be sure your arrow is the right strength for your bow.
By scouting properly, you can find the perfect location and manipulate the surroundings to encourage deer to walk through.
You should also be sure that you don’t pack too much. By making a concise packing checklist, you can be sure you pack light but also pack what is essential.
Finally, by making a pre-shot routine, you can settle the nerves associated with seeing a buck in open view.
Every one of these archery mistakes could happen to anyone no matter the skill, and should be kept in mind before the hunt begins.