For many years now, compound bow manufacturers have been focused on increasing arrow velocity and thus, they have come up with all sorts of radical cams designs while also attempting to reduce the amount of vibration that an archer feels through the bow's riser by also introducing such innovations as pre-loaded and parallel limb designs and integral vibration dampeners. Of course, the reason for such intense focus on increasing arrow velocity is that the greater the velocity at which your arrow leaves the bow's riser, the flatter its trajectory will be and the thus, the better it will compensate for slight misjudgments in the distance to your intended target. However, all of this focus on arrow velocity has lead some archers to also decide to decrease the weight of their arrow/broadhead combination in order to achieve higher arrow speeds. However, provided that a bow's draw weight is not changed, decreasing arrow weight also decreases its kinetic energy and thus, it also decreases its ability to penetrate deeply enough to reach an animal's vital organs; especially on larger game species such as Elk, Moose, and Brown Bear.
Kinetic Energy -
So, what is Kinetic Energy? Well, Kinetic Energy is a concept of the field of Physics and is a means by which a person can calculate the amount of inertia an object in motion has based upon Newton's Second of Motion which states:
"In an inertial reference frame, the vector sum of the forces F on an object is equal to the mass m of that object multiplied by the acceleration a of the object: F = ma."
Therefore, Kinetic Energy is a product of mass and acceleration measured in foot/pounds and thus, provided that the amount of force applied to an arrow to get it moving is held constant (aka draw weight), increasing or decreasing the weight of an arrow also increases or decreases it Kinetic Energy.
Why is Kinetic Energy Important? -
However, while it is good to know that Kinetic Energy is a product of mass and acceleration, it does not explain why the amount of kinetic energy any given bow and arrow combination generates is important to bow hunters. Thus, the answer that question is that the more kinetic energy any given bow/arrow/broadhead combination generates, the more deeply the arrow will penetrate a game animal's body and thus, the more likely it is to reach the animals vital organs. Therefore, unlike gun hunters who are looking for a bullet design that dissipates all of its kinetic energy within the animal's body cavity in order to create the greatest amount of hydrostatic shock to the animal's nervous system, the best possible outcome for a bow hunter is that their arrow passes completely through an animal's body in order to cause an immediate drop in blood pressure to quickly and humanely incapacitate the animal.
How much Kinetic Energy do you need -
So, how much Kinetic Energy to do you need to hunt various game species? Well, the answer to that question is determined by the physical size of the animals you intend to hunt. For instance, small to medium sized game animals such as Coyotes and Whitetail Deer have much smaller bodies than larger game species such as Elk and Moose and thus, the smaller an animal is the less kinetic energy your arrow needs to penetrate into its vital organs whereas, the larger a game animal is, the more kinetic energy your arrow needs to penetrate its body cavity. Constantly, Easton Archery has conveniently provided the following chart in order to provide bow hunters with some idea of how much kinetic energy they need to humanely harvest various sized game animals.
Kinetic Energy Recommendations for Bowhunting
Medium Game (Deer, Antelope)
Large Game (Elk, Black Bear, Boar)
Big Game (Cape Buffalo, Grizzly Bear)
How to calculate Kinetic Energy -
So, now that we know what Kinetic Energy is and why it is important to bow hunters, let's more closely examine the formula for calculating it. As stated above, kinetic energy is a product of mass and acceleration and thus, in order to calculate how much kinetic energy any given bow/arrow/broadhead combination generates, you need to use the following formula:
KE = (m x v2)/450,800
However, to explain this in terms that those of us who are not math geniuses can understand, you need to multiply the arrow's weight in grains (440 grains = 1 ounce) by the square of its velocity measured in feet-per-second and then, divide that product by 450,800 which will yield an answer measured in foot/pounds. For example, let’s say that we have a compound bow that shoots a 425 grain hunting arrow at 300 feet-per-second. Then, the kinetic energy of this setup would be calculated by taking the arrow's weight of 425 grains and multiplying that by its speed of 300 fps times 300 fps and then, dividing the resulting product by 450,800 which would yield a kinetic energy of 84.85 ft. lbs of kinetic energy.
Light arrows vs. heavy arrows-
Last, it should be noted that when a bow is drawn, the bow's limbs store a significant amount of potential energy and the very large majority of this energy is transferred to the arrow/broadhead upon release of the bow's string but, not all of it. Therefore, because some part of this potential energy remains, it causes vibration in the bow which can be both felt and heard by the archer. Therefore, a by shooting a heavier arrow/broadhead combination, more energy will be absorbed by the arrow which leaves less energy to cause vibration and noise in the bow upon release. Also, according to Newton's First Law of Motion, the greater the mass of an object in motion, the more force that is required to slow that object down and/or halt its forward motion. Therefore, it is also important to remember that kinetic energy only remains constant when the mass and velocity of the arrow remain constant. But, because arrow velocity decreases as its distance traveled increases, an arrow's kinetic energy also decreases over distance traveled. Therefore, a heavier arrow will not only absorb more energy from the bow, it will also retain more energy down range because it has more inertia and thus, it is less susceptible to outside forces such as air density and wind resistance. Consequently, while it may seem counter-intuitive, archers with lower draw weights and/or shorter draw lengths should consider shooting a heavier arrow in order to preserve kinetic energy and increase penetration rather than shooting a lighter arrow to increase arrow velocity.
So, even though archery manufacturers seem to be laser focused on increasing arrow velocity due to the fact that the faster an arrow/broadhead combination of any given weight leaves the bow causes it to have a flatter trajectory, it should also be noted that it's still very important to consider shot placement, broadhead design, and a myriad of other factors when determining the effectiveness of a hunting arrow fired from a bow. But, nonetheless, kinetic energy is still a very important part of this equation and thus, it's far better that your arrows have too much kinetic energy than too little!
Any experienced tournament archer will tell you that shooting a bow accurately definitely requires both skill and a considerable amount practice to instill the muscle memory your body needs to automatically conform to the correct shooting stance, to hold the bow steady and, to follow through after you release the string. However, they will also tell you that all of that is the easy part and that the hard part is learning the mental discipline needed to accurately gauge the distance to your target under pressure and to repeatedly make accurate shots. Of course, these issues are not limited to tournament archers because they also have an adverse effect on bow hunters. In fact, most bow hunters have experienced target panic at one time or another and, most of us have missed our chance at filling our tag by misjudging the distance to our intended target. Therefore, the ability to shoot a bow accurately really comes down to mental discipline and the amount of confidence you have in your ability to make an accurate shot. But, when opening day is fast approaching and you are still not shooting well, both the pressure to shoot well and the anxiety caused by not being able to do so can become debilitating.
Therefore, the first thing that you need to understand is that although frequent practice can certainly make you a better archer, it is possible to shoot too much. While we all enjoy a good session with our bow and the feeling of flinging a few arrows now and then as well as the satisfaction that comes with seeing our arrows hit the target with the shafts touching each other, such satisfaction can become an obsession. However, the fact is that an archer's accuracy inevitably suffers as their body fatigues and thus, rather than continue shooting and watching your groups become continuously larger as your shots become more erratic, it is best to cease shooting the moment your groups open up rather than allowing your mind to become fixated on your sudden lack of accuracy. Also, when target shooting, most archers tend to shoot their entire quiver of arrows before walking to the target to retrieve them and thus, another trick is to give both your body and your mind a rest between shots by only shooting only one arrow at a time and then retrieving it before making the next shot. That way, you can mentally review your shot sequence after each shot while you are walking to and from the target as well as giving your upper body a rest and that way, you more closely mimic hunting conditions because you know that you are only going to take one shot and thus, it has to count.
Another thing that you need to understand is that it is possible to shoot on the wrong day. Now, what I mean by that is that all archers have their good days and their bad days. For instance, there are days when you can step up to your firing line, take once glace at the target to gauge the range, draw your bow, casually place the correct sight pin on the point you where you want your arrow to strike and, when you release the string, your arrow seems to somehow just magically fly to that particular point. But, there are other days when you just cannot seem to get the range right or, you simply cannot seem to get your body to follow through the shot. Thus, on those days, rather than attempting to force your mind and your body to work together to make accurate shots, it is best to simply walk away, put your bow up, and come back the next day after you have had some time for both your mind and your body to reset rather than allowing the debilitating condition of target panic to set in.
Then, there is the issue of your release aid. Most bow hunters prefer release aids with wrist straps because having your release aid strapped to your wrist not only keeps it handy for a quick shot, it can also make drawing your bow a bit easier by transferring the stress from your fingers to your wrist. However, this type of release aid has the trigger positioned such that it can be opened by the shooter's index finger. But, the index finger is the most sensitive finger on the Human hand and thus, using a wrist release can also lead to prematurely releasing the bow string which is called "jumping" the target and is equivalent to the flinch some handgun shooters experience just prior to pulling the trigger. Fortunately, there are two different solutions to this problem.
Thus, the first solution is to adjust the sensitivity of the trigger on your release aid so that more pressure is needed to cause the jaws to open. That way, releasing the bow string becomes more of a surprise as the pressure needed to open the jaws increases. However, this solution doesn't always work for everyone and thus, another viable option is to switch to a thumb release aid. Although this type of release aid commonly lacks a wrist strap, it can still be comfortably carried and be kept conveniently handy by inserting it into the waistband of your pants or, in a loosely fitting pocket. In fact, this type of release aid is commonly use by tournament archers because it provides a significantly greater level of control over your shot. However, the real trick to using this type of release aid is to adjust it so that rather than the pad of your thumb resting on the trigger, it should instead rest on the body of the release with the trigger resting in the crease created by the joint where your thumb is the least sensitive and has fixed position. However, rather than contracting your thumb to release the bow's string as you would with a wrist release, you can instead shoot this type of release aid in the same manner that you would use with a back tension release aid by simply contracting your shoulders which causes the release aid to pivot somewhat in your hand to cause your thumb to place enough pressure on the trigger to open the jaws. That way, you can focus entirely on proper stance, shot placement, and follow through without having to send a separate instruction to your hand to pull the trigger at the correct moment which will enable you to eliminate the problem of "jumping" the target.
So, if you suddenly find yourself experiencing large groups and erratic shot placement when you practice prior to opening day, try one of the above mentioned methods to give your body a rest and to readjust your mental state so that anxiety over your shot placement does not cause you to descend into a state of debilitating target panic. Then, if the problem persists, you should consider switching from your usual wrist release aid to a thumb release aid to decrease your trigger sensitivity and thus cause the act of releasing the bow sting to be a surprise rather than an anticipated act fraught with anxiety.
Although our modern, fast paced, society is has brought us many conveniences, it has also trained us to think that the more gadgets we have, the better off we are; especially on our bows! Therefore, we now have arrows made from carbon fibers, broadheads made from aluminum with stainless steel blades, adjustable sights that are marvels of modern machining and, we even have bow mounted laser range finders! But, what most of us fail to contemplate is how all of those gadgets affect both the weight of the bow and its balance and, this is especially true for bow mounted quivers. In fact, while a bow mounted quiver is undeniably convenient, it also adversely affects the balance of your bow which, in turn, adversely affects your accuracy.
Of course, good shooting form, lots of practice and, confidence in your ability to place your arrows where you want them are the backbone of archery accuracy. Thus, while it may not seem like much, mounting a quiver to the side of your bow not only adds several ounces to the overall weight of your bow, it causes it to become imbalanced which does adversely affect accuracy because you have to compensate for said imbalance when you draw and then shoot you bow. In addition, each arrow that you remove from your bow-mounted quiver changes its weight slightly which, again, adversely affects accuracy. In fact, according to Newton's First Law of Motion, an object at rest stays at rest unless an outside force is applied to it and, once it is moving it continues to move unless a force is applied to stop it. Also, according to his second law of motion, an object's inertia consists of its mass multiplied by its velocity. Therefore, not only does adding a bow mounted quiver imbalance your bow, it also adds weight to the side of your bow which accelerates forward when you release the bow string and then has to be halted by you after the arrow has left the arrow rest. Also, the more force that is applied to get the quiver moving, the more force that is required to stop it moving and, all of this inertia results in a tendency for the bow to twist in the shooter's hand when the string is released. Therefore, not only does the extra weight of a bow-mounted arrow quiver add excess weight to only one side of your bow, it also causes torque and, the amount of said imbalance and torque is increased as the weight of the quiver increases.
However, many archers would understandably argue that hanging a few ounces on the side of your bow simply can't make that much difference and, that removing an arrow or two from the quiver causes such a slight change in weight that it could not possibly make any difference at all. However, according to research done by Joe Bell of Bowhunter Magazine, shooting both manually and using a Spott Hog Hooter Shooter bow shooting machine, when the quiver was mounted to the bow and filled with arrows, the arrows fired consistently hit the target low and left for a right handed shooter and that this inaccuracy improved as more arrows were removed from the quiver; thus making it lighter.
In addition, regardless of how much you tighten your accessories, the fact is that a modern compound bow produces a lot of vibration although, this issue has been widely alleviated by the incorporation of parallel limbs. But, regardless of how smoothly a compound bow shoots, it still produces a lot of inertia which is translated to vibration which is then transmitted to every accessory you have mounted on your bow. Thus, when you release the string, the vibration experienced by your bow and your accessories causes at least some noise and, with some bow-mounted arrow quivers, said noise can be quite excessive; thus resulting in that dreaded "bow buzz" effect which can spook your intended target and cause it to jump the string. Therefore, removing the side-mounted quiver from your bow not only improves both its balance and its accuracy, it also causes the bow shoot more quietly.
However, it should also be noted that the particular design of your bow-mounted arrow quiver affects both balance and noise generation. For instance, some side-mounted arrow quivers are designed to be quickly and easily detached from the bow which is a very convenient feature for stationary tree stand and ground blind hunters but, because such quivers usually attach to the bow via a small bracket mounted to the bow sight, they not only protrude a significant distance from the side of the bow which causes significant imbalance, the meager mounting bracket is a weak point which can also generate significant noise due to vibration. Thus, a better choice for mobile hunters is a bow-mounted quiver that attaches directly to the bow's riser at the top and bottom and which closely hugs the bow's riser because, the more closely the quiver hugs the riser, the shorter its Moment Arm will be and thus, the less imbalance it has and, the less torque it can apply when the bow's string is released.
Of course, the ultimate answer to the dilemma of a bow-mounted arrow quiver is to eliminate the quiver altogether! But, the fact is that archers absolutely must have a way to conveniently carry their arrows and thus, simply placing them in your back hip pocket is not a viable solution! Fortunately, archery manufacturers have recognized and responded to this need by producing several different types of hip quivers as well as several different types of back quivers. But, it has been my experience that bow hunting feral hogs in extremely thick cover often results in arrows being inadvertently pulled from both my bow-mounted quiver and my hip quiver and then lost and thus, while hip quivers specifically designed for hunting are certainly a viable alternative when hunting in open terrain, they are simply not acceptable when the hunter has to travel through dense foliage to reach his stand and, especially not when spot-and-stalk hunting in thick cover!
Therefore, the best possible alternative is a back quiver! However, I am not talking about the traditional type of open tube quiver commonly carried by recurve and longbow hunters but, instead, I am referring to the various types of backpack quivers available from numerous different archery manufacturers. In fact, my personal favorites are made by a company called Rancho Safaris who produces a line of backpack arrow quivers that they call Cat Quivers and, the reason that like this particular line of backpack quivers so much is that they are available either with or without one of several different sizes of day packs. Thus, by carrying a backpack arrow quiver, I not only eliminate the excess weight from my bow while also improving its balance and accuracy, I still have convenient access to my arrows while also having a convenient means of carrying items such as urine, food attractant, and cover scents, an extra release aid, a map of the area I will be hunting, my lunch, etcetera. Plus, my arrows don't disappear when I am hunting in thick cover!
Thus, while bow-mounted arrow quivers are the presently accepted norm for most bow hunters and, they undoubtedly have their selling points, the fact is that they not only add excess weight to your bow, they also adversely affect your bow's accuracy and cause you to have to work harder than necessary to achieve pinpoint accuracy when placing your arrows. Thus, while bow-mounted arrow quivers might seem like a bowhunter's friend, they are actually your foe!
The Modern Art of Concealment
If you take the time to speak with any avid bow hunter, they will inevitably tell you that bow hunting is a close range encounter! In fact, for most bow hunters, a 50 yard shot is a long one with 20 and 30 yard shots being far more common. However, while hunting at such close ranges is also a familiar prospect for handgun hunters, it is almost unheard of for rifle hunters! Therefore, because bow hunting requires that the hunter be skillful enough to be able to raise, draw, aim, and shoot their bow at such close ranges, proper concealment is of paramount importance.
Fortunately, camouflage manufacturers have realized the need for updated camouflage patterns and thus, gone are the days of hunters being forced to purchase surplus military camouflage clothing since we now have such patterns as Mossy Oak Break Up Country, Mossy Oak Obsession, and Mossy Oak Tree stand which do such an excellent job of concealing hunters that most of us have seen the advertisements in which a hunter in camouflage is pictured but, is nearly invisible!
However, regardless of how effective your camouflage pattern is, the fact is that most game animals do not depend on extreme visual acuity the way that Humans do and thus, judging an animal's ability to spot a hunter in the field by Human standards is misleading. Therefore, while choosing one of the many modern camouflage patterns is certainly a wise choice, simply choosing the appropriate pattern is not enough to conceal your presence from game animals whose other senses are far more acute than those of Humans.
Thus, in addition to choosing an appropriate camouflage pattern for the type of terrain and foliage you will be hunting in as well as choosing an appropriate weight of clothing according to the ambient temperature, you also need to takes steps to eliminate your Human scent as much as possible. Therefore, such companies as Hunters Specialties make scent elimination kits that contain everything you need to do so. In addition, certain camouflage clothing manufacturers offer clothing with various built-in scent elimination properties such as threads made of thin strands of silver woven into the fabric and activated charcoal linings. Also of special importance is the boots that you choose to wear because, regardless of how carefully a hunter chooses his path, hunting boots that lack scent elimination capabilities inevitably leave traces of Human scent behind as the hunter travels through the woods which can be detected by most game animal’s super sensitive noses.
Furthermore, even though a hunter may be nearly invisible when perched in a tree stand or hiding behind a ground blind when wearing a modern camouflage pattern, the fact is that most game animals depend on seeing movement to alert them to the presence of predators. Thus, it is also imperative that hunters learn to minimize their movements when both tree stand and ground blind hunting and to only raise and draw their bows when the animal is looking in another direction. Plus, it also imperative the hunters also learn to minimize the sound of their movements as they do so because, often times, even a slight sound (to a Human) can alert a game animal and cause them to focus their attention on the hunter's position; at which point even a minor movement can cause them to spook.
Last, in addition to choosing an appropriate camouflage pattern, taking the time and making the effort to eliminate your Human scent, and eliminating all extraneous movement and sound when sitting in a tree stand or a ground blind, hunters should also employ one of the many modern cover scents. However, when doing so, it is important to choose a cover scent that is appropriate to the type of foliage you will be hunting in since using the wrong scent, such as a pine cover scent while hunting in a hardwood forest, may alert the game animal that something is amiss and cause them to be more cautious than usual.
So, as you can see, although modern technology has provided hunters with some of the best camouflage patterns ever invented, there far more to the modern art of concealment than meets the eye!
If you are one of those very fortunate bow hunters who has never experienced target panic, then you may not fully understand just how debilitating this syndrome can be for some archers. However, target panic is a crippling condition that affects both novice and experienced archers alike and thus, although no definitive studies have been done to date, some experts believe that ninety percent or more of bow hunters will experience target panic at some point during their hunting careers. In fact, it is quite likely that target panic is the number one reason that most archers leave the sport of bow hunting behind! However, because there are no scientific studies of this debilitating condition, most of what we think we know is based upon personal experience and supposition. But, as a bow hunter, it is important that you understand that such a condition does exist and that, even if you don’t presently experience any of the symptoms, there are steps that can be taken to alleviate your syndrome if it does suddenly develop.
So, what is target panic and how do you get past it? Well, there again, because there are no definitive scientific studies on the subject, there is no clear definition of exactly what target panic is nor what causes it but, some of the generally recognized symptoms are: the inability to place the sight pin in the center of the target, freezing above or below the target (usually below), the inability to release the arrow at the target, jerking the trigger instead of squeezing it or achieving a surprise release and, last but not least, “drive by shooting” in which the archer jerks the trigger on his release aid as the sight pin drifts past the intended target.
However, even though we do not know the definitive cause of target panic, the general consensus among archers is that it is caused by anxiety concerning some aspect of the shot process and thus, while not clinically proven to work, the following steps are loosely based upon the process of systematic desensitization:
Learn to shoot with a hinge-style release aid – it is believed that anticipation of the shot is one of the major causes of target panic. Thus, hinge-style release aids (aka “back tension release”) are specifically designed to cause the release to be a surprise to the archer. However, when first learning to use this type of release, you should use a loop of cord held in your bow hand rather than your bow.
Shoot your bow with your eyes closed – although we often strive to do so, no one can hold a bow perfectly steady at full draw. Therefore, the second step to eliminating shot anxiety is to shoot with your eyes closed. Thus, start by obtaining a large target and significantly reducing the draw weight of your bow. Then, position yourself a short distance from the target (3 to 5 ft.), nock an arrow, draw your bow, and aim while focusing on the sight pin. Then, close both eyes, relax, and release the string while concentrating on the feel of the shot. Repeat until you are comfortable.
Shoot a bare bow – because the sight pin often serves as a distraction, the next step is to remove the sights and concentrate entirely on the feel of the shot instead. Thus, remain close to the target and focus on how the bow feels in your hand and how it feels as you draw and release the string with your eyes open. Also, imagine that you are following the arrow on its flight to the target.
Shoot with sight and a target – next, you need to introduce both a sight and a target. But, you do not want to actually aim just yet! Instead, place a brand new target face on your target, replace the sights on your bow, and adjust them way up so that your arrow will not strike the center of the target. Then, stand close to the target (3 to 5 ft.), draw your bow, place the sight pin in the center of the ten ring, and fire one arrow repeatedly. But, instead of concentrating on the sight pin and holding the bow steady, let the bow drift and instead concentrate on the feel of the shot as you release the arrow as described in the previous step.
Move back to the 5 yard point and aim – for this step, you will need to move back to five yards, face your target, nock an arrow, draw your bow, and aim at the center of the target. But, DO NOT SHOOT! Instead, simply aim at the target for 15 seconds while concentrating on keeping the pin in the center of the ten ring and then relax your draw for 30 seconds. Then, perform this step repeatedly.
Shoot at 5 yards – for this step, you will need to stand approximately five yards from the target, nock an arrow, draw your bow, and aim at the center of the target as in the previous step but, in this step you will actually fire the arrow at the target. However, because your sights have been adjusted way up, your arrows will strike the target well below your point of aim which will enable you to concentrate on the feel of the shot instead of shooting tight groups. Then, repeat this process at ten, fifteen, and twenty yards until you are comfortable.
Shoot for score – in this step, you will employ everything that you have learned in each of the previous steps but, in this step, you will actually be attempting to achieve tight groups. Thus, move back up to five yards and readjust your sights so that your arrow hits the center of the target when you aim at it. Then, face the target, nock an arrow, draw your bow, and aim while attempting to keep the sight pin in the center of the ten ring. However, your main focus should be on the feel of the shot, including correct shooting form, as you release the arrow; not the sight pin as you might expect.
Transition back to your original release aid and draw weight – once you become comfortable with the previous seven steps, you are then ready to transition back to your original draw weight and release aid. Thus, start by keeping your draw weight low and positioning yourself at five yards from the target. Then, draw your bow using your original release aid and aim at the center of the ten ring but, rather than concentrating on the sight pin, instead concentrate on the feel of the shot as you trip the trigger. Then, once you are comfortable with your original release aid, return your bow to its original draw weight while continuing to relax and concentrate on the feel of the shot as you release the arrow with the exact position of the sight pin being of secondary concern.
So, if you are one of the many archers who either have in the past or, is presently, struggling with target panic, then fear not because, rather than being forced to give up your favorite sport, instead all you need is a little mental retraining! Thus, although not clinically proven, the eight steps mentioned above will certainly help to desensitize and distance you from your anxiety concerning the shot process. That way, you can instead relax and concentrate on the feel of the shot with such considerations as choosing the correct point of aim and the right moment to release the string being secondary, although still important, concerns. Just not your entire focus!
Although modern, fixed-blade, broadheads with their extra wide cutting diameters and razor sharp, replaceable, blades are certainly a boon to the present day bow hunter, the fact is that when we combined these wonders of mechanical engineering with our new, super fast, compound bows, strange things start to happen. In fact, the heart of the problem lies in the fact that whenever we mount a fixed-blade broadhead on the end of an arrow shaft and then launch it at high speed toward a target, the fixed blades extending from the ferrule tend to act like wings which can seemingly cause the arrow to have a mind of its own! Thus, two possible solutions to this problem are to reduce the speed of your arrows by reducing the draw weight or, to replace your fixed-blade broadheads with mechanical broadheads. However, many dedicated bow hunters adamantly resist either solution and thus, for these intrepid, die-hard, traditionalists, the only other solution is to take the time necessary to tune each arrow/broadhead individually so that it flies as straight as possible.
Thus, while it may seem like and oxymoron, the first step in tuning your broadheads is to make certain that your arrows are straight and your bow is properly tuned because, if your arrows are not straight and/or your bow is not properly tuned, the no amount of effort on your part is going to cause your broadheads to group like field points. However, since bow tuning is outside the scope of this article, suffice to say that choosing the correct arrow spine, the correct arrow rest alignment, the correct nock point, and the correct amount of tiller can all have a positive effect on your arrow’s flight and thus, tuning your bow with field points prior to tuning your broadheads is of paramount importance. Thus, once you have your bow tuned to where it is shooting accurately using field points, then you can address the issue of tuning your broadheads. Of course, the next step in tuning your broadheads is to make certain that the broadheads themselves are in alignment with the arrow shaft and, in order to do this, you will need some sort of device such as the Arrow Inspector from Pine Ridge Archery that will enable you to support the arrow’s shaft while you spin it manually. By using such a device, you can place your arrow’s shaft in the rollers and then spin it back and forth by hand in order to note any wobble in either the broadhead or the nock since, if either one is out of alignment, it will cause the arrow to veer off course in flight. In addition, at this point, it should be noted that due to the difference in manufacturing processes, while most machined broadheads with replaceable blades tend to be well balanced and to fly straight, the same cannot be said for single-piece broadheads and thus, if you choose to use single-piece broadheads, then it is imperative that you test each one individually and discard any that display a significant degree of wobble when mounted on an arrow shaft. Next, because the most significant source of broadhead wobble is either an insert that does not fit squarely with the end of the arrow’s shaft or, one that does not fit tightly within the arrow’s shaft, you need to check the alignment of the insert with the end of the arrow shaft in order to make certain that the arrow’s shaft has been cut squarely and that the base of the insert aligns squarely with it and, using a device such as the G5 Arrow Squaring Device can make this job a lot easier. However, it should be noted that not all screw-in inserts are created equal and thus, while some will display a significant degree of difference between the outside diameter of the insert and the inside diameter of the arrow’s shaft, others such as the Easton RPS as well as those made by Saunders and Arizona Archery Enterprises tend to provide the best possible fit and thus, the best performance. Then, once you have checked and corrected the straightness of your arrow’s shafts and the alignment of each or your inserts and broadheads so that they display little or no wobble when spun, the last step to tuning your broadheads so that they group similar to your field points is to micro-tune the alignment of your arrow rest while shooting your broadheads. In fact, even if you are certain that your arrow components are perfectly aligned and you have your bow tuned in such a way that it is shooting bullet holes through paper using field points, your broadheads still may not strike the target in the same place as your field points. Therefore, the final trick to tuning your broadheads is to fine-tune the alignment your arrow rest. While this little trick may seem like magic when you see the results, the fact is that once all other factors have been corrected, minor changes in the alignment of your arrow rest can have drastic effects on the accuracy of your broadheads. Thus, even after tuning your bow, squaring the ends of your arrow shafts, tightening the alignment of your inserts, and checking your broadheads for wobble, if you broadheads are still not striking the target at the same point as your field points, then try moving your arrow rest ever so slightly in the direction that you want to arrow’s point of impact to move. For instance, if your broadheads are still striking the target to the left of your field points, then try moving your arrow rest ever-so-slightly to the left and the same is true if they are striking to the right as well as above or below the desired point of impact.
So, while all of this may seem like a lot of work, the fact is that choosing an arrow with the correct spine for your draw weight, draw length, and broadhead weight as well as properly tuning your bow, squaring and aligning the arrow’s components, and then micro-tuning the alignment of your arrow rest is the only reliable way to achieve field point accuracy with your broadheads. However, if all of these steps are done correctly, the resulting accuracy is well worth the effort since it will cause your broadheads to strike the target where you aim them instead of wherever the broadhead directs them to strike!
Many bow hunters are plagued with the ability to shoot very tight groups when shooting alone in their backyards or at their local archery range with friends but, when confronted with a live buck during hunting season; buck fever causes them to miss their target! However, the fact is that when shooting at inanimate targets at home or at the range, we are simply not confronted with the same level of excitement or pressure that we are when facing a live animal. Therefore, when facing an inanimate target, we can afford to take plenty of time to make a smooth shot whereas, when confronted with shooting at a live animal, excitement often causes us to feel that then need to make the shot immediately which, in turn, can cause us to flinch slightly at the instant of release. Naturally, this phenomenon is very frustrating for bow hunters who often spend countless hours locating and patterning a specific buck only to miss their target when they finally get the chance to take a shot but, fortunately there is a simple cure for this most annoying of problems which consists of retraining yourself to develop a good pre-shot routine which you follow for each and every shot you take in combination with learning how to shoot using surprise release.
Thus, in order to develop a good pre-shot routine, you must first realize that there are numerous steps a bow hunter must go through before releasing the arrow but, you also need to be aware that buck fever can interfere with both range calculation and fine motor control. Therefore, the first step in leaning to shoot accurately when under pressure is to lean to go through the same mental and physical steps on the range that you should use when hunting. For instance, as a deer approaches your tree stand or ground blind, start by first locating one or more shooting lanes that you believe that your skill level will enable you to accurately shoot an arrow through and note any overhanging limbs that may deflect your arrow from its intended flight path. Then, as the deer approaches one of those shooting lanes, decide when you are going to draw your bow so that the deer will not see you do so. Then, as you watch the deer approach your chosen shooting lane, gauge the distance to your target and decide which pin you are going to use and whether you are going to hold it high, dead on, or low and how much. Next you need to decide precisely where you want to place your arrow but, instead of choosing a general area, you should instead choose a specific spot no larger than two inches in diameter. Furthermore, you should concentrate on aiming at that particular spot rather than aiming at the whole animal. Last, before you release, the arrow you should consciously note any strong crosswinds that may deflect your arrow from the intended flight path.
Then, once you have learned to develop and follow a good pre-shot routine with every single shot you take while shooting at inanimate targets as well as when shooting at live targets, the next step to learning to shoot accurately when under pressure is to learn to use a surprise release in order to eliminate any tendency to flinch at the moment of release. Of course, the reason that some archers tend to flinch at the same moment that they decide to trip the trigger of their release aids is the anticipation of the bow's limbs recoiling to their unloaded position as well as both the vibration and noise that releasing the bow's string creates. Thus, the first step to curing this annoying tendency is to learn to draw the bow all of the way to the wall rather than suspending in the valley so that you have a solid anchor point from which to release the string. Next, you need to increase the amount of pressure that is required to trip the trigger on your release aid so that when you place your index finger on the trigger and pull, there is a significant amount of resistance so that you do not know exactly when the trigger will trip and open the jaws of the release. That way, when you are at full draw and you have your chosen pin placed where you want it on the target, the actual release will come as a surprise to you and that way, you will not have time to anticipate the release and subsequently flinch at the critical moment.
Thus, if you are one of those hunters who can hit a quarter at fifty yards when shooting at home or at the range with your buddies but who struggles with "buck fever" when facing a live animal, the first key to overcoming this debilitating issue to bowhunting accuracy is first develop and follow for every single shot you take a good pre-shot routine. Then, for those bow hunters who have a problem with anticipating the shot and thus flinching immediately prior to releasing the bow string, the second key to bow hunting accuracy is to lean to develop and use a surprise release so that you will be both mentally and physically unable to determine exactly when your release aid will release the bow string. Then, by combining these two techniques, you will undoubtedly gain significantly better accuracy when bow hunting because they will enable you to deal with the elevated stress levels all bow hunters feel when suddenly facing a live animal.
It's that time of year again when the weather is cooling, the leaves are turning, and many of you already have your favorite hunting locations scouted and the deer in your area patterned. However, although bow season in most states opens well prior to the beginning of the rut (thus giving bow hunters a significant advantage over gun hunters), most avid deer hunters are well aware that the rut often provides both archers and gun hunters alike the best opportunity to harvest a trophy buck. Consequently, hunting scrape lines is an popular tactic among experienced Whitetail Deer hunters because scrapes tend to provide not only a positive sign that a mature buck is in the area, they also provide a definitive trail for us to follow and thus find the perfect location for placing our tree stands or ground blinds. Plus, although many hunters are familiar with the practice of using attractant scents to draw deer close to their stands during the rut, nothing inflames the ire of a mature buck like the presence of a rival buck invading his territory. Thus, the practice of creating a mock scrape along an existing scrape line is an excellent strategy for drawing a mature buck within bow range.
But, creating a mock scrape is a somewhat more complicated process than most hunters realize and the reason for this is that when a mature buck decides to create a scrape, he deposits several different scents which biologists believe not only indicates to the does that a mature buck has claimed that territory, it also conveys information on sexual maturity, relative age, and overall health. Consequently, simply clearing a patch of ground and sprinkling a bit of buck urine onto it does not create a realistic mock scrape. In fact, observation of mature bucks actually creating a scrape reveals that do not urinate directly onto the bare ground but instead, they urinate on their Tarsal Glands and then allow the urine to run down their legs onto the ground. For those of you who are not familiar with the Tarsal Gland, it appears as tuft of coarse hair located on the hind legs of both does and bucks and, when a deer deposits urine on its Tarsal Gland, the urine reacts with bacteria to create powerful scent that is unique to each individual deer. Consequently, the first step to creating a mock scrape is to activate a Tarsal Gland of your own by pouring a bit buck urine such as Tink's Trophy Buck Lure or Code Blue's Whitetail Buck Urine over it well prior to your hunt so that the appropriate bacteria has time to accumulate. That way, when you are ready to create your mock scrape, your Tarsal Gland will be ready as well. Then, once you are ready to actually create your mock scrape, you will need to "recharge" your Tarsal Gland by pouring more dominate buck urine over it while allowing the excess to dribble onto the patch of ground you have uncovered. However, Tarsal Glands and dominate buck urine alone do not create a realistic mock scrape because deer have another gland located between their hooves called an Interdigital Gland which exudes a waxy looking substance that also contains a strong scent that is deposited onto the ground when the buck scrapes the ground clear with his hooves. Therefore, in order to create a realistic mock scrape, you also need to add a bit of scent such as Tink's Fresh Tracks scent from the Interdigital Gland. Furthermore, it has also been observed that when making a scrape, mature bucks often choose locations with low hanging branches which they then rub with their muzzles and forehead in order to deposit a third type of scent from their Preorbital Glands which are located just below their eyes. Therefore, in order to make your mock scrape as realistic as possible, you also need to imitate this behavior by depositing a bit of Preorbital Gland scent on overhanging branches and Code Blue's Rack Rub is specifically designed for just this purpose.
Consequently, by combining all three types of glandular scents with dominate buck urine when creating a mock scrape, you will create a scrape that not only appears to be the real thing, it will smell like the real thing to any mature deer in the area and thus, it is far more likely to attract a mature buck who is looking for a fight which will drastically increase your chances harvesting a trophy this season.
Most avid deer hunters are well aware that getting to your stand before dawn and staying there all day provides the hunter with the greatest odds of seeing a mature buck. However, simply walking into the woods, finding a likely spot, and staying there until dark is not likely to accomplish your goal of filling your tag when the hunting pressure is on. Instead, anytime hunting pressure is a major factor in the area where you hunt, taking the time to find the best possible location for your stand is well worth the time and effort involved and, in fact, there are three types of super stand locations that you should concentrate your time and effort on finding.
For instance, in mountainous or hilly country, mature bucks tend to prefer traveling parallel to ridges about two-thirds of the way down from the crest of the ridge and, although this information is not new to experienced deer hunters, if you really want to increase your odds of harvesting a big buck in mountainous or hilly terrain, you need to take this concept one step further by looking for locations where two or more ridges intersect or, even better, look for a location where a series of ridges drop into a valley. The reason for this is that many wildlife biologists believe that deer use particular landmarks like ridge crests or places where several ridges descend into a valley as reference points for their travels the same way humans do. In addition, when deer choose to cross a ridge, they tend to do at select locations. Also, these crossing points are invariably located in depressions or low points (aka saddles) in the ridge that allow the deer to move from one side of the ridge to the other without exposing themselves to the skyline. However, when hunting saddles in open terrain, it is important to remember not place your stand directly on top of the ridge where you can cover both sides because, if you do so, then your slightest movement can give you away as the deer approaches the saddle because you will by outlined by the exposed sky behind you (unless you are using a fully enclosed ground blind).
However, when hunting in lowlands and/or coastal plains, you should instead concentrate on locating bedding areas in extra thick cover where you see deer trails entering or exiting the brush because mature bucks will seldom leave the security of thick cover during the daylight hours. Therefore, after locating a prime bedding area, you should then identify the most heavily used trails and place your stand on the edge of these thickets well inside of the bush line adjacent to one of these frequently used trails. But, be aware that hunting in thick cover requires an all-day commitment because any time you enter one of these areas and then climb up to, or down from, your stand, the deer will hear you and become aware of your presence which will cause them to either hold fast or sneak out the back way without your knowledge. Therefore, it is imperative that you enter stands located in these areas before dawn and not leave them until full dark has descended in order to disturb deer movements as little as possible.
Furthermore, mature bucks are extremely wary by nature and thus, they are not comfortable exposing themselves to view. Therefore, mature bucks will invariably locate, and then use, travel corridors that enable them to conceal their presence as they travel from one location to another. Thus, while the list of favored travel corridors is as widely varied as the terrain, such corridors often include narrow bands of dense trees or brush, overgrown fence lines, ditches, creek bottoms, and windbreaks. Therefore, key locations for hunters are anywhere two or more of these travel corridors meet. Consequently, using topographical maps combined with aerial or satellite photographs (Google Earth is an excellent tool for this purpose) can be a great help in locating these prime stand locations. Then, once you believe that you have located one or more of these prime locations, it's time to put your boots on and get out and scout those areas for physical signs of deer usage and, if you truly have located one these super stand locations, then you will immediately recognize it as such because the trails in these prime travel corridors are often more akin to a highways than a normal deer trail and thus, they are very distinct! Consequently, you should place your stand or ground blind near one of these intersections in order to drastically increase your odds of getting a shot at a mature buck.
Therefore, because hunting pressure often causes deer to vary from their normal patterns, simply finding a favored food source and setting up near it as you normally would is not likely to provide you with the means of filling your tag. Thus, you should instead concentrate your efforts on locating one or more the super stand locations mentioned above in order to drastically increase your odds of seeing a mature buck.
To most archers who shoot a modern compound bow, a crossbow is little more than a curiosity and, to most traditional archers who shoot either a recurve or a longbow, a cross bow is pure anathema. However, the fact of the matter is that the modern crossbow has evolved right along with the modern compound bow and, in fact, they share the same technology. Consequently, today's crossbows are significantly more sophisticated than those of even just a few years ago and thus, not only are they considerably faster, they are also more accurate, more compact, and lighter weight. Consequently, there are now more reasons than ever to consider making the switch to this so called "primitive weapon".
Of course, one question that nearly all hunters ask at one time or another is "why would I want to use a crossbow?" and, while the answers to this question are many and varied, one answer is that a crossbow is perfect for people who are avid gun hunters that would also like to extend their season but, don't wish to spend the time necessary to become skilled with a compound or recurve bow. Thus, because a crossbow is essentially an extra-short bow mounted on the end of a gun stock, the same skills that are used to shoot a firearm can be employed to shoot a crossbow; thus making it a familiar weapon. Plus, because a crossbow can be pre-drawn and cocked prior to encountering game, it only requires the strength to draw the bow, not hold it in the drawn position while trying to aim; thus making it much easier to achieve an accurate shot. Also, a handful of the fastest crossbows on the market today can achieve arrow speeds exceeding 400 fps (a threshold that compound bow shooters can only dream about) which translates to exceptionally flat trajectories over long ranges. Furthermore, a crossbow can be outfitted with modern, illuminated, multi-reticule, scopes that are specifically calibrated for use with a crossbow and thus, they provide the archer sophisticated optics for pinpoint accuracy. Last, most people can master the basic skills of shooting a crossbow in no more than an hour or so of informal shooting in their backyard and after that, a little practice is all that is needed to hone the skill and keep it sharp.
But, regardless of your reasons for deciding to make the switch to shooting a crossbow, it's a wise idea to spend some time learning about them and learning what features set one crossbow apart from another so that you can make the best possible choice when it comes time to purchase your first crossbow. So, what features should you look for when choosing a crossbow? Well, the four criteria that most people consider most important are that it be fast, lightweight, compact, and accurate. Now, obviously, the faster the arrow travels, the flatter its trajectory will be but, the reason that a flat trajectory is so important is that even though archers commonly engage targets at much closer ranges than gun hunters, shot placement is still critical and thus, so is range estimation. But, the flatter the arrow's trajectory is, the less drop it will experience and thus, the less critical precise range estimation becomes. Also, when choosing a crossbow, you should pay close attention to its overall weight because, just like a compound bow, you are going to have to carry it into and out of the woods with you. Therefore, while a crossbow that is a little on the heavy side is not a problem if you are hunting on reasonably flat terrain and/or reasonably close to your vehicle, a few ounces can make a huge difference and, when traversing rough terrain and/or long distances, a difference of a couple of pounds can feel like the difference between carrying a recurve and carrying a compound bow. In addition, most hunters want a bow that is well balanced and easy to maneuver in a tree stand or a ground blind and thus, crossbows with short stocks and short axle-to-axle lengths are often sought after. Then, there is the question of limb design because you will need to choose between recurve and compound limbs. While it is true that recurve limb designs are both lighter and quieter than compound limb designs, it is also true that compound limbs are usually significantly faster than recurve limbs of the same draw weight due to their cams which, in turn, leads us to the next question concerning draw weight. For instance, while it is true that most states only require a minimum crossbow draw weight of 75 to 125 lbs., most hunters prefer at least a 150 lb. draw weight but, for those hunters who like to pursue truly large and/or dangerous game species, draw weights of 175 lbs. to 225 lbs. are not at all excessive. But, archers with smaller statures may find it difficult to draw a bow of that weight and thus, they may require a lesser draw weight instead. However, some models do have integral cocking devices which make drawing the bow much easier; thus placing it within the capacity of most shooters to draw even the heaviest bows. Furthermore, it is wise to choose a model that incorporates both an automatic safety mechanism and an automatic dry fire inhibitor to prevent accidental damage to the bow and, it is helpful to choose one that has a let off mechanism so that you do not have to fire the bow to uncock it. Beyond that, it is mostly a matter of bells and whistles such as whether the stock has an adjustable butt plate and cheek piece or not, whether it has a machined aluminum barrel or a carbon fiber barrel, whether it has a machined aluminum riser or a carbon fiber riser, whether or not it has a vibration dampening system, and the type of sight that it comes with.
So, because the modern crossbow has evolved dramatically over the last decade, speed, accuracy, size, and weight have all been significantly improved and thus, many of the reasons that hunters had for disliking crossbows are now non-existent. In fact, attitudes toward this not so primitive weapon have changed so much in recent years that some states now allow the use of crossbows throughout their entire bow season by any hunter of legal age and more states are expected to follow suite in the future. Consequently, the number of hunters choosing to hunt with a crossbow is also expected to rise. Therefore, if you are not presently an archer but are considering becoming one in order to extend your hunting season, then a crossbow just may be the perfect answer for you.