Archery Target Panic: A Real Deal

Target panic on the shooting range can be a real deal. When I heard of target panic in my first year of bow hunting I thought this could never happen to me, I had focus, and years of off-hand rifle shooting and hunting under my belt. Well, a few rough outings this pre-season, an arrow or two launched into the weeds, and confidence began to elude me with struggles of flinching hounding my heels. I began to doubt myself and the joy of shooting arrows escaped, being replaced by concerns of losing an arrow or bad groups. Now, I understand that this is common for every archer and may determine if a person will keep going or hang up the bow and go back to firearms deer hunting. I have never been one to go down without a fight for something I believe in… and I believe in archery!

So here is my solution to target panic.

Slow down the negative thinking, breathe, and get back to the basics of following your shot sequence.

For me this process included these four steps.

1) Draw – see the target and make a smooth draw back to my anchor points.

2) Sight – Acquire the target in the sight field. This applies to traditional or compound archery.

3) Relax – Make a conscious effort to relax your arms, hands, and settle into good posture while letting the bow float on the desired mark.

4) Release – Gently loose your arrow with whatever release method you are using. You should get to a point where you may seem surprised at the string release. Let it become instinctive, or sub-conscious, regardless of your weapon of choice.

The most important part of the equation for me is relaxing before the release. If you follow these simple steps, or something similar that suits you, and flush your mind of negativity, you will regain your confidence and re-discover the joy of archery.

Target panic can be overcome. Focus on your sequence, establish it, be consistent, and your groups and accuracy will improve.

 

Peace

Acorn Munching Yearling

The wait was over. It was my first outing of the two-thousand and eighteen Minnesota Archery Season. I took in a deep breath of the sweet afternoon autumn, mingled with lake-shore fragrance, and struck out for a greatly anticipated bow hunt.

The hiking trail I planned to maneuver skirted the empty water access on Pine Lake. I had walked up on a doe here two weeks ago. Imagination was thick, like the meadow grass which interrupted the woodlands, remnants of long gone farm land hewn from wilderness, and gave contrast to the aspens, pines, and oaks that held promise of bow hunting adventure.

I crept into a steady north east wind, still-hunted as I went, and sat down on a log scouted out in pre-season. My view overlooked a gentle hillside. A large slough hid in thick cover at the bottom of the slope. After an hour, with the forest alive in the breeze, I decided to move as I thought deer would be reluctant to venture through the dancing foliage.

I retreated to the leeward side of the rise and hunkered down in a pine clearing littered with acorns from a massive oak tree.

After a dreamy hour, a healthy yearling materialized into the opening. My heart began to pump. I was amazed at how an animal can move so effortlessly and just appear. The youngster walked under the aged oak and crunched acorns for the next ten minutes, just beyond a thin veil of brush, twenty yards from my ground position against a bordering pine. It’s head bobbed up every several seconds, checked for danger, and occasionally peered back to the direction it emerged from. I knew Mama was close.

I sat in wonder and hoped the mature animal would follow. The adolescent looked back one last time as the older doe winded me and sent the relaxed yearling bounding away with a series of quick blows. The game was over.

With a grin on my face I quickly relocated to another pine stand further down the path with the slim chance of ambushing a buck coming out to the acorns.

Mesmerized by the haunting wind, the last minutes of light slipped through the treetops.

It was a memorable first outing of the two thousand and eighteen season.

Peace

Give & Receive

One of the qualities I admire most about shooting a bow is that it flush’s away all distractions and brings your focus into the task at hand. In today’s world of stress and responsibility, picking up a bow and sending arrows down range can be a satisfying way to relieve those anxieties.

There is a rhythm to the bow. Give and receive. Tension and release. Similar to Fly-fishing, a person can get lost in the artful dance.

For me, the hours of shooting culminates with drawing my bow on a big game animal. I sense that time slows, every fiber of my being joins together for one goal, the successful sending of my arrow to  find its mark.  I become totally engulfed in the cycle. I am a hunter.

If you strive for tournament excellence, work your craft to hunt, or simply enjoy flinging arrows on the back forty, the bow and arrow connection can be experienced by all.

This is archery.

Peace

 

Movement & Sound

A Whitetails world is movement and sound

I am awkward in their realm

I slow down

Stop

Listen

Feel the way of the woods

 

Rain falls

Tumbles over leaves

An orchestra of a thousand instruments

Soft wind adds tone

Texture

Resonance

 

I adjust my tunning

Play the melody of natures unbiased song

A Whitetails world is movement and sound

 

Peace

 

 

 

 

The Winger Buck

My Grandpa Johan Bakke settled a piece of farm land on a hill overlooking the Sandhill River near Winger, MN in the north-west region of the state. I remember walks along a tractor trail and exploring the river flats as a young boy when we would visit. Years later, I hunted this farmland with my Son Nate. On one outing we experienced the most exciting rifle shooting we’ve had together.

It was one of those clear, warm, fall days, that lent itself to dreamy afternoon hours watching painted clouds set against the bright sky and listening to songbirds prepare for their journey south. The morning had been quiet except for observing some families of doe’s walk by our stands. But this year all we had in our pockets were buck tags.

After lunch I decided to still hunt a section of the river along a tree line.

There was a good hunting wind. I tried to spot bedded deer soaking in the sun or catch a cruising buck. Meanwhile, Nate climbed a stand to spy a section of field and trees about fifty yards up from a well-used crossing by the river.

The walk took several hours to pull off. With no deer sighted I approached the section my son was watching and hunkered down out of sight behind a tall bank to rest in the soft grass while keeping an eye on the flats across the Sand Hill waterway… not long after, the stillness erupted into a volley of rifle shots and adrenaline.

The bark of my Son’s Marlin 30-30 jolted me out of my slumber and I wheeled around, scrambled up the bank, a saw a nice young buck wheeling full bore across the plowings towards a far wood-line. I heard Nate send another shot. The animal was racing from my right to left about a hundred yards out, I pulled up my Remington 30-06 semi-auto, joined the fray, and tried my best to lead the buck with three quick off-hand shots. Nate sounded off at least once or twice more with some long desperation shots, but the deer was unscathed and almost out of sight.

With one shot left in the magazine I leaned in as the buck made a sharp right and tried a quick escape into the brush. This move exposed the only option that remained for me. All I could hear was my old mentor saying a good butt-shot, is a good kill shot. I squeezed off my last round and the animal dropped in its tracks. I could not believe it! The blow shattered the deer’s tailbone, killing it instantly, and did not waste one ounce of meat.

With a shout I climbed onto the field and met Nate who was equally excited over the sudden burst of excitement and the reality we would have venison in the freezer after the slow-going bucks only season.

Even now, years later, there is debate as to which one of us finally dropped the buck. Though the youngster may not admit it, we all know it was the old-timer’s amazing two-hundred yard, straight away, off-hand shot that finished the day!

 

 

Peace

Suspense

forest moves like shadow

changes

vaporous

shifts

distant Hoot Owl signals

night

descends

wind

rustles

ghost appears through thicket

weary

guarded

alert

muscles tense heart races

 

Peace

 

Still hunting Whitetail Deer

There are many ways to successfully pursue Ole Woolly. Over the years I have become a still hunter, which is the art of moving slowly, stopping often, and hunting from the ground. I find this challenge to be very rewarding, at times frustrating, but also effective. In this brief article, I want to address three reasons still hunting should be a tactic in your tool-bag.

Flexibility:

The ability to be easily modified – Oxford Dictionary. I believe this may be the most important aspect of still-hunting. Being able to make decisions on your feet based on wind, terrain, weather conditions, deer sign, etc. This leaves you with multiple options to work a section of land. Flexibility allows you to move during the day if the situation calls for action. This mobility leads into the next point.

Variability:

Lack of consistency or fixed pattern; liability to vary or change – Oxford Dictionary. I firmly believe mature Whitetails learn hunter movement. That’s why they get old. Still-hunting allows you to mix it up and change access routes. My philosophy in getting close to big animals is; be where the weary bucks do not expect you to be. Though a cousin to flexibility, variability speaks to the concept of hunting different areas on different days, versus the option of changing on the move. Keeping it light weight and unpredictable can give you an edge which sets up my last point.

Reachability:

Able to be reached; accessible or achievable – Oxford Dictionary. Many hunters do not stray very far from the trail. Still hunting allows you to get past the pressured areas and press into the un-hunted zones. When you are not devoted to a permanent stand, or favorite spot, the possibilities increase, along with your range. I harvested my last big buck across a maze of beaver sloughs in a remote section of hardwoods while still hunting. Deer sightings had been minimal closer to the road, but this buck was out chasing in the middle of the day without a worry in the world.

 

Still hunting will stretch your abilities,  but can be very rewarding work. As you keep these three principles in mind, flexibility, variability, and reachability, while applying your skills to the ground, you will become a better hunter. Getting close to a dominant buck at eye-level is an unrivaled Whitetail experience.

 

Peace

The River Hills

One of my fondest recollections, among many in the Dakota’s, was my first afternoon in the river hills of Oacoma, South Dakota, helping my rancher friend Travis fill a doe tag.  We bounced down a twisty gravel road for many miles in his old pickup and finally rolled to a stop in front of a weather worn cattle gate. After getting my bearings, he pointed out the way for me to make a push. I watched him jump into his truck with a smile and rumble down the trail to his post on the other side of a long valley. I waited and listened to the prairie wind. When the time was right, I weaved my way through many small ravines in the foreign country, bumped some big does and hoped I would not make a wrong turn. As I ducked under a low hanging pine bough I spotted a hunters treasure, a massive antler shed half buried in the loose soil. I pulled the find out of it’s resting place and tucked into my belt. Finally, I trudged up a steep hill and came out on a bluff which over-looked the convergence of the Missouri and White Rivers… The view opened up for miles. I stood in awe and watched two waterways become one, an ancient trail which reflected the days last light as it meandered into a darkened horizon.

Along the way I heard a rifle shot echo through the draws. My buddy Travis had filled his tag!

Peace

Moments

I recently watched a video titled, Who We Are by Donnie Vincent, one of my favorite outdoor writers and film-makers. He was articulating the essence of hunting. It is a very difficult concept to explain or even grasp at times.

There are so many aspects of pursuing game  that I completely enjoy. The friendship with my buddies, the scouting process, becoming one with my weapon, the aloneness,  the chase, the excitement of tagging an animal, and playing a small part in the sacred, time honored tradition, of the hunt are all vital components of my experience. But if I had to place these qualities into one phrase, I would say that hunting comes down to many singular moments.

These moments become seared into my memory. They are the embers which smolder deep in my soul, they guide me, they teach me the ways of God. The moments I find become treasures I carry for a lifetime.

Moments are brief periods when time stops, the preparation of a year’s work which comes together in a perfect series of events. They are pauses when all our senses are fixated on one purpose and we become one with the environment. Moments are brief heartbeats in which we are no longer entering the wilderness as intruders, but crossover, and become part of the ancient sequence of life and death.

Moments are experienced in the shrouded light of an early morning forest. A hushed wind pushing through tall pines, and a silent stalk on a rain-drenched trail that transforms into the first snowfall blanketing the mountain terrain. Moments are engraved upon our lives as we remain motionless in the cover of a blow-down, and peer into the eyes of a cautious bull just yards away. Moments are captured in the breath of a release as an arrow flies to find its mark.

Moments push us to limits we did not think were possible. Moments become seared into our minds and hearts. Moments define us.

A lifetime of hunting moments have shaped me into a bow hunter.

How have the moments of your life sculpted you?

Peace

Photo Credits: Joas Miller; Bob Marshall Wilderness