This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend the Traditional Bowhunters Expo. While planning for this adventure, taking me from my home in Virginia and with a destination of Kalamazoo, Michigan, I was glassing over the flyer nearly every day. I knew right away that I would be attending the expo, but was tossing around the idea of attending the 3D Shootout that was also taking place. My fear of failure and potential rejection as a “reputable” hunter was holding me back from allow myself the opportunity. I decided I would do it, but had no idea what I was in for.
The months leading up to this trip involved a lot of late season hunting for whitetail deer. With limited light due to sunset times near the winter solstice and the need to fill my freezer with the available time I had, practice was limited. I found myself shooting only 3 times a week or so and limiting myself to 10 yard distances in my basement. This limited practice had my head spinning with presumed judgement from other competitors. Little did I know that I would soon be discovering what “3D” really stood for in archery.
All of the ranges during this shoot were posed on 8.5×11″ printer paper and taped to the floor along with the corresponding target number. Targets were number from 1 to 30. The order for this was simple. All of this inforamtion was on the shooting line where you would stand to shoot each target. Looking downrange, the first (#1) target was on the left side and the last target (#30) was on the right most side.
Information overload has been an ongoing issue for me. It happens at work, at home, and in my tree stand. In a way, these posted ranges threw off my routine and effected me greatly. They changed how I was presented information, which in turn changed my shot sequence and gathering of the necessary information. This immediately added an unknown stress I was forced to work through.
In the whitetail woods of Virginia, I must be extremely deliberate in taking advantage of the opportunities I am given. This is typically the case for most traditional bowhunters, due to the limited range we have, ultimately effecting the amount of opportunity we are given. What I found interesting about my experience in Kalamazoo, is that I was working through a similar stress. Having 3 other shooters behind you, waiting for their turn, replicated this “window of opportunity” quite well. Not to mention they are also watching every move you make and every arrow you shoot. No pressure…
Following Joel Turners “Controlled Process Shooting” has brought my shot miles from where I used to be. Target panic and buck fever were a real problem that I would try to work through, come up with the answer, and still not be able to mentally gain control of my arrow. As I was shooting, I started to notice my mantra get quieter. I could also feel my grip sere becoming harder and harder to press through on the riser of my Hoyt Satori.
My shot was slowly falling apart. I had to regain focus quickly, and regain the sequence and structure of my shot. In order to do this, I had to dig deep and think about each action I was taking during my shot. In doing this, it brought me back into consciously working through it during my shot execution. I had to dissect it as much as possible. I feel that doing this often would increase capabilities while in hunting scenarios.
Breaking down these actions after each shot, normally gives me clarity on what is going wrong, It also causes me to let down and not forcing myself to shoot. Having nearly 30 targets to reevaluate shot on, and not just shooting the same bag over and over in my backyard, made me really think deeply about the shots.
During my time at Kalamazoo, I was amazed by the caliber of people attending both the expo and the shoot. It was an amazing crowd. Even before shooting, I felt comfortable with the people around me and it put me at ease, calming my nerves before shooting. Being able to shake hands, share experiences and talk about archery equipment can be a very knowledgeable experience itself.
Before the shootout started, everyone was allowed to practice at bags set between 10 and 30 yards. As I switched from target to target, I noticed some misses and loose groups, with no one stressing out. This also put me at ease, as the laughs rolled and humility filled the room. Listening to the arrows fly through the air from different bows was like having music playing in the background. Cedar, carbon, and aluminum tones filled the room.
When the groups were paired up, I was introduced to 3 gentlemen from the surrounding areas; Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. These were great people and were excellent shots. I personally like to compete in most dynamics with people that far excel in the event. Though I know I will not finish in 1st place, I know I will try much harder to keep up.
With the knowledge I gained from this initial exposure, I believe that everyone in the bowhunting community should give 3D a shot. Pun intended. There is much to learn and a great opportunity to work though stressful and pressured situations. There is a safe circle all around us, and inside of it we get too comfortable. Call it our comfort zone. This can make stepping out into the unknown very difficult. As bowhunters, we will never truly be successful inside of our comfort zone. Whether it’s a full freezer, a trophy animal, or becoming a better shot, none of it will be done inside of your comfort zone. Step out of the circle, and become as wild as the game you pursue.