bowhunting mule deer

How to Make Shots Count in the Field

By Josh Kirchner

It’s safe to say, any avid bowhunter out there will agree that opportunities only come by so often in the archery hunting world. Just finding the animals can be a hill to climb. And when you do succeed at that, getting close for a shot is a whole different ball game. I remember just starting out and fantasizing about what it would be like to actually draw my bow on a hunt. That’s it. Shooting an animal wasn’t even in my scope in that regard. The only way to get good at something though is through repetition. Because of these few and far between opportunities, making the most out of them is huge when it comes to filling those tags. Seizing the moment, if you will. How can we set ourselves up for success and break up the monotony of tag soup with some fresh backstrap?



One of the best ways to prepare one’s self for the big show is by way of visualization. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. And no, you have not stumbled into a class on metaphysics. It’s hard to be ready for something, when you’ve never done it. With more and more exposure, the path to success becomes more exposed. This is what visualization can do for you. It can let you head into a situation and “act like you’ve been there.”  

So, how do we accomplish this wizardy? Come up with your own scenario and walk yourself through it. Everything from the stalk to pulling your bow back on the animal. And then of course, releasing the arrow. Feel the string resting on your nose and the tension of the bow at full draw. Pick a spot on the animal. See the arrow zip through the air and hit its mark. Do this each day, and it’ll put you that much closer to success.

Here’s something similar to what I would visualize before bed each night on a mule deer hunt last fall:

This would start off with a view of my feet sneaking through the grass and wildflowers. Slowly, I was making my way towards a beautiful velvet high country mule deer. A cool breeze hits my face, giving me the confidence that this deer has no clue I’m there. The grass blankets my footsteps and I can feel the texture of blades through my socks. A boulder is right in front of me, and it is what separates me from the bedded buck. After reaching the rock, I nock an arrow and grab my rangefinder. Peering out one side of the rock the velvet rack shines in the sunlight. 35 yards it reads. I attach my release and come to full draw behind the rock. One step at a time, I sidestep into view of the deer. He stands. There is a dark tuft of hair right behind the shoulder, which becomes my aiming point. My pin cloaks that dark spot and I begin pulling with my back muscles slowly, having full confidence that at any moment my arrow is going to be headed his way. And just like that, it does. My release hand flies back away from the deer and the arrow disappears right into that dark spot. A feeling of relief and gratitude rushes over me, as I’ve just filled my deer tag.

Shooting 3D

Shooting a bow

Shooting dots in the backyard or archery range is incredibly helpful. I would argue this is the absolute best way to really get your bow sighted in and ready for action. It lends itself to the well being of your precision. However, there aren’t any conveniently placed orange or white dots on animals that we can aim at. No, this is where we need to “pick a spot” and make our own dots to focus on. This is where 3D shooting comes into play. It’s just more realistic for hunting. Aiming at a target that resembles the animal you’re after really has a way of building confidence. It’ll also add a bit of nerves, which is great. Because the target is smaller, you don’t have as much room for error, and arrows not hitting the target can happen. Be sure to have a safe backing when doing this. You don’t want to accidentally take out the neighbor’s yorkie. There are also archery groups across the country that will have 3d shooting events. These offer an awesome way to spend some quality time with friends, and get some solid functional training in with your bow.

It’s Entirely Mental

Bowhunting in the dessert

"Our brains are the number one cause for not making shots count in the field"

Here’s the thing. More than likely (unless you’ve never shot a bow), you absolutely know how to shoot a bow. This is evident from that worn out bullseye in the backyard that’s been pounded into oblivion. Now, this might sound like some ground breaking news, but the mechanics of shooting at your target and shooting at an animal are exactly the same. The only difference is what you’re aiming at and the environment in which you’re shooting. Other than that, you’re pulling a bow back, aiming, and trying to hit a mark. When I personally realized this, it really did help immensely. It gave me a way to sort of take myself out of the current situation and focus on the task at hand, which is shooting. You know how to do this. Folks don’t crumble because they don’t know how to shoot. They crumble because the mental side of this whole thing gets to them. Our brains are the number one cause for not making shots count in the field.


coues deer hoof

Spring hunting seasons are in full swing right about now. Many of us have tags to fill and will be heading afield sooner than later, whether it’s for bears or turkeys. Just like the mountains coming back to life with fresh green grass and flowers, we’re starting to get off the couch and shake off the winter blues. An exciting time! And this marks the beginning right? The start of another great year of hunting. With how much anticipation we hold for these special times, working on some of this stuff above to sharpen your game can’t hurt. Grab the bull by the horns now, so you can seize the moment later.