Okay so you’re killing foam deer standing in a warm, bright range on your league night. Don’t get me wrong, any practice is better than no practice, but can you hit that 10 ring on that foam deer you’re hunting…from an unknown distance…in a kneeling position…with old man winter tearing up your eyes and blowing your arrow sideways? What about hitting that big foam elk after climbing up a cliff, out of breath, and your heart already pounding out of your chest before you even think about shooting? That traditional stance, legs shoulder width apart and relaxed, seems hard to come by on a hunt. Staying low to the ground or tight to cover can be the difference between a once in a lifetime animal or serious heartbreak. By adding these hunting positions into your practice routine, what was once awkward becomes second nature.
Shooting from a kneeling position is far harder than from a standing position. Your core muscles are being strained from a kneeling or sitting position and when not in shape it can be hard to hold steady, especially in cold weather. Ever shoot at a deer downhill only to see your arrow sail right over its back? Or the easy shot at a deer only to have a tree commit suicide right before your arrow reaches its mark? By shooting uphill and downhill on a regular basis, judging where to shoot becomes instinctive. Practice in the timber can improve your success on your next deer or elk hunt.
Spot and stalk western hunts can mean hiking up some gnarly terrain or belly crawling over rocks and cacti. Ever try belly crawling? It’s exhausting, particularly on the arms and core. Now try hitting that 10 ring after a 50 yard belly crawl, easy huh?
These hunting scenarios not only get your body in shape for the hunt, but it gets your mind in the zone. Often times like a child slaying dragons in the yard, that piece of foam or bale of straw I’m hunting turns into a wise old buck bedded in the timber or a Boone and Crockett sheep up high on a rocky ledge in a far away land.
Shooting with muscles stiff as the tree you’ve been stuck to for hours in November is a lot different than shooting on a warm sunny September day in your back yard. Shooting at severe angles works muscles you rarely use when shooting in the traditional form.
The off-season can be a great time to acclimate beginner hunters to treestands and treestand safety. Remember “baby steps” instead of sending a first timer 20ft up a tree (which is unnecessary anyways). Start them off low and work your way up. You don’t need to be very high up in a tree to have a successful hunt. The higher up you are the more your kill area shrinks, and the more dangerous it becomes for the hunter.
(Treestand hunting is dangerous and falling from a tree can cause serious injury or death. If unfamiliar with using a treestand, it’s best to learn from someone who has experience in the field.)
By putting beginners in these hunting scenarios it gives them a feel for the hunt long before the hunt. They might just surprise you and themselves and get the feel for it pretty quick.
Photography by Saxton and Taylor
All photography in the article is property of saxtonoutdoors.com