|Whale Tail Outdoors|
|Whale Tail Outdoors|
While growing up, my father taught me several important lessons about keeping my skills sharp as a bow hunter. One lesson that still holds true for me today is keeping my shooting skills honed in for when they matter most. While bowhunting in the backcountry I keep my shooting fresh by finding targets in my natural surroundings to help build confidence during the hunt. I have found that shooting your bow in the same environment you are hunting in will further build the confidence you need to make the shot you’ve worked so hard for.
While much has changed with the technology in the equipment I shoot today, the foundation of my shooting regiment has stayed true no matter where I am hunting. Most of my hunting during my teenage years and through college was done with a traditional bow. During this time, I depended on stump shooting in the backcountry to help refine my instinctive shooting skills. I always carried a couple of flu flu arrows in my quiver for stump shooting or the occasional blue grouse I would happen upon. My dad showed me an amazing trick to convert my field points on my traditional cedar shafts into stump shooting machines. By removing the field points I carried for small game, I instead adhered .38 caliber casings to the end of my shafts. With the new blunt tips attached to my arrows I was able to shoot stumps without sinking my shafts too far and losing them .
These days I typically depend on a compound bow for my high country expeditions. As compound bows have become increasingly faster, archery target manufactures have had to meet the demand and increase the durability of their targets. While targets are being produced in all shapes and sizes, I have yet to find a target small or light enough to carry into the backcountry to my spike camp. As weight is always a factor in backcountry hunting, an archery target is obviously not a practical tool for spike camp. While many of my hunting days are spent miles away from any road, It is still a priority for me to find opportunities to shoot while I am off the grid.
Using .38 caliber casings was a great fix for my traditional cedar shafts during my college years. However, after I started depending on a compound bow for most of my hunts I adapted to bludgeon tips for the carbon arrows I was shooting. Most bludgeon tips that you find for carbon arrows are designed for bird hunting. In fact, the bludgeon tips I shoot are perfect for head shots on birds like grouse and turkeys. While I use these tips for small game, I have also found that they can stand up to a beating when used for target practice.
Shooting stumps with a traditional bow is perfect practice for hunting because the height of a stump often resembles the height of a big game animal. However, shooting stumps with a compound bow can be a bit dicey because the speed and kinetic energy transferring through a carbon arrow is too much when hitting a dense object like a tree stump. So, my brother and I started looking for other inanimate objects around our spike camps to shoot that were more forgiving on impact. What we came up with was simple and abundant, especially near or above tree line. Between all of the pocket gophers, ground squirrels and voles there happens to be a plethora of den tailings found in or around tree line. When these critters dig their dens they leave a pile of loose dirt that makes the perfect backstop especially when found on the upside of a slope. We quickly learned that the lightest target for these den tailings is a piece of orange flagging. In fact, I find myself packing a few extra strips of flagging in my pocket so I can set up targets and shoot while moving from camp to my hunting zones.
Shooting a carbon arrow at speeds near 300 feet per second at a piece of dirt definitely has its inherent risks. Always make sure to investigate the area you are shooting at and remove any rocks found around your target. Additionally, it is just as important after each shot to diligently inspect your arrow for any cracks in the carbon. It is truly amazing how resilient blunt tips are when hitting a target that is somewhat forgiving as they do a great job protecting the integrity of the arrow.
I always leave room in my quiver for at least two arrows with bludgeon tips. As I mentioned earlier, I am extremely weight conscious when packing in gear to the backcountry. However, having the opportunity to practice my shot and pick up some dinner easily trumps a few extra ounces in weight. Remember, as archers, it is our responsibility to be prepared and make the most ethical shots possible. Boost your confidence while in the backcountry and make sure to sneak in some practice shooting on your next archery hunt.