By Brett Hoffman
September 2, 2021
As bowhunters, we can all agree that there’s no worse feeling than getting out of the tree or blind and finding a spotless arrow, or one with signs of a marginal shot. All of that preparation, the trail camera pictures, and countless hours in the woods came down to one shot, and you whiffed. But how? I’m going to talk about the most common mistakes made by bowhunters that are actually uncommonly recognized.
For most, bow season preparation picks up early to mid-August. You grab the bow out of the case where you left it at the end of last season, screw a couple field points into the arrows in the quiver, and head out to shoot. After several arrows, things seem to be right where they were last season.
Before you know it, you’ve got several shooter bucks on the trail cameras, and season is right around the corner. You head down to the local outdoor store to buy a couple packs of broadheads and lighted nocks. Those broadheads are the most devastating ones on the market, I mean look at those giant blades!
When you get home, you install the new broadheads and lighted nocks on your arrows, and put them in the quiver. You might keep a couple extra arrows set aside with the regular nocks and field points in them for when you practice. I mean, those lighted nock batteries only last so long, and the new broadheads only came with 3 plastic collars per pack. Not to mention the fact that you don’t want to dull those blades before season, or you might only have a bag target to shoot at. Believe me, those exact thoughts went through my head for many years.
Here’s the reality of what doing that does to your accuracy in the woods. That lighted nock you installed in your arrow weighs in the neighborhood of 25 grains, depending on the brand you decided to go with. The nock that you have in your practice arrow, or the one that originally came with your hunting arrow weighs about 7 grains if you’re shooting say an Easton Axis. So what difference does 18 grains make on an arrow? The answer to that will obviously vary depending on the bow setup, but for a 70 pound bow at 30” of draw, the difference between a 350 grain and a 368 grain arrow is about 6 feet per second. In simpler terms, this means your heavier arrow is not only slower, but will have a much lower point of impact downrange.
Now, let’s talk about your broadheads. I know you don’t want to practice with them and dull your blades. I get it. On top of that, who wants to have to put a new rubber band or collar back on every single time they shoot the target? My suggestion is to look for an expandable broadhead that has an ability to lock the blades shut. If you prefer a fixed blade, just make sure you sharpen your blades before you take them in the woods after all of that practice. This gives you the ability to shoot the exact same arrow that you are going to hunt with. Whenever it’s time to hunt, all you have to do is unlock the blades and hunt. The Thorn broadheads I shoot give me the ability to practice all year with my broadheads, and the blades never deploy in the target. All I have to do is simply place the practice collar on the head to practice, and pull it off when it’s time to hunt.
Practicing with the same exact arrows you hunt with not only gives you more confidence, but will ensure that your bow is sighted in exactly where it needs to be when the moment of truth arrives. Don’t get me wrong, bad shots and misses still happen to the best of us, but limiting the chances of them happening sure doesn’t hurt!
There are what seems like a million pieces to the archery puzzle, and practicing with the same exact arrows you hunt with is only one piece. I think it’s safe to say that most people have heard the phrase “practice like you play”, and that absolutely applies to shooting a bow. So, if you’re struggling with sealing the deal in the woods, try these simple tweaks in your preparation and see if you notch more tags this fall.