Bowhunting: Tips For Mental Preparation
Whitetail archery season is right around the corner! Most likely you’ve spent the past few months or more preparing yourself physically by practicing daily and getting into shape. Being physically fit definitely helps, especially for those who spot and stalk hunt. But being prepared mentally is just as important and is commonly overlooked while preparing for bow hunting.
If you’ve been hunting for a while, you probably have a good idea of how you typically react when a buck walks under your stand and how well you’re able to keep your cool. But if you’re new to hunting altogether, preparing for your first bow hunt can be a little more of a challenge. You’re still working on getting your shooting form down, on top of being nervous about what to expect during your first bow season.
Here are a few things that may help you when preparing yourself mentally for your first bow hunt, your first deer harvest with a bow, or even for those who have had some recent onsets of buck fever and are having trouble getting past that.
Keep in mind that shooting at a deer from your tree stand or blind is a totally different ball game than just practicing in your backyard. It’s much easier to make a great shot at a target while you’re not under any kind of pressure than it is at a live animal when your adrenaline is pumping. Plus, mother nature can throw some curve balls at you, making it that much more of a challenge.
I think one of the best ways to prepare yourself for shooting at a live animal is to force yourself to practice in ways that simulate real world hunting scenarios. Try shooting at low light, on a windy day or in an uncomfortable position. While you’re hunting you will very likely experience all 3 of those situations, and there’s a good possibility that’s when the buck of a lifetime will step out.
Envision The Shot
Bow hunting is definitely a mental game. If you go into a hunt with a negative attitude or start doubting yourself, you’re probably going to mess up a shot opportunity. Stay positive and visualize yourself making a great shot on a deer. I will often play out different scenarios in my head to better prepare myself. I check my surroundings and make mental notes on when I think I will be able to draw my bow if the deer were to come from my right, my left, or the front, etc. Whitetail have a mind of their own and you can bet that they probably won’t do what you have in mind. It’s good to expect the unexpected.
When you are preparing to shoot, just take a few breaths to calm your nerves. I know you may not always have the time to do this, as deer can come in pretty fast and often give you just a few seconds to make a shot. But if you’re watching a deer slowly making its way towards you and you feel like your heart is going to beat out of your chest by the time it gets within shooting range, I highly recommend closing your eyes & just breathing for a few seconds. It really does help.
Know Your Limits
If a deer steps out and it’s too dark to make an ethical shot or it’s just a little farther than what you are comfortable with, don’t force it. One of the best ways to break your confidence is to make a bad shot on an animal. If you’ve been hunting long enough you will mess up sometimes, as none of us are perfect. Just make sure you aren’t messing up because you’re pushing yourself past your limits. When in doubt, just pass on the shot.
Hunt Alone If Necessary
This may not seem like an issue, but for me it is. I get more nervous when there’s someone in the stand watching me than if I were to just hunt alone. My first deer with both rifle and bow were during solo hunts and I preferred it that way. I had practiced enough that I was confident in my shooting ability and didn’t want to listen to another person’s voice telling me what to do, on top of trying to listen to the voice in my head as well. For me, that worked and I feel it helped me stay more focused. That may not work for everyone though, so if you feel you need someone there to help guide you through it, that’s ok too.
Experience is the best teacher with bow hunting, but unfortunately when you’re new to it you don’t have that luxury. The best thing you can do is just make sure you’re as prepared as possible, both physically and mentally, for whatever this bow season may throw at you.
Good luck this season!
Andrea Haas is a Pro-Staffer from Missouri who enjoys turkey hunting, deer hunting and bowhunting. She is also the founder of the Huntress View, an organization formed to help strengthen the ever growing community of women hunters.