When it comes to archery, as in any sport, consistency is the key. We must learn to execute a shot in the exact same manner time and time again. We have to think of ourselves as machines.
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A machine, when programmed and running correctly, will perform a task the exact same way over and over. We need to program ourselves to shoot a bow that way. To do that, we need a well thought out and WRITTEN OUT shot sequence.
A shot sequence is simply the order in which we perform each of the tasks it takes to load and release an arrow. It sounds simple and unnecessary, but it can help you become a better, more consistent archer.
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An example of a simple shot sequence could look like this:
1. Load arrow
2. Pull back bow
4. Put pin on target
5. Release the arrow
This is how most people practice in their back yards. They do those same five steps over and over again. They wonder why their groups look like shotgun blasts sometimes. They wonder why they had that one arrow hit at the bottom of the target. They are frustrated with their inconsistency.
Let’s look at a more elaborate shot sequence with the reason behind each task in parenthesis, but let me say one thing before you start reading through these tasks, roll your eyes and stop part way. I understand there is NO WAY you will have time to run through an entire shot sequence in a hunting situation. Like every other aspect of shooting, we practice things CONSCIOUSLY until they are ingrained in us and we can do them SUBCONSCIOUSLY. If you will develop and practice using a shot sequence now, you will make fewer mistakes when releasing an arrow on an animal or on a target. If you compete, walking yourself through your shot sequence will keep your mind on the task at hand and off all the things that could go wrong. In a hunting situation it will be ingrained in you to quickly make sure your sight is centered in your peep, your sight bubble is level and you have the correct pin on the animal.
Alright, let’s look at a more technical shot sequence with explanations:
1. Address the target with you feet shoulders width apart, toes on an imaginary straight line perpendicular to the target. (Not much you can do about this in a treestand, I know. However, most of us practice in our backyards and compete standing up. If you don’t set up the same way every time you will have to twist your body differently to line up with the target to make the shot. CONSISTENCY!)
2. Select an arrow (quick suggestion: number or name your arrows so if you have a consistent flyer you can check to make sure it’s not you, but a potentially bad arrow.)
3. Slide arrow across your rest, bring it back to the string, check to make sure your fletching/nock indicator is correct. (This serves several purposes actually. If you shoot a whisker biscuit or a non drop away rest and load your arrow with the cock vane down, you probably won’t hit where you want. Another thing that could go wrong is your peep alignment. Do you snap your arrow on your string at an angle and then swing it around to set it on the rest? If your nock fits on the serving too tightly, you will twist the string as you do that. This will cause your peep to turn on you. Off topic a little, but a good rule of thumb is to be able to reach up and fairly easily push your arrow off the string. This is why most high quality, custom string makers ask for nock information when you are ordering your string.)
4. Set your sight or determine the pin you will use. (if you’re using a slider type sight like an HHA or a target sight with a single pin you must be sure you have it set to the correct yardage. I have rarely been to a shoot locally or nationally where I haven’t seen someone completely miss a target because they forgot to set their sight to the correct yardage.)
5. Attach your release. (Pretty self explanatory.)
6. Holding the weight of the bow with your release hand, set your grip. (I talked about grip in my last blog post. It needs to be practiced, consistent and not touching the sides of the bow thus torquing it.)
7. Take a deep breath and draw your bow while watching the arrow slide across the rest. (Breathing is critical. If you’ve ever watched a professional athlete at the top of their game, you’ve probably seen them take several deep breathes before trying to perform in a pressure situation. If you try shooting without adequate oxygen one of the first things you’ll notice fail you is your eyesight. Eyesight tends to be somewhat important when shooting a bow. Watching your arrow makes sure it didn’t come off the rest as you were drawing your bow and go flying out into no mans land or, heaven forbid, your hand. Missing a target is embarrassing, but you can get over it. Missing a trophy buck that you’ve hunted for weeks because you didn’t check to see if your arrow stayed on the rest? It will take a while to get over that one!)
8. Come to anchor while exhaling the breath you just took in. (We must have a consistent anchor. Practice it and it will become second nature)
9. Look through your peep sight, center your scope housing in the peep and level your bow. (These are CRITICAL steps to shooting a bow consistently!!! If your sight isn’t centered you won’t be as accurate. If your sight isn’t leveled you will miss left and right.)
10. Select the correct pin if using multiple pin sights. (Double check from step 4 that you are using the correct pin.)
11. Put the pin on the spot you want to hit and let it settle there. (Make sure you are holding on the spot and not just doing a drive by shooting. This is probably the most important thing when drawing on an animal! I actually shot a 10 pointer in the rack at 25 yards when I was young and new to bow hunting. What do you think I was looking at?)
12. Take in another breath, and start your shot execution. (This will be your last conscious thought besides aiming. I start mine by pushing my pin into the spot I want to hit while pulling out my elbow. You want to take in a breath for your eyes and probably your muscles, but you don’t want to over inflate too much. Maybe 3/4’s of a deep breath.)
13. Concentrate on the spot you want to hit. Tell yourself AIM, AIM, AIM. (You have to keep your mind focused on aiming.)
14. Follow through (keep focusing on that spot until you see your arrow sticking in it. If you really work on this, you might even get to the point where you actually see your arrow in flight heading toward your spot.)
15. If you lose focus on aiming at any time, let down and start over. (Don’t force a bad shot! Don’t train yourself to shoot a bad shot! Let down, let your muscles recover and start over. Of course you can’t do this in a hunting situation, but you typically won’t see this there anyway. When practicing and competing, if you lose focus, start over!)
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This example was actually somewhat simplified as well. My shot sequence has over 20 steps. It includes attaching my finger to my release the same way every time. Applying the same amount of pressure on my release. I have a step where I level my bow before I even come to anchor and then double check it in a later step. I have different places in the shot sequence where I tell myself to breath. When we are pressured, we tend to hold our breaths. You’ll find yourself making mistakes and adding to your shot sequence to fix those mistakes. It will continue to evolve over time until you get very proficient at shooting your bow.
You might know some very good archers out there, maybe even professionals who will tell you they don’t have a shot sequence. Watch them! On each and every shot they will do the exact same thing. They might unconsciously twist their peep to make sure it comes back straight. You might see them take a deep, calming breath before they draw. If you watch the really good ones you will see, very noticeably on some, when they’ve reached that point of commitment and are concentrating hard on aiming.
Develop a shot sequence. Refine it over time. Teach yourself to shoot correctly and exactly the same way every time and you will be able to shoot with the best of them. Don’t let anyone out there tell you that you can’t!
Enjoy the nice weather, shoot your bows and most importantly, have fun doing it!