If I had to choose one archery-related activity to entertain me the rest of my life, it would be stump shooting and I write this without a speck of hesitation. I’ll never forget the first time my Dad and I tried it. We had been shooting at box targets for a month and decided it was time for something new. It felt natural to be in the woods with our bows. In fact, while he was at work, I recall spending an entire Saturday wandering around the woods behind the house and having my bow with me the entire time – just for grins. I didn’t even bring an arrow. The combination of longbow and nature just felt right.
I stumbled onto the concept of roving or stumping online that evening and decided to give it a shot the next day. It seemed really bizarre at first. How could shooting perfectly good arrows at logs be more fun than a genuine archery range? Nonetheless, Dad and I split a pack of Judo points and hit the woods. Three hours later, scratched and sweating from searching for arrows in the brush, we were hooked. It is still our favorite activity and has evolved into a Viau family tradition whenever we get together.
So what is “stump shooting” exactly?
The concept of stump shooting or roving is fairly simple: you take a walk with your bow, you look for a stump, mound, pop can, or rotted log, and you shoot at it. The forest is a target rich environment for any archer willing to spend an afternoon afield. The opportunities are endless and the angles interchangeable, so it is almost impossible to get bored. Plus, it costs nothing as long as you have a small game license and a piece of land to do it on.
It is also the premier activity for honing your hunting skills. There is no substitute for shooting within the environment in which you hunt. Mother Nature is always changing things up on you, making her the perfect obstacle. Take one step in any direction and your perspective changes completely – the shot as well. This forces you to find different angles and shoot from awkward or uncomfortable positions. Range is often difficult to calculate and growing accustomed to the shapes and shadows created by the canopy of the woods is an invaluable skill for any bowhunter. The unconventional targets also test an archer’s focus beyond the predictable norms of field archery. It is much harder to pick a spot on a hunk of moss or pine cone than the well-documented vitals of a foam deer.
Stumping also acclimates you to the wilderness. It increases your level of alertness and your ability to navigate quietly and efficiently through vegetation. You may even sneak up on game if you’re careful. In this case, a stumping scenario can become a hunting scenario fairly quickly when in season, which is why I enjoy doing so in early October. An hour of stumping between hunts keeps you attuned to your surroundings and could inevitably result in dinner.
While not as likely to run into game, I find stump shooting with a partner to be equally enjoyable and just as educational. An archer can pick up some pretty nasty habits when stumping solo, namely shooting at the whole target rather than picking a spot and then lying to yourself about your initial intentions. A partner will keep you honest and their eyes can help you pick target opportunities you might not have seen otherwise. No two archer’s eyes are alike in the wilderness. Your buddy may be taller or shorter, shoot with a different cant, or find different colors, shades, or shapes more appealing. By taking turns and shooting each other’s shots you can make a game of it and avoid falling into a rut. Having a partner can also keep your form in check by preventing habit-forming physical mistakes.
Ultimately, stumping is a wonderful way to change up your shooting routine, so grab your bow and go! Its fun, its cheap, and it will give you an excuse to get outside.