Get your Archery Gear and Eye Sharpened

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For the USSA by Andrew McKean, Editor, Outdoor Life Magazine

Montana’s first hunting season, for archery antelope, opens in a two weeks. And just a couple of weeks after that Aug. 15 opener, archery deer and elk season opens, sending hard-core bowhunters into the mountains and valleys of the state for the next six weeks.

Are you ready for archery season? It’s a simple question, but I’m betting you are like me: your mind is more prepared than either your body or your gear. Well, don’t dawdle. The clock is ticking, and here are some of the basic ways you can be in bow shape by mid-August.

·Check Your Bow: Sounds simple, but just by inspecting your bow and arrows with a jeweler’s eye you can spot obvious problems that would doom an archery outing if left unattended. Is your bowstring worn, especially where it passes over cams and pulleys? Are the strands of the string frayed or dry looking? The fix is simple: Just wax dry strings. If they’re especially worn, spend a few bucks and replace the string. Is your knock loop twisted, or is the serving (the spot on the string where your arrow is knocked) frayed or tired-looking? If you don’t feel like you have the expertise to trouble-shoot potential problems with your bow, take it to a bow shop and spend $40 or $50 to have it tuned up. That’s cheap for the edge it will put on your shooting and the peace of mind it will give you.

·Shoot Some Shafts: Once your bow is checked out, devote time every single day to shooting it. Modern compound bows shoot so flat and are so forgiving of shooter error that they lull us into the fantasy that we can pick up our bows and within a week be in hunting form. That’s a delusion. You need to retone your shoulder and bicep muscles, sharpen your eye, and work on your form. Shooting a bow is equal parts physical and metaphysical, and shooting a dozen or so arrows per day will allow you to better “see” your target.

·Practice Various Positions: It’s easy to sink shafts in the bulls eye if you are making standing shots at modest distances. But now try kneeling, or shooting while sitting on a bucket, or slightly off balance. Those are the shots you are likely to be taking in the field, so train for them. And while I’d never encourage long shots, practice out to the edge of your comfortable range.

·Consider a New Bow: You don’t have to say that twice to a bowhunter, especially one making do with an older bow. They are expensive, but archery technology is changing so fast that new model-year bows will allow even novice bowhunters to shoot better. If you can’t afford a new bow, consider updating your components: starting with a new sight or rest. Also think about a new quiver or release.

·Broadhead Care: Your shot can be true, but if your broadheads are dull or loose, you risk wounding the animal you intended to kill. Spend some time now with your blades, honing them to a razor edge, ensuring that any replaceable blades are seated, and then make sure you store them in a place where they won’t get dinged and dulled.