During this period, I don’t recall specifically, there wasn’t really great improvement. My groups, while acceptable, weren’t improving dramatically. I started to build in form and recommendations on release. This helped a bit, but it wasn’t something I wanted. My ultimate goal was to shoot at any unmarked distance within acceptable ranges. My goal was to hunt and I wanted two shooting distances; close enough, and too far.
I stopped shooting at targets.
Something amazing happened after I stopped shooting at targets: my first arrow started going where I wanted it to.
In a hunting scenario, only the first arrow counts.
Somehow, amidst all this shooting and racking up arrow-mileage, my brain started making arch connections and muscle memory was developed. While I wasn’t, and still am not, able to place 10/10 arrows in to a “thing,” I can definitely get it in to the ballpark. Reducing my available surface area that I deemed acceptable to hit, I was forced to just try to hit an object.
My brain and body were able to make connections to relatable objects that I’ve held many times in my own hands. I knew, intimately, how big those things are. My first arrows were hitting things I was looking at. Half of my arrows were landing in a water bottle at 30-yards.
I’m still steadily growing more efficient with my methods by adding practice exercises that follow the theme. Walk-backs at unmarked yardages are tidying up my gauging of distances. Going to ranges with target-backs at varying distances allows me to take shots with 5-10 yard variances quickly and naturally.
Let’s call that a win for trad guys!
Other Instinctive Shooting Methods:
Something that helped further develop the “natural” feeling of instinctive shooting was my purchase of an old vintage Bear longbow. Something comparable today would be the reflex deflex Bear offering: the Bear Montana 64″. To me, the longbow was lighter in the hand and felt more like an extension than a tool. Adding cant to my shooting method and the direct response of thick limbs enhanced my instinctive shooting experience.
Cant: Tilting the top limb of the bow away from you to get a better sight picture
Canting the bow helped increase the visibility of my arrow in flight and felt more natural to me when drawing a bow back. Its kind of like sidearm throwing a ball – it won’t work for everyone but for me, it did.
Another method that some guys use for instinctive shooting practice is the ‘cup’ method. Here you place a paper cup (because styrofoam is bad) on the target surface and shoot into it, gradually moving back between sets.
- Place paper cup on target
- Shoot from 3-arrows at 3-yards into the cup
- Step Back
- Shoot 3-arrows at 6-yards into the cup
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
- Shoot 3-arrows at 20-yards … 30-yards .. 40-yards
I can also attest to this working well as a practice drill.