Why Bow Hunters Are Athletes

Practicing the sitting shot with my Mathews Chill SDX. This type of shooting is good training for shooting from a ground blind.

I first took up archery six years ago. Although I never admitted it at the time, I started archery so I could have another thing in common with my boyfriend (now husband), Nick. My dad, sister, and brother-in-law all had bows, so I figured, why not? I purchased my first bow second-hand, a Mission Menace, and fell in love. I was an OKAY shot naturally, but my technique was not so great. Gradually, with the help of Nick and others, I improved my form to the point that I felt confident enough to take an animal. 

My love for archery goes beyond the actual hunt. It's physical. AND not to sound too dorky, but it truly is a relationship that I've develop with my bow. Let me explain...

Throughout my life I was a "three-sport athlete", meaning I played a sport every season throughout high school. Volleyball in the Fall, basketball in the Winter, and track in the Spring. As a setter on my high school volleyball team, I had to set the ball to myself or to a partner constantly. I had to be consistent, because the setter has control over the game. So, with repetition, I developed muscle memory. Even with muscle memory, though, I can't say I ever set a "perfect" game. 

When I first started shooting my bow, though, I could only pull back about 25 pounds. TWENTY-FIVE POUNDS. The muscles required to pull back and hold a bow were muscles I had rarely used in my life. Like my volleyball setting days, with enough repetition and strength training, I was able to increase my draw weight to where I am now; fifty pounds. 

2012: My first year shooting my Mission Menace. My head is tilted forward in poor form, my arm is bent too much, and my grip on the bow is too tight. 

Great, so now I have fast enough arrows, but what about accuracy? My muscle memory is much better than where I started, but again, I'm not perfect. Like traditional sports, archery is all about body kinesthetics. Holding your bow slightly different than the shot before will cause your shot to be different and you may be off your mark. It is a continuous battle of adjusting your sights, finding your anchor point, fixing your stance, breathing, grip, wind speed, steadiness...It all matters. You can't simply breath, aim, and fire like a scoped rifle. Once you have your bow sighted in, you have to shoot it enough that it feels natural. Do the same exact thing every. single. time. Tired? Didn't eat a good breakfast so you're shaky? Not the best idea. Never shot at a target sitting down? Never shot from high up? Good luck making that shot when you are staring at a 10-point buck and shaking like a leaf. 

I learned my lesson once. I sat in a bulldozer in a field. The stand I had sat in the previous weekend was missing when I headed out to hunt one morning. So, I saw my dad's bulldozer in a field and figured there was enough room in there to make a sitting shot. A doe walked within twenty yards of me, positioned perfectly, and I couldn't draw my bow back sitting down. I missed my opportunity.

Not to say making a shot from a tree stand or sitting is impossible if you haven't practiced that way. People have done it. Just like the people who make half-court shots at basketball game half-time shows...it can happen :). But, if you want my advice, do yourself a favor and increase your odds by practicing like you will be hunting. You will feel more confident, and with bow hunting, confidence is everything. It is not just the weapon that has to do it's job; it's you. 

Stay tuned for shooting tips and how-to videos on aliupnorth.com.

Here's a list of Bow Hunting Athletes to follow:

  1. Cameron Hanes
  2. Sarah and Josh Bowmar
  3. Shanyn Hart
  4. Britt Jill