If you spend enough time around bowhunters you are going to hear stories. At some point, many of them will contain the phrase “I will never forget it.” Well, let me follow suit and relive a trip I will never forget. It was back in August 2012. The weather was beautiful, and we had finally reached the top of the mountain. After a relatively short hike, we found what we were looking for. It was a big, white, mountain goat. He was standing broadside at what I estimated to be 41 yards. As I started to draw on the big billy, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach start to flutter. I came to full draw, anchored, checked the bubble on my sight level and tried to settle my 45-yard pin just a little low. I would like to say that the pin came to rest, but my heart was thumping along at a pretty good clip. I just kept telling myself; “Aim, aim, aim, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.” The next thing I knew the bowstring was free from the hold of my release aid and the arrow was on its way. I watched the arching trajectory of its flight path and felt the wave of relief that follows the feeling of a well-executed shot. That’s when I heard that telltale “Thump!” as the arrow struck home. Just then one of the guys in our group, who was watching the entire thing through his binoculars, said; “Nice shot Grip, good 10, just out of the 11 at about 4 o’clock”.
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Ok, you got me, I wasn’t really in Utah or Montana, high in the Rockies on a Mountain Goat hunt, but I was in the Appalachians shooting at the IBO World Championships. It was at Seven Springs Ski Resort in PA. And when I said, “we had finally reached the top of the mountain” I wasn’t kidding. We had a pretty long ride on the ski lift. It gave me plenty of time to think about the 8 point lead I had going into the finals. The shot on the Mountain Goat was the first target of the last day. Those additional 10 targets would be used to determine the world champ. I knew it would be tough for anyone to gain 8 points on me in 10 targets, and the belt buckle was basically mine to lose, but that didn’t do much for my nerves on the first target. It reminded me of the adrenaline rush I feel when a big Southern Ohio whitetail walks into bow range. You may know it as buck fever. Because of this and few other reasons, I am a firm believer every bowhunter should shoot 3-D archery. Here are my top five reasons you should.
This is probably the most important reason for shooting 3-D. We have all heard that practice makes perfect, and some have morphed that into perfect practice makes perfect. I have to say that I agree. Now, I know there are some who will argue that when it comes to mastering one’s shooting form, hold, release, etc. shooting spots is as important as shooting 3-D. I am in no way trying to take away from indoor spot shooting, but if a bowhunter had to pick one archery competition to hone their skills, I would recommend 3-D. I’m not saying every bowhunter should get a dedicated 3-D rig, travel all around the country and enter all the big national level competitions, or even spend every weekend on a course for that matter. I think doing one shoot a month through the spring and summer will go long a way towards a successful hunting season.
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There is no more realistic form of bowhunting practice. Walking through the woods and shooting various species of animals at unknown distances can only help someone become a better, more effective bowhunting shot. Standing in the backyard pounding groups on the bail is great, but adding realism is 10 times more practical. If you think about it, no other form of big game hunting has this kind of opportunity or style of practice available. There are no 3-D rifle/handgun ranges that I know of. Sporting clays come close but that doesn’t mimic big game hunting. Most gun hunters I know get sighted in from the bench at 100 yards and put the gun away — It’s just not the same as realistic training in field conditions.
Some bowhunters may shy away from 3-D because of the distances some of the shots may be. “But Grip, what about the ranges? I would never take a shot at an animal at 45 or 50 yards.” Ok, then you should shoot in the Hunter Class. In the IBO (International Bowhunting Organization) the Hunter Class has no shot over 35 yards. That means the average shot will usually be about 28 yards, depending on the course. “Yeah but Grip, I can’t judge yardage to save my life.” Well, just like everything else, it does take practice. But with today’s compound bows and the speeds they are cranking out, yardage is becoming less of an issue. Not to mention, many clubs are now offering Known Yardage classes. They just write the yardage on the scorecard or allow rangefinders on the course. Besides, if you are there just to hone your bowhunting prowess, and don’t care about the score, then take a rangefinder and use it all you want. Just don’t turn your card in at the end. “Hey Grip, I shoot a crossbow. What about us crossbow users?” I have good news. With more and more states allowing crossbows during the archery season, many clubs, ranges, and archery organizations now have a Crossbow Class. So grab that horizontal bow and join in on the fun.
You get to hang out with your bowhunting buddies. There are some guys I’ve competed against over the years I only get to see at the shoots. It’s a great excuse to get together, catch up with friends, and hear about the buck they hunted last fall. If you’re like me and love to hear and of course tell bowhunting stories, then 3-D archery is for you. There is no shortage of stories on the course — some of them are even true. Not only do I get to catch up with friends, but many times I will make new ones as well. Very rarely do I walk off a course thinking to myself, “I hope I never have to shoot with that guy again.”
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I can remember back when I first began bowhunting. I wanted to gobble up as much information on the sport as I could. I used to hang out at the local pro-shop and listen to the bowhunting vets talk about how they like to shoot a doe early in the season to help with their level of confidence. I have found that by shooting 3-D all summer my confidence level in my shooting ability is soaring when I hit the treestand in October. With that being said, like most bowhunters here in Southern Ohio the majority of my shots are inside 25 yards, but I have taken a few shots out beyond 35.
The buck I took in 2013 was at 42 yards. I seriously doubt I would’ve had the confidence to take the shot if I had not had years of 3-D experience under my belt. When you get used to shooting a wide variety of foam critters out to 45 yards, a 36 yard shot on a deer doesn’t seem so tough. Now, I know what many of you are thinking. Shooting at a live animal is entirely different than a foam version of one. That is very true. A 3-D deer is never going to wind you, duck the string, or even take a step. Anyone with any bowhunting experience knows that a deer can do a lot while an arrow is in flight — It’s the nature of bowhunting. But the point I am making is it’s nice to know you can make that 50-yard shot if you had to, and it makes the 25-yard shot seem like a walk in the park.
Walking a 3-D course is pretty good exercise. It’s not going to beat running on the treadmill, or doing an hour on the elliptical, but who wants to do that stuff anyway? In this modern world of computers, and “smart” devices, anything that gets us outside and on our feet is a good thing. If you walk a 3-D course in my neck of the woods you are going to have deal with some hills, making it an even better form of exercise. A buddy of mine would wear his full elk pack out on the course to get ready for his upcoming hunt. Sometimes you’d think I was on an elk hunt with all the stuff I take out on the course. I can think of less enjoyable ways to burn a few calories. If I am given a choice between shooting a 3-D course and mowing the lawn — sorry grass, you can wait.
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My final reason is good ole’ fashion competition. To compete is in our nature. We have been doing so since, well forever. There were the Gladiators in ancient Rome, The original Olympic Games in ancient Greece and depending on from where you get your research, humans have been racing, boxing, and wrestling, as far back as over 15,000 years ago. I don’t know when we had our first archery competition but the bow and arrow is believed to have originated about 20,000 B.C. I bet it wasn’t long after that some guy in loincloth looked at his buddy, nocked an arrow, and said; “First one to put an arrow in that gourd over there wins.”
We pay pro athletes way too much money due to our love of competition and if given a chance we will make a competition out of anything. Don’t believe me? Have you ever heard of the National Remote Control Truck Pulling Association, or the NR/CTPA for short? It’s a real thing, look it up. How about Anvil Shooting? Google that one, I promise that one is hysterical. My point is, we are obviously a competitive species, so let’s embrace it. A little competition is good for you. It adds a twinge of excitement if there is a little something extra on the line. That’s probably why we find bowhunting so exciting because there is something on the line, our goal to take the life of our quarry as quickly and humanely as we can. If you are a regular participant in those local 3-D shoots you will up your odds of obtaining that goal on a more regular basis.
Be safe, shoot straight, and good luck. I’ll see you on the 3-D course.
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