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Help me not give up bowhunting!!
Hey guys, looking for your personal experience or best tips to figure out what's wrong with me!! (loaded comment but let's assume Im talking specifically archery). Problem is, I keep missing the boiler room! Have been an archer for 35yrs. A serious bowhunter for 11. My first few yrs I couldn't miss. I shot many big game animals and they all fell inside 60yds. Then I missed a really big drop tine buck at 23yds from a blind. Buddy said bow hit the top but regardless, that triggered a sleu of missed deer for several yrs. I'd rush the shot or just plain sail an arrow harmlessly over the deer or under. At least they weren't hurt and lost. But my confidence took a beating!! I started to realize my right eye was having trouble focusing in the low light and blamed that so switched to my dominant left eye even though I was a very good target shooter as a RH archer. Bought a LH bow and retrained myself to shoot left handed. (I'm ambidextrous so it wasn't too difficult for me). Anyway, fast forward and the last 4 bucks I've shot have been a mess. Only one was a high lung and he ended up going way farther than I'd have expected. The last 2 have been legit in the hind quarter. I don't know what I'm doing wrong!!! I can stack arrows all day long out to 50yds with ease. Is this just a mental block /target panic issue?? I'm about ready to throw in the towel and love the bow so much. I'm really torn at my need to be in the woods with a quiet weapon. Bowhunting is my happy place. But Its not ethical to shoot a deer in the ass either. Thankfully I've recovered all of them, but it really bothers me. Any help would be appreciated!! Thanks guys.
Sounds like buck fever has a hold on you. Try shooting some does, rabbits, squirrels. Kill some critters with your bow and quit worrying about headgear!
Do you shoot an index finger release? If yes, how do you set it off? Do you hold your finger above it waiting for your pin to hit the right spot and then hit the trigger?
Target panic, lots of resources here to help.
I changed to a thumb release to deal with some issues and that cured it for me.
Without seeing you shoot and based on what you've said here, I'd say this....
1. If your "dead on" range at foam targets is 30 yards for example, then for hunting cut that in half.
2. PICK A SPOT.....or more specifically a MOLECULE. You can punch foam targets all day and nail them, but even though you may think you're picking a spot on a deer it's VERY easy to look at the whole animal. I speak from experience on this. I think the difference between a foam/paper target and a live one is that with the first one you already know that it's not going anywhere and it's not going to see you and react, so you concentrate on the spot more completely . On a live animal there's a whole list of things you're focusing on in anticipation of the shot. What they're doing, where their going, how they're moving, body language, shot angle/path, etc. Hunting is a challenge!
Forget the bucks, stack up a pile of does! It always helped my buck fever if I shot a doe earlier in the season.
Aim small miss small...Or get a crossbow
You have target panic. You sound just like me many years ago. Could shoot fine on targets, but animals gave me the fits. I rarely ever miss now. Shoot me a PM.
Draw your bow & focus on the spot WITHOUT ANY INTENTION TO SHOOT. Really focus on the spot and if it feels right drop the string; if it doesn't feel right don't shoot.
Target Panic. I was in the same boat. Google Shot IQ - Joel Turner. Joel trains snipers that simply can never, ever afford to miss a shot. His program changed my life and it will work for you too, it's amazing stuff. This program isn't based on opinion. You can get help from another archer or bowhunter, or you can get help through science. Check it out, you won't be sorry.
My first thought was same as greg simon. Start shooting stuff. Small game. Stuff where everything is the same as deer, they just don't matter as much. You need to pick a spot, find a lane, there is limited time etc. Squirrels, rabbits, chickens etc. Shooting at animals is so different than targets, one really doesn't even qualify for practice for the other. It's always working when you are shooting a lot of stuff. I know for myself as well, if all of a sudden a guy goes a year or two only shooting a couple big game animals, things start to slide. Practice means hunting practice, not target practice.
If you are missing into the hindquarter, if it is not straight out target panic/buck fever... then you are dropping your hand or raising your head to see the animals reaction as soon as you shoot.
Best suggestion I have is to WATCH THE SHOT THROUGH THE SIGHT until you see the impact....
Best of luck
Good advice guys. I've been giving myself a step by step that I try to repeat at the shot. I do hunt small game and squirrels etc arent a problem. I'm at a disadvantage to practice on does cause I'm from Manitoba where we've been a one deer season for the last 5yrs. At least in my hunting area. I used to never have this issue on a Doe though. Haven't missed one of them ever. Just bucks seem to be my nemesis.
You have to address the physiological issue of Target Panic.
FWIW I don't think you have target panic. Guys with target panic have a hard time on targets as well. You say you have no problems with targets. You have a problem on animals. Animals are not targets. You need animal practice not target practice. (one man's opinion)
I agree APauls. Target panic is target panic. I've had it. When you do have it you will KNOW IT because it will definitely show it's ugly face when you're shooting at a target face.
I don't fight the pin at the range and can actually shoot very well. I think at least. It's hard to describe the way things unravel when I'm in the woods and a deer is in front of me. I practice draw on does and smaller bucks to get the image in my head what I'm gonna do when it counts, I just don't shoot. I've even blamed a few of my bunked shots on a deflection or the animal stepping forward but I get so wound up about it that I kinda blank out. It's maddening! Tks for the advice guys and those who've reached out with pms. I wanted to get going on this now in winter while I have time to work out my issues.
I don't think he has target panic either. If he did, he'd have issues during target practice as well. Or it's a combination of TP and buck fever.
This sounds like buck fever and rushing the shot, perhaps not keeping form, perhaps not following through.
I'd recommend you,
a) Practice from the stands/blinds you're hunting from. It's a PIA and it's sometimes better to get someone to come out and pull arrows for you so you can stay in the stand/blind.
b) Practice in your hunting clothes. If you're in an awkward blind and wearing thick clothes, your string could be contacting your clothes and messing up your shot.
c) Do you have any heart problems or high blood pressure? Are you on any medicines? Consider talking with your Doctor and asking for a prescription for Propranolol. It blunts the effects of adrenaline. Propranolol = Buck-Fever-B-Gone. It literally puts ice in your veins.
d) Don't drink any caffeine the day of your hunt. It may not be affecting you much beforehand, but could be giving you the shakes and compounding your problem.
e) It could be a combination of buck fever and target panic. Try using a release that allows you to draw your bow with your trigger finger behind the trigger so that you physically are unable to drop the string. Then draw, settle your pin, take your time, pick a spot, take a deep breath, and then move your finger forward and release. This will take some time and you'll need a calm, slow-moving animal, but it sounds like you need a shot like this to have a sure thing and drop one so that you get your confidence back.
If I make a bad shot it is always because I rushed it. In most scenarios we have way more time to pick a spot than we think. I mentally remind myself to slow down when I'm at full draw. In my mind I'll say "take it slow...just like in the backyard", because like you, I can pin a target all day long. Try it out and good luck.
If you're missing by a couple of FEET, there's something catastrophic happening to your shot. JMO....
If the problem started when you switched hands, I'd suggest an eye patch... There are not a lot of things that can throw your shot off by that kind of margin, but using the wrong eyeball is certainly on the list and it's probably the easiest one to cross off.
If it's buck fever, I wouldn't necessarily quit bowhunting, but I'd quit hunting large bucks. Hunt for the Trophy Shot instead - range, angle, alert status of zero, etc. If you get keyed up and have complete failure of concentration, you need to let down and try again another day, and almost nobody does that when they feel like they're staring at once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not good, but understandable Human Nature.
If it's target panic, you have a whole different deal going on and you'd probably be crazy to take the advice of anyone who's not charging you at least $75 for their time. I'm not TOUCHING that one!
All good reply’s! One thing I will add is sometimes I catch myself not breathing at the moment of truth. It makes me want to rush the shoot. You will figure it out. Greg
If I’m just watching critters that I don’t instead to shoot I don’t get the adrenaline. It’s a different when I intend to shoot one. One thing that helps me is to each time I get into my stand is to go through a mental checklist of what I need to do. I try to do this throughout the time in stand. It helps me with the adrenaline. Maybe practicing with a 3D target from a treestand or blind might help some.
I don't know if I mentioned, I shoot a truefire wrist strap trigger release. I always keep my finger behind it till I'm ready to shoot then slowly place over once I've acquired my target. I know I rush shots but again, feels like I'm not in control when I go to full draw on a buck. Everything gets hazy in my mind as to what just happened. I watch my arrow hit the mark and am dumbfounded how it got there. Maybe dropping my bow arm too soon? Also I am using the correct eye to bow. I shoot from elevated platform, aim for my exit, probably shoot 3-4 times a week and often a few sets at dusk from both a chair and standing. Really trying here guys.
I had a terrible year two years ago. Hit two does high in the chops and recovered neither. I was rushing my shots. I told myself I needed to talk my way through this last season and absolutely just take easy shots. The season went well with two great kills. Now I've gained my confidence back. And this was after hunting for almost 40 years! It can sneak up on you at any time. I wouldn't give it up. Better times are ahead.
When you're seeing the animal coming in...... smile. A big ol grin like on your wedding night..... and remind yourself why you are there.... for fun and excitement..... Say it in your head "THIS IS FUN!" It's hard for the brain to panic when you're smiling. Smiles actually trigger physical responses. Psychologically it's just all wired different. Then go on calmly about your business and HAVE FUN.
'course if you punched the trigger on your wedding night maybe that's not the best analogy.......
Yes, it sounds like buck fever and you get excited and rush the shot. You need to have a mental checklist when you hunt. Pick a spot, concentrate, and execute a good shot with good follow thru. Do you have a shop near by that has a DART Syestem. It's live animals walking around this may help. Do you shoot at 3D targets for practice?
Read where one guy said to take some time and enjoy the sight picture of the pin on the deer. Said we work all year for this so take time and enjoy. And go through your routine while you’re doing this. I don’t always do this but when I do my shot is money.
I think someone hit on it that you may have some sort of subliminal dominant eye issue when sighting in on an animal. I had it one season. Being right eye dominant/ right hand shooter, I somehow in the triangulation of eye/peep/pin live target acquisition, was using my left eye to shoot with ?? Missed 2 bulls within 30 yards by "feet" (sound familiar?). And I couldn't for the life of me figure it out. Normal practice shooting posed no problems. The third bull cam along and again, I missed by feet on a perfectly broadside animal at about 25 yards, but this time my arrow found his jugular vein, killed him in short order but this was getting CRAZY!! At that exact moment while I watched this bull expire, I re-nocked, drew, aimed and when I closed my right eye, I was still on target. By some mystical event, I all of a sudden started focusing with my left eye rather than my right and had no idea i was doing it. My fix was shooting for some time closing my left eye to sort of retrain my right -eye dominance. Still to this day have no idea why that happened. that was 15 years ago and haven't had a problem since. just a thought....
Hadnt thought of that. Don't know if I'm mixing up eyes though. Last yr I know I was in a bad shooting position, heavily torquing to the left while seated in a very sketchy stand where I was nervous to stand or twist at all for fear of making a noise. Saw my arrow fletching kinda pinwheeling (that even a word) in flight. I chalked that one up to really having to crank hard over without proper adjustment on my form. But this yr he was wide open and I was very comfortable and shooting to my right. As a left hand shooter that's perfect. I thought maybe I forgot to stop him before shooting. Like I said though, I'm blaming myself for these awkward shots or maybe I'm not shooting bad just have really sketchy scenarios that I'm trying to make count and should just be waiting?? But I still kinda blank out on the shots. Lots of good advice here guys. Keep it coming.
"I know I rush shots but again, feels like I'm not in control when I go to full draw on a buck. Everything gets hazy in my mind as to what just happened. I watch my arrow hit the mark and am dumbfounded how it got there."
That's buck fever if I ever heard it described any better. Get some Propranolol from your Doctor. Take it several times when you're not hunting to see how you feel - it shouldn't change anything for you in day-to-day activities, but it'll make a world of difference when a buck comes in. You'll still get an adrenaline rush and be excited, but you won't lose your self-control. It's also very commonly used by performers and public speakers for "stage fright."
LOL, Ike ... I had just copied the exact same words... but I wasn't going to recommend a script, because I'm not licensed for that...
"By some mystical event, I all of a sudden started focusing with my left eye rather than my right and had no idea i was doing it. "
Because you went unconscious. That's why I suggested the eyepatch. OP has a hard-wired default setting for one eye and now he's trying to use the other. Easy to control in practice, but you get the adrenaline spike and all bets are off.
I'mm so heavily right-eye dominant that I can't even close that eye independently, so I'd have to be completely blind in that eye to not default to using it. So... Eye Patch: Instant, complete and (THANK GOD) reversible blindness in the eye you don't want to use...
I had a bad case of it and was slamming the trigger without really settling into a routine. I wouldn't remember a lot of the shot and always rushed the opportunity. I ended up wounding some nice critters and it started to really bug me that I couldn't 'finish' properly and wounding animals was REALLY bugging me.
In 2010 I hit a really nice bighorn ram at 48 yards in the Canmore bowzone. I hit him a bit far back and had a ton of blood but ended up drying up and he lived for a few days after (a guide friend saw him after the season chasing ewes). I quit bowhunting that year for 5 years. I missed it a ton and missed shooting targets, 3d, summer shooting, etc.
A couple years ago I picked up a bow and stepped back into it slowly. I limited myself to shot distance and tried to take my time. Still I noticed a bit of TP in my execution. I snapped the trigger on a lynx and killed it, but knew I snapped it.
I went to a few different releases and now shoot a Truball Sweet Spot II (with safety) and have started to realize how enjoyable shooting is on targets and animals. I've shot a couple critters now and love the feeling of it.
Time off of bowhunting was good for me, all a part of the process for me. I sold everything back then and stepped out completely. Now that I'm back into it, I've found a new passion for it and also a comfort level I never had.
Good luck in your decisions and problem solving!
Do you shoot with both eyes open and are you for sure left eye dominant? In high pressure situations your right eye could be taking over causing you to miss by a lot. I’ve seen it happen.
I had the same thing happen to me - missed a shot and struggled on live animals for awhile. Started hunting hogs and got a LOT of live practice. Really turned things around. I don’t have hogs to hunt anymore but I always shoot some does. Real confidence booster.
It's all mental.......I predict it will go away.
I'm with the others here that suggested you are switching eyes at the moment of truth....Missing to the hind is a hell of a miss. If you are subconsciously eye flipping, missing by 2 feet at 20 yards is a plausible result. Eye patch may be the answer!
I went through something similar about 10 years ago. I could out shoot all my partners at camp but a live target messed me up. I just wasn’t focused and concentrating. I think it was buck fever. I wasn’t picking a spot. If I pulled up and saw a lot of hair around my pin I would “punch” the trigger. Slow down, focus on that micro spot and give it a few seconds. If the animal walks away it walks away. Worked wonders for me and hasn’t returned. Don’t give it up.
When I started having retina problems in my right eye, I started grouping arrows eight inches left of my point of aim. It took a while to figure it out and if I had had any hair I would have pulled it out. I discovered thst closing my left eye made it all good so I now squint my left eye each time I draw. Incorporated into my routine and it's a habit now. After I aquire my sight picture, I open my left eye so that I can watch the arrow flight. It works for me.
How many pins are you shooting?
Owl, I shoot 4. My 40 and 50 are just for target and are smaller diameter so as not to obstruct the target.
4 seems manageable but it may be that those pins are providing information overload. Even if your sight picture is unobstructed, the clutter could rattle you, particularly as you are processing distance and pin choice the same time you are working through nerves.
A long time ago, I shot a 5 pin sight. My experience was much like yours. Great on the range (known yardage) but on game I found I wasn’t picking the right pin in the moment. I was picking “a” pin. Anyway, I went to a movable 3 pin and, poof, my problem disappeared. I am now happily using a single pin.
I will say what others have said in my own way. Don't look for perfection. I shoot worse when I try for perfection than when I just try for good. I also remind myself to keep my sight picture until the arrow hits. I know it is not possible but it reminds me not to move the bow and ruin my shot.
Don’t peak at the shot, exhale, bend at the waist, pick a spot and trust yourself.
I went through this same thing. Killed lots of bucks, some big, a few huge, with no trouble. Then all of a sudden started to "miss". Had a bad shot on a big one, hit him right in the shoulder. Then hit one high, then over one. I fixed it by literally talking myself through the process as a buck approaches. I say over and over again, "stay calm, pick a spot". It helps, trust me. Been fine ever since.
I have target panic and buck fever but I still kill deer. I don't take long shots because I don't have to, I've had very good luck in the last 20 years calling them in. What has helped my target panic is the Apex Gear power dot sight. I just can't shoot an "up" pin as I freeze above the target and these are VERY commonly seen on the market today. With the Power Dot reticle I can shoot without the LED dot on and it really makes me focus on the target and not the dot. While hunting, I keep the power of the dot on the lowest setting that still allows me to see it so I am constantly lowering the power as it gets darker on evening hunts. It allows a VERY small yet visible dot and doesn't capture your full attention while aiming and looking at the target or deer.
Buck, The best thing you can do for your problem is a back tension release. About 20 years ago I felt the same as you. I thought I was going to have to quit bowhunting. I had target panic and it also affected my hunting. It was worse then bad. I bought a back tension release from Zenith Archery. Sold out to 60X strings. Go to there web site and get a starter release and they should have a DVD that teaches you how to shoot a Back tension release safely. you can learn to shoot it in a reasonable time. And be ready to hunt next fall. And don't let anyone tell you that you can't hunt with a Back tension release. I have used one for close to 20 years. It is much better to shoot a controlled arrow. It is the best thing that ever happened to me for my personal archery and bowhunting. Good luck.