Outdoor Life Online Editor

There’s only one way to get ready for the season, and that’s to shoot a lot of arrows during the rest of the year. An archer who pulls his bow out a week prior to opening day and shoots a couple of arrows isn’t prepared to attempt a shot at a live animal.

Let’s face it, pulling and holding a 70-pound bow takes a bit of “oomph.” Spending days on the couch watching television until the season starts is no way to go. If this is your prehunting ritual, you’ll likely shake so uncontrollably when shooting that consistent accuracy will be impossible.

To get bow-strong, initially worry less about arrow impact and more about getting your muscles in shape. Start slowly, shooting only three arrows each day for the first week. In the second week, increase the number to six and so on each week in increments of three until you are shooting 15 arrows a day.

Shoot three arrows, walk to the target and remove them, then shoot again. This will give muscles time to relax between sets so that you’re not shaky and fatigued. As you gain strength, focus on hitting the target in the same spot.

As the season nears, reduce the number of arrows you shoot each day. In the week prior to the opener, shoot only one arrow a day. This forces you to concentrate on making every shot count. One last note: Practice in waning light. Most bowhunters don’t, and they struggle when faced with low-light shots, which in deer hunting is most of the time.

**Beyond the Bow **
The body uses more than 13 major muscles (see chart) to hold and draw a bow. To strengthen shooting muscles, hunters should consider a simple workout. Three exercises are all that’s needed.

Seated behind-the-neck military presses work traps, delts and pecs. Seated rows with a pulley (or bent rows if all you have are dumbells) strengthen rhomboids, biceps and lats. Sit-ups will tighten your abs. Bow Fit makes a great exercise tool that employs resistance bands that work the same muscles used when shooting a bow (bowfit.com).

[pagebreak] **Practice Angles **
Animals rarely present the perfect broadside shot. In fact, most shots are taken on quartering-toward or quartering-away animals.

When you’re shooting at 3-D targets, practice these varying angles. To simulate hunting conditions, shoot both from the ground and from a tree stand. A fun way to practice from the ground is to toss your arrows in a wide circle around your target. Then walk around picking up each one and shooting the target from where the arrow was lying.

Judging Distance
Accurately judging distance takes practice, and ample opportunities to do so abound. While walking to the water cooler or heading down the driveway for the paper, pick out an object in the distance. Estimate how far away it is and then pace it off to check your guess.

Another good way to develop your ability to estimate distance is to take an off-season walk through the woods with a range finder in hand. Stop occasionally and put an eye on a tree, rock or other natural object. Estimate the real estate between you and the target. Check yourself with the laser. After a few trips, you’ll become proficient at mentally taping off distances.

Keep It Fun
3-D Tournaments
Local 3-D tournaments offer entertaining practice opportunities. Simply sign up in the “Hunter Class” and you’ll be shooting with other bowhunters out for a good time.

Indoor Shooting
When the weather turns cold and nasty, check out indoor shooting leagues. They provide a great place to stay sharp and compare notes with others who share your passion for archery.

Stump Shooting
Call a couple of your buddies and have everyone gather a handful of less-than-perfect arrows tipped with judo points. Each archer takes a turn picking a target, whether it’s a stump, rock, clump of grass or log. He then tries to make the shot. Keep score.