Many bowhunters seek tips and techniques to improve their shooting skills throughout the summer. Even though many hunters practice, few rarely prepare for an actual hunting situation.
When recently sitting down with veteran and famed bowhunter Fred Eichler to discuss how he prepares for upcoming hunts, he quickly noted that he is not a professional archery shooter. Instead, Eichler titles himself simply as a bowhunter who strives to become a better hunter who can consistently make a deadly shot on an animal.
Eichler spends countless days traveling the country each year hunting with a bow, stating that he never stops hunting. “I recently returned from completing two turkey slams in one spring,” says Eichler, adding that he harvested four turkeys with his recurve and four with a shotgun. As for his future endeavors, when I spoke with Eichler, he was preparing for a bowfishing trip in Louisiana, plus a hog hunt. Eichler also plans to hunt antelope, whitetail, mule deer, elk, black bear, and mountain lions in his home state of Colorado. Eichler explained that he has successfully drawn a tag for many hunts out of state this year. “I know I already drew a tag for Wyoming, so I will be headed there this year, plus whatever else comes up soon.”
When a hunter like Fred Eichler spends ample time bowhunting each year, one would assume that he must shoot thousands of arrows to remain sharp and ready to make a deadly shot. When visiting with many other serious bowhunters in recent years, I have been intrigued by the many different methods used to prepare themselves for the hunt. Certain hunters say they shoot several arrows daily while in their backyard, while others spend the off-season by joining an archery league at their local pro shop, where they compete indoors with other shooters. Some hunters specifically focus on natural hunting situations to help them be better hunters, using techniques to simulate an actual hunt while practicing, such as being dressed in full camouflage or completing fifteen jumping jacks before picking up their bow and shooting. The extensive motion quickly elevates their heart rate, simulating the heart-pounding adrenaline when a mature buck steps into archery range.
When visiting with Eichler on how he prepares himself for his upcoming hunts, I was fascinated by the mindset and concept of his unique way of practicing that simulates real-life hunting situations. “I hear many bowhunters when practicing say, I am getting warmed up now or dialed in. If I were a target shooter, I would care where my second or third arrow hits, but I am a hunter who only cares where that first arrow hits when making a harvest attempt on an animal.” Eichler explained that the primary reason he shoots a bow is to hunt, and when in a real hunting situation, it rarely matters where the second or third arrow hits. For that reason, Eichler has developed his own method of only shooting one arrow. “The most realistic way of recreating a real hunt situation is to shoot one arrow. When you first pick up your bow, it is cold; you’re cold or not warmed up, similar to when an animal walks into range when hunting.” By conducting a one arrow-at-a-time method throughout the year, Eichler says he feels better prepared as a hunter because he knows his equipment and body better. “I know how much I need to concentrate on making that one shot count.” Throughout the year, Eichler explains that he changes the yardage of targets by shooting at ten yards one day, then thirty or forty yards the next. By only shooting one arrow a day, Eichler says he begins to think about that one shot throughout the day. “When hunters use multiple arrows to practice, I think they often let their minds wander after time or lose focus of what needs to be done to achieve the perfect shot,” He added that when hunters know they only get to shoot one arrow a day, they do everything possible to make that shot count.
Eichler says that having practice sessions where you shoot multiple shots or when shooting for more extended periods while shooting with friends and family is excellent and is a great way to practice. However, the best bowhunting practice and preparation for hunting season practice is done when shooting one arrow a day and making the shot count. To add to the actual hunting situation method, Eichler prefers shooting early in the morning or late evening, which coincides with the two most popular hunting times. He also often dresses in the clothes he plans to wear when hunting. “If I am going to be wearing a headnet, gloves, or a jacket when on the hunt, then that is what I wear when shooting my one arrow a day,” Eichler explained that even when he practices in the hot summer, he still wears camouflage.