Smacking a bag target, arrow after arrow, is hardly good bowhunting practice. Often, it’s done in the wide open and on flat ground in pleasant weather. Plus, the bull’s-eye is blatantly obvious. Anyone who can hold a bow with minimal training can slam-dunk given these circumstances. In no way does it indicate that you’re ready for all that the bowhunting woods will dish up.
Bowhunting unfolds under duress, in varied terrain, or from an elevated treestand. Obstacles such as sticks, grass, weeds, trees, and more abound. Plus, determining where to aim when a buck or bull rolls into your shooting window requires focus. There’s no big red dot over the heart and lungs. Add in wind and a spiked heart rate, and it’s no wonder that bowhunters who shoot bull’s-eyes on every 20-yard shot at their backyard bag target can’t consistently duplicate a killing shot on live animals.
Not all bowhunters are this way, but many believe that the best bow paired with the best accessories will make them deadlier, especially if they shoot every single day leading up to the season opener. While there are undeniable merits to repetition, it isn’t at all the bow’s price tag or how often you shoot that make you deadly. You become deadly by practicing as you hunt. There is no better way to do this than with 3D archery.
It doesn’t matter how awesome your bow is if you can’t really put it to the test before the season opens. I value 3D targets so much that if my budget depended upon it, I’d settle for a midpriced bow so that I could afford some 3D targets. Animal vitals aren’t so easily identifiable, especially when the animal poses at various angles prior to offering you a split-second shooting opportunity. That’s one reason why 3D targets trump bag targets. They can be set at various angles and directions to practice sending killing shots when that big muley isn’t 100% broadside.
If you’re serious about becoming a deadlier bowhunter, then let’s walk through a few different 3D target options, so you can practice like you hunt.
The 3D Starter Kit
Suppose you have $250 to spend. With that budget, you could get two 3D deer targets or a deer and a turkey target from Shooter Targets. This would allow you to put out a couple of targets to walk around and shoot at from multiple angles and distances. These targets don’t have the same quality of foam as those from Rinehart Targets. They won’t last as long, but the Shooters do have replaceable vital inserts, so hard-hit areas can be swapped out for cheap.
Or you could buy a really good deer target from Rinehart. Rinehart has a few different versions that range from $200 to $250. Choose one, and it will withstand thousands of shots with a self-healing foam insert. They are also more weather resistant if left outside. My family and I have gotten more than 10 years out of a single Rinehart.
The downside to having only one or two targets is that you’ll have to move them around frequently in order to practice multiple scenarios in different settings and terrain. But even one 3D target can yield far better bowhunting practice than a bag target. And if you bowhunt only one or two species, this option is very practical for bowhunters on tight budgets who have small properties.
Change It Up, Challenge Yourself, and Make It Fun!
More money makes for more targets or better targets. But regardless of budget or the number of targets you land, it’s important to change your backyard course often. The idea is to set up realistic hunting shots. Try to position targets at steep angles, behind some brush with a tiny window, and at long ranges you’re not accustomed to shooting. The more you challenge yourself, the greater your in-the-field bowhunting performance will become. Hundred-yard bowshots on live animals is a bad idea, but if you are regularly crushing foam that far, it’ll make 40 yards feel like a chip shot.
We’ve naturally been taught that the bow is the most important piece of bowhunting gear, but I’ll argue that the way you practice has a far greater impact on the outcome when a Pope & Young bull saunters into the meadow. Decide on a budget, purchase a 3D target or several, and then take your practice to the next level with a challenging and always-changing backyard course. You’ll consistently make better shots on game animals.
Who doesn’t want that?