Bow hunting is an exciting sport that makes the thrill of hunting even stronger. How can you make sure that when you’re out on the hunt you will not lose your prize buck to a poor shot? Although the typical thing to do is to take out your targets and shoot a few practice shots each day, this may not be the best way to actually improve your skills as a hunter and bowman.

Instead, try some more interactive and challenging drills that will push your abilities past what you thought was possible. With basic target shooting you will not get to practice many skills that are necessary for actual hunting situations whereas these drills are designed to put you in situations that are more similar to real life scenarios in order to help you practice what you really need to know in the heat of the moment.

bow hunting skills
Credited: Pinterest

What Makes a Successful Bow Hunter?

A mix of athleticism and skill is required to be a highly effective bow hunter. If you’re not already doing a workout routine to help you gain more upper-body strength it might be a good idea to start doing some physical workouts 3 to 4 times a week in addition to the skills exercises that are listed below. This can include simple exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups if you don’t have training weights readily available.

Exercises to Improve Your Bow Hunting

Here are a few exercises that can help you to practice your bow hunting skills in various situations:

1. Blind Bale Shooting

What this drill practices:

  • Shooting form
  • Breathing patterns
  • Muscle memory

How to do the drill:

Set up a bale at very close range without a target. You want the bale to be close enough that it is impossible to miss it with a shot. Blind fold yourself or close your eyes. Draw your bow slowly and take your shot. Your eyes should be closed through this entire process.

The purpose of this drill is to help your body to learn what a good draw and a good shot feel like without the distractions of aiming or looking for a target. You are solely focusing on your form and breathing. For this reason you should be concerned with setting up your form and making a smooth draw with the proper breathing.

Over time your body will learn what a good draw feels like, allowing you to make great shots without having to think about your form later on.

2. Small Off-target Shooting

What this drill practices:

  • Aiming at non-circular targets
  • Precise aiming from multiple distances

How to do the drill:

Take a set of paper plates and draw bold circles of varying sizes on them. Some circles should be the width of a soda can while others are as small as a quarter. Set these targets up at varying ranges and aim for different circles.

Alternatively, set up the plate at varying ranges and aim for the “clock” shots (positions 12, 3, 6, and 9 if it were a real clock).

Taking these shots will help you to identify a target of any size and shape and take your shot without worries. Aiming for the clock shots can help you to avoid getting target anxiety on an actual hunt, as you will be more confident at making shots which are not aimed at any specific circular targets.

Otherwise, the different circles will great the monotony of shooting for the bull’s eye all the time in target practice.

3. Long Distance Shots

What this drill practices:

  • Shooting at uncomfortable ranges
  • Confidence at long shots
  • Grouping tightly with long shots

How to do the drill:

Set up your target at 50-60 yards away and practice taking clean shots at this range. Long distance shots will show any shooting problems you may have more clearly than short shots, as even a small mistake in a shot is more visible when the arrow has farther to travel.

While you might not feel good about taking a 60 yard shot on a buck in the woods, practicing long range shooting is not necessarily intended to be used directly in the field. Shooting long range exposes weaknesses you may have in shooting and helps you to improve your overall shot quality.

It also gives you greater confidence in your ability to shoot well at any range, making shorter shots much easier.

Additionally, you will be prepared if you ever need to take a second shot at the same buck from long range to help take it down.

4. Extended Hold

What this drill practices:

  • Muscle strength while holding a draw
  • Holding your grip for extended time periods
  • Breathing steadily

How to do the drill:

Nock your arrow and draw your bow to full length as if you were ready to shoot. Instead of shooting immediately, hold the shot for two minutes. During this time you should only be holding the draw, not attempting to aim at all. After two minutes, take at least 15 seconds to aim and shoot.

You will apply this training in many real life situations because bucks are completely unpredictable. It’s hard to know when you will be able to take the perfect shot after the buck comes into view, so it’s a good idea to be able to hold your draw as long as necessary to make the right shot at the right time.

5. Random Range Targets

range target
Credited: Pinterest

What this drill practices:

  • Accuracy at unusual distances
  • peed when using a rangefinder

How to do the drill:

Ask a friend to move your targets to random places within your comfortable shooting range. This could be anywhere between 5-40 yards depending on what you usually shoot at in practice. Use your rangefinder to get the proper range, line up your shot, and practice grouping at this range.

In the woods it is very rare for a buck to be exactly 20 or 30 yards away. More likely they will be 27.3 yards away, 32.4 yards away, or some other uneven number. Shooting only at cleanly distanced targets can hinder you from making great shots in the in between ranges.

Random target distances will help you to be experienced at shooting any distance between your normal comfortable target ranges.

6. Shot Angle Practice

What this drill practices:

  • Real-life shooting angles
  • Lining up your target at any angle

How to do the drill:

Set up your target on the ground before climbing into a tree stand, onto your roof, or somewhere else that is higher up than normal. Shoot at various ranges.

Realistically if you hunt with a tree stand you will almost never get a flat, straight shot at a buck. For this reason the shot angles drill can be the perfect way to practice your shooting while bent at the hips and looking downwards. Try to maintain proper form the whole time and teach yourself to make good grouping shots at any angle.

7. Adrenaline Training

What this drill practices:

  • Aiming with a high heart rate
  • Slowing down and using proper breathing patterns
  • Taking a steady shot with a higher heart rate

How to do the drill:

Set up your bow with a nocked arrow, ready to shoot, before placing it down on a stand or the ground. Sprint about 30-50 yards away and back to your bow again. Pick it up immediately and take aim. Shoot within 1 minute when you’re ready.

The adrenaline rush you get when faced with a live buck on an actual hunt is something that normal shooting practice does not take into account. This drill speeds up your heart rate before you shoot, forcing you to practice effective breathing patterns, aiming, and shooting with your heart beating quickly.


Becoming a more highly skilled bow hunter is not something that can happen overnight. It takes a lot of practice in many varieties of skills, not just straight target shooting. These drills can help you to gain skill in many different areas that you will be using when you go out on the hunt!


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