My Archery Evolution

My Hoyt Rampage XT. Bought it from a buddy at work, first time buying a bow in over 15 years. Great bow for me to get back into the archery game.

I’ve been away from the blog for a bit, as the guys I hunt with and I wrapped up our unsuccessful 2018-2019 waterfowl season here in Northern Illinois. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, waterfowl hunting has become something I am passionate about and focus a lot of my energy and money on.

That being said, my early hunting life saw me being what Steve Rinella calls “a hunting generalist”. I dabbled in all types of hunting, from upland birds, waterfowl, to crows and coyotes. But one endeavor that I was extremely passionate about was archery deer hunting. Now my dad and I would shotgun deer hunt for the two seasons Illinois had, and while the camaraderie of deer camp was something I enjoyed in my youth, archery deer hunting held something all together different for me.

My earliest hunting memories are of my dad taking me on his back up a tree stand and placing me in my own stand while he sat in his own nearby. He told me that at the time I was four years old, and having a four year old of my own I cannot imagine leaving my son in a tree stand by himself. He would give me some jolly rancher candy to keep me occupied, and coincidentally anytime my dad saw or shot a deer, it was when I had a sour apple jolly rancher in my mouth.

That basis I feel is what gave me the passion for the outdoors that I have. But more along the lines of this blog, it is what instilled a drive for archery deer hunting as well. My parents got me a panda bear compound bow when I was young along with some wooden arrows and I would spend hours shooting it in my parents’ backyard.

My dad taught me what he had learned about archery and then came the day I got my own “big boy bow”. While I don’t remember what it was, I do remember two things. The first was that my dad took me to the local archery shop and had me fitted for the bow. The pro shop (which is no longer in business) took my measurements and fit the bow to me, and cut me a dozen aluminum arrows.

The second thing I remember from this bow, was the fact that I shot fingers instead of a release. I had a three finger shooting glove to protect my fingers from the string, and would once again shoot for hours in the back yard. I shot so much that I would break arrows, either with my groups hitting so tight they nicked the fletching of each other, or the one time I “Robin Hooded” two arrows, where one arrow hit another dead center and went down the length of the shaft.

My first deer I shot with my bow was a button buck I shot from the ground, he was head on and I was shooting fingers. It felt like an eternity to hold that 50 pound draw weight back by my fingers before I made that dangerous but lethal shot.

My second archery shot deer was an experience I would never want to repeat. Many lessons of what I as hunter need to improve on kept me out of the woods for a year, working on improving all those skills necessary to be an ethical and efficient archery deer hunter.

Even though I hunted deer a lot, and drew back on a few, the next deer I took with a bow would be sixteen years later, and would be a situation that shook my confidence of my abilities. Up to that point, all the shooting and practice I did gave me a false sense of confidence. But the lessons I learned from that terrible experience in October of 2016 led me on a path of gaining as much knowledge in the art of archery as I could get.

After that terrible reintroduction to archery hunting, I set upon a course to ensure that I am the most proficient at using my archery gear as I could be. I divulged in as much information as I could find. I became an avid podcast listener, and picked podcasts that centered around becoming a proficient archer

So I went into this long, drawn out blog post to lay a ground work of what the future holds for me, and the journey that I will take you on as I work toward my next archery deer. I bought a newer bow early in 2018, and shot it religiously all year, to the point that I wore out a brand new vital area on my Glendale Buck target.

I wanted to know this bow, to know what a good shot felt like. However, one thing I learned in all those hours of podcasts that was consistent no matter who hosted the podcast, was the fact that I needed to get my arrows tuned with whatever broadheads I intended to shoot. This was something I wasn’t taught and didn’t practice in my earlier years. I just screwed on three blade broadheads and went hunting. To this end, I bought an arrow spinner, and made sure that they spun true. Also, I ensured the blades of my broadheads lined up with the fletching of my arrows for a more aerodynamic flight. Once again, something I had never worried about before. I shot these arrows with these heads into the practice target, so I could have 100% confidence in their flight. Then, I sharpened them with the sharpener I bought, to ensure they were razor sharp.

I hunted one day with this set up, and never pulled the bow back. Seems like a lot of work for one day of unsuccessful hunting right? Well, that depends on how you look at it. Me? I had confidence again but this time it was because I had taken the time to understand the nuances that successful archers preach. It wasn’t because I shot field tips in the back yard and then hunted with three blade broadheads, with no idea where the broadheads hit.

So with 2019 here, and because I am who I am, I’m gonna change my arrow set up for this season. Yes, you read that right. All those hours and hours of shooting and tinkering, and I’m going to change it this year. My current arrows are Easton Carbon Aftermaths. They are 8.8 grains per inch, and with my arrows cut at 26″ that means they weigh 228.8 grains. With my 100 grain Magnus Buzzcut fixed blade broadheads that brings my total arrow weight to 328.8 grains. I plan to get a stiffer spined, heavier arrow and maybe bump the head weight up to 125 grains. So, this blog post has set the scene so to speak for the journey you will be on this year, as I delve into the endless technical rabbit hole that is archery hunting. As a returning archer, I am new to this all, so I hope I can shed some light on this for others. So follow along and see my successes and failures during the preparation for the 2019 deer season.

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