Archery skills honed by realistic practice

Dustin Presley, of Guntown, removes arrows from a target made to simulate a wild hog. Shooting targets shaped like game helps hunters be better prepared. (Kevin Tate)

Dustin Presley, of Guntown, removes arrows from a target made to simulate a wild hog. Shooting targets shaped like game helps hunters be better prepared. (Kevin Tate)

By Kevin Tate
Outdoors Writer

The leap from flinging arrows into a flat backstop to launching the same through the woods at a live animal is one bowhunters bridge every fall through the use of 3-D target shooting.

Better at simulating real hunting scenarios than their two-dimensional counterparts, life-sized foam targets addressed from a variety of angles and varied distances help train the archer’s eye and steady his or her hand by building confidence along with muscle memory.

“There’s a lot of homework involved in bowhunting,” Brian Ellis, with Mudcreek Archery in Saltillo said, “and the homework is done here. Bowhunting is about working the animal and waiting for the perfect shot, and 3-D shooting teaches you how to make the shots you’ll need to make.”

The draw
Ellis and business partners Tyler Robison and Casey Thornton, each 30 years old, have been bowhunting since their early teenage years. Together they operate Mudcreek Archery, an indoor archery range and pro shop on Barnes Crossing Road near the Elm Lake Golf Course.

“So many hunters go out and miss the first deer of the year and wish they had shot more,” Ellis said. “What they should have also done was shoot differently. People practice at 20 yards, at 30 yards, at 40 yards, but they don’t practice nine yards, 14 yards, 26 yards and so on. Regularly shooting a 3-D course gives you practical time shooting all sorts of distances.”

The life-sized targets also help build a great variety of skills. Learning to concentrate on hitting the animal’s vital area with the shot, getting a feel for where to aim on an animal quartering away and generally attaching to archery’s muscle memory a visual image of what a buck at 18 yards or 32 yards looks like builds a tremendous amount of confidence in each shooter.

“Hunting is a head game,” Robison said. “You’re not going to kill anything if you’re not confident.”

The reward
Bowhunting’s challenges and rewards go hand in hand. The excitement of finding an area huntable deer are using, hanging a stand in the perfect spot, approaching it carefully and hunting it when the wind is right, making an undetected draw and placing an accurate shot define hunting itself for those devoted to the stick and string. Shooting 3-D is as close to reality as practice can get.