Shooting in camp key to hunting success

TXI-1484The big South African warthog boar was less than 10 yards. And broadside.

The shot should have been a “gimme” with all of the practice the bow hunter sitting in the blind on the edge of the waterhole had put in before the hunt.

But he hadn’t shot his bow since taking several practice shots the first morning of the safari. That had been five days ago.

The gimme shot turned into a nightmare when the hunter, with adrenaline rushing through his body, forgot the calm, steady motion he had practiced for so long and rushed the shot, taking the pig high in the shoulder — too high.

With no vitals hit, the big tusker ran from the waterhole never to be seen again. Months of practice had been blown because the hunter (in this case, me) broke a cardinal rule of his bow hunting regiment — shoot everyday.

It was a good lesson learned, and one that many hunters should heed. Why spend all of the time, effort and money to travel to a far-away destination to hunt and drop the practice routine once there?

“We should have been shooting more often,” said professional hunter Whitey Van Zyl, who guided the hunter who wounded the warthog. “He was spot on the first day of the hunt, but somewhere along the line his bow pins got knocked and everything was shooting high. That contributed to the bad shot.”

Archery pro Ken “Gunther” Hays of Cinnamon Creek Archery Shop said he sticks to a routine when traveling on hunting trips.

“I shoot at least half a dozen arrows before I go out every morning,” he said. “There is usually enough light to do that. It is also a good check to make sure your clothing isn’t coming into contact and hitting the bow string.”

Hayes said he also tries to shoot again each night in camp.

“It helps relieve some frustration, especially if you’ve had a tough day in the blind,” he said. “There is also some good-natured trash talking usually going on in camp, so we like to shoot longer distances to see who is the best shot.

“It definitely helps on the shorter shots when you shoot longer distances. Keeping that muscle memory is really important.”

Hill Country guide Andrew Phillips said he likes to have his clients, especially bow hunters, shoot every day, even if he has to turn his truck lights on to illuminate a target at night.

“It is just really good practice for them and it gives me a chance to evaluate how they are shooting,” he said. “I’ve had guys tell me they are great shots and they can hit a dime at 50 yards, and then they get on a range with a little bit of pressure and they are all over the place.

“It calms them down to shoot a few arrows and makes me more confident in their abilities.”