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Heartland Outdoors

MENTAL PROJECTION: Visualize the Arrow in Flight

Thu, August 10, 2017

When you become the arrow you extend your mental approach to accurate shooting.  Coaches often advise “become the bow”, but the bow is only a launching device.  The arrow is the ultimate, final part, whether hitting a target bullseye or cleaning striking game in a vital region.  Therefore, extend your mental framework to the arrow.  Visualize the exact spot you intended it to hit.  Then you will, indeed, become the arrow.

First, while you’re drawing the bow, visualize the arrow in flight.
Visualizing the flight path is much like throwing a ball or a stone, in that you would visualize the proper arc of the thrown object in order that it would hit the center of the target.  Visualize the fletches spinning, the arrow dropping in and hitting the target perfectly.  This is visualized projection, and this is what you want.

An unexpected benefit, the first time it happens for you, is that as you visualize the flight pattern you also will be able to see obstructions to your arrow’s actual flight.

A solid bow arm is essential to good shooting.  It will forgive minor errors in other parts of your shooting form.  Think ‘ANCHOR the bow arm’.

Second, see the sight picture.
The tip of the arrow will be out of focus at the bottom of this mental picture. It is a straight line below the arc of the visualized arrow in flight. This serves as a cross-reference.  Don’t do this step alone, because you’ll miss whatever flight path obstructions exist.  It’s more like the split image view you will get when focusing a camera with the split-image focusing system – when they come together, you release.

These two steps obviously happen much faster than they can be described.

On ordinary days, you don’t have the level of concentration that you will when you’re shooting at a trophy buck.  While practicing, you’ll see the mark clearly, but not necessarily in crisp focus.  When you’re really humming, you will be able to see the hair splitting on the buck’s ribcage as the arrow hits.

Visualizing the flight path – its arc from bow to target, is a form of distance judging that has proven highly reliable for me in hunting.  I use it because it isn’t practical to take your eye off the animal to guess the distance.  I can, because of practice, recognize the sight picture – the flight path, actually – the arrow should take to get to the target.

When I visualize an arrow in flight, all I’m doing is bringing the bow arm up to where it hits the angle I have visualized.  I can misjudge the proper arc for the arrow a little bit, i.e., misjudge the flight path slightly, yet the arrow seems to hit within the kill zone of the animal, whereas a misjudged distance of as little as three yards for sight pin use seems to produce a higher probability of a missed shot.  For me, it just doesn’t seem to be as critical to judge the arc as to judge the distance.

If you learn to judge the flight path the arrow must take to hit the target, rather than which sight pin to use, you will be more likely to take the animal, I believe.  If you’re going to use a definite sighting mechanism on the bow, I believe then you also will need a more definite distance judging system, such as a rangefinder.  This will slow you down, but it may be to your advantage.

This barebow principle and practice will work with the compound bow, too.
The theory and the practice aren’t wedded solely to a traditional bow, but traditional is what I know the best, and that’s what I’m talking about here.  Fellow bowhunters have proven to me quite well that a compound bow can be shot barebow effectively.

When you’re picking a spot at which to aim pick the smallest spot possible.  Such as a light hair on the topline of the cluster of lighter-toned hairs just behind this buck’s left elbow, maybe five inches up from the bottom line of its body. 
Visualizing for Quartering Shots at Game
Some bowhunters, to achieve the desired results, especially on quartering shots, will focus on the exit point of the arrow instead of the entry point.  By focusing where they want the arrow to exit, they know the arrow will have to go through the vital area of the game animal.  The exact point of exit is unseen, but they can concentrate on it so well, envision it so well, that it becomes clear and in focus in their mind’s eye.

Another way to look at it is to visualize a basketball in the target’s chest.  No matter what angle from me the animal is standing, I shoot for the center of the basketball.  The basketball doesn’t change positions; only the angle of the target animal’s body changes.  The basketball visualization functions as an enlarged pivot point and thus is the center of focus.

With barebow shooting, when you see the proper sight picture your arrow tip will be out of focus at the bottom of that sight picture, as shown here in this simulated situation.
We Can’t Judge Distance Like We Think We Can
A few years ago, we attended an eastern state bowhunting association’s fall shoot.  They had a distance judging contest as a novelty event.  The ten targets included two rabbits, two turkeys, three whitetail deer, two raccoons and one black bear.  The cardboard targets were life-size and lifelike.  They weren’t 3D, but still…

Target distances were typical, ranging from 18 feet to 75 feet.  Feet, not yards. The ten target distances added up to 384 feet.  Participants estimated the distances in feet from marker stakes to the targets, with a separate stake for each target.  Accuracy was determined simply by adding their 10 estimates and comparing that total to the actual 384-foot total.

The participants were experienced bowhunters, some more and some less.  They already were interested enough in shooting the bow and in bowhunting to be aware of the association and its fall event, and they were interested enough in the activity to attend and then participate in the distance judging contest.

With this in mind, then the results show just how far off the person who DOESN’T shoot much probably will be.

Twenty-six people participated. Their totals, in feet, ranged from 264 feet to 543 feet.  The actual total, again, was 384 feet.  Only seven were within 20 feet, plus or minus, of 384 feet.  That’s only two feet off per target, yet sometimes that two-foot error can make a difference.  Average target distance was 38.4 feet.  Dividing the two-foot error average by 38.4 gives a 5.21 percentage error.

The bow and arrow is a slow hunting tool.  The arrow has more arc in the trajectory than we often realize.  There just isn’t much margin for error regarding distance judging when we use the bow. Add the excitement and self-imposed tension of a shot on game, and possibly an incorrect estimation of the target animal’s size, shadow and direct light combinations, lack of confirmed distance reference points, plus shot angle (usually from a treestand), and you have a recipe for a missed shot.

Several Army studies of gunnery and infantry personnel have confirmed that the human animal is nowhere near as good a judge of distance as he thinks he is.

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