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Field Guide -Our Pros

Offseason Compound Bow Practice Tips with John Dudley

As with anything you want to do well or are passionate about, being a better bowhunter requires practice – and what better time to practice than the offseason?

We caught up with our friend and compound bow expert John Dudley to talk with him about how to practice to improve shooting skills. We also asked him where to practice the tips he gives.

So, whether you’re new to archery or you’re looking for tips to keep up your skills during the offseason, keep reading (and watching the videos below) as he shares some important things to help you progress in your compound bow journey and become a better bowhunter for the game you’re after

John Dudley drawing back an arrow with the string of a compound bow.

Practice During the Off-Season Makes You a Better Hunter In-Season

There’s no reason to let your bow sit in its case after the last hunt of the season. If you don’t touch it until you dust it off for opening day next season, you’ll be rusty and waste time and effort in the field trying to retrain yourself on how to shoot accurately. 

So, Dudley stresses the importance of making sure you’re not only practicing during the hunting season. Get out and practice during the off-season.

He says, 

“For me, some of the funnest times are during the spring and summer months when I’m able to get out and shoot at some three-dimensional targets and practice outside.”


What to Practice With Your Compound Bow

So, what should you practice? If you’re shooting with bad habits, you’ll only get better at those bad habits – and the goal of practice is to get better. 

Dudley gives us three things to focus on to make your practice sessions productive. 


1. Focus on the Fundamentals

Practicing with your compound bow is an excellent opportunity to refocus on the fundamentals of a good, accurate shot

These fundamentals are:

  • A proper stance

  • A relaxed grip

  • Having your front shoulder positioned correctly

  • Anchoring properly at full draw

  • Looking through the peep sight correctly

  • A slow, continuous pull on the trigger until you get a surprise shot


Make sure you don’t release the tension in the string once you start to pull back. Keep it slow and consistent as you draw to get that surprise shot. 


2. Start Close (Then Gradually Move Back)

Train yourself to never look past having a big target up close. This reduces anxiety, so you worry less about a smaller target further away that requires tight aiming. 

With a target close-in, trust the front sight moving around and practice being patient on the shot.

Dudley describes it like this: 

“My kids always play the video games they are the best at. The harder games always give them anxiety, and those just didn’t get played.” 

Apply that same mentality when practicing during the offseason by reminding yourself that the big target up close is your best shot in the field. Bring yourself up close to a target and get comfortable at that distance. Then, once you’re comfortable in that range, gradually move back or start minimizing that target. 

John Dudley at full draw aiming a compound bow at a target.


3.Follow Through

Focus on following through the complete draw – when that release goes off, the string goes forward again and takes the arrow toward the target. 

He says, 

“Many people make the mistake of immediately wanting to know where the arrow went, so they drop their arms to look over the top of the bow.” 

Instead, keep your focus through the peep and the front sight and watch the arrow land at the point you’re looking at. 

Watch John Dudley walk through these tips in the video below. 

A video from HuntWise and John Dudley about how to practice with your compound bow during the offseason.

Where to Practice

As obvious as it might seem, Dudley says the simplest thing to do is Google “where to practice archery near me.” 

Your area may have:

  • Clubs with targets set up there

  • Archery shops

  • Buy your own affordable bag target

You can take a portable bag target to a backyard, a farm, a dead-end street, or anywhere it’s safe to shoot your bow (and where you have permission to shoot it).

Dudley also suggests that if you really want to practice in a way that simulates a realistic hunting challenge, look into “Total Archery Challenge (TAC)” 3-D Archery events. These events feature realistic foam targets in typical hunting scenarios, like those you would encounter on a real hunt. They are excellent events for practicing with your compound bow. 

Learn more from John Dudley in the video below. 

A video from John Dudley and HuntWise about where to practice with compound bows.

Practice With HuntWise in the Offseason, Too

Practicing during the offseason is the best way to stay sharp with your bow, but it’s not the only thing you can practice! When open season rolls back around, you’ll need to know where to hunt and execute the compound bow skills you’ve mastered. 

Scouting year-round is an excellent way to stay engaged and learn more about where the deer bed, eat, and travel in the areas you plan to hunt. With HuntWise, you can scout during the offseason using hundreds of map layers and markers to note what you find. 

Then, after an offseason of practicing your bow skills and learning and marking deer behavior and patterns, you have a significant advantage over other hunters when it’s time to get out in the field for opening day. 


Use HuntWise and These Offseason Practice Tips for Success This Season

We hope these offseason practice tips from John Dudley have been helpful! We can’t wait for hunting season to start again, and we’re sure you’re excited to get back out there, too. Stay sharp, practice, practice, practice, and download HuntWise now to be ready for your first hunt this season. 

Try every feature within the app – free – for a week! 

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