by Hunting Life’s Marjorie Moss
The Value of a Lesson
Let me begin by saying that this step – lessons – is not to be underestimated!!! When it comes to learning something new, receiving guidance from a knowledgeable person is wise. When it comes to learning something new that also happens to be capable of bringing down an elk, receiving guidance is critical. Bows don’t make loud bangs, but they are just as deadly as a rifle.
So armed with my bow and a healthy dose of honest respect, I head up to Full Draw Archery again and have Bill, the gentleman who set up my bow, take me further on my journey into becoming a bowhunter.
Bill is the perfect teacher. He looks at me. He speaks calmly. He doesn’t have a bow in his hand; I do. We’re off to a good start.
And we start with the stance. I straddle a line, feet perpendicular to the target and about shoulder width apart, my weight evenly distributed. I want to feel the contact between my feet and the ground. I’ve practiced yoga in the past and the physical and mental balance I get from deliberate yoga poses translates into my shooting position.
Under the watchful eyes of my instructor, I nock the arrow, attach my release, and pull back the string. Here is the next really big part: where my hand touches my jaw. My instructor tells me just how to place the big knuckle on my index finger onto the area where my jaw meets my earlobe. It’s not a position that comes naturally at first and Bill gently reminds me a few times until I begin to like the feel of my hand meeting my jaw.
Bill has me take a couple of shots to get the feel of pulling up and releasing. In an effort to practice the pull and release, I shoot at a target-less backer board. No bulls-eye to distract me from just feeling the motion.
After the stance and the hand position, the next bit of instruction is simple to the point of disbelief to a new shooter: know the spot I wish to hit and release the arrow. Bill assures me that on some kind of level, my arrow will hit what I want it to hit. He tells me this takes the questioning out of the equation. No “what-ifs.” No “wait until the sight and the target line up perfectly.” I am told that perfect moment comes and goes and if I expect to hold the bow for that perfect moment, the moment will be over before I get the chance to release the arrow. I think there may be perfect shots, but not perfect moments because those moments are too fleeting. Suffice it to say, I must know my target and shoot with the unwavering belief that the arrow will hit what I want it to hit.
After those three key lessons – stance, hand position, belief – I practice and practice, all under quiet direction of my instructor. He gently points out when my hand position is off or when my weight is out of balance. He places a full-length mirror nearby for me to see how I tend to shift my weight to my back leg a little too much, thus taking me out of balance. He’s not a high-five type of guy when I hit my intended spot on the target. He believes in the belief part of shooting and he has faith in me that I am hitting where I want to hit.
All of this makes me feel calm, confident, and capable –qualities I believe are crucial not only in shooting well, but in shooting period.