By Patrick Meitin
Improve Your Hit-to-Miss Ratio by Adopting AAA Aiming. Important shots are always filled with anxiety. The best way to perform during stressful shooting scenarios—whether shooting at a season-making buck or executing that winning tournament shot—is to adopt a strict shooting routine. This is something to imbed in your subconscious, allowing you to slip into autopilot during important shots. I call these routines shooting checkpoints, important points visited while moving toward making a technically perfect shot. These checkpoints serve as a reality check during anxious moments when the mind tends to lose an accurate sense of time, rush the shot or shortcut the process.
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I witnessed this often during 23 years of guiding big-game hunters: clients hopped up on adrenaline shooting but simply forgetting to aim—at least in the real sense. The very basic problem is most bowhunters approach aiming and shooting as a two-step process; placing the pin on target and cutting the shot. This also explains missing easy shots that would never occur during backyard practice. In the backyard you’re relaxed and take your time. When presented with an important shot at game, nerves red-line and shortcuts are taken to relieve the overwhelming stress.
In reality aiming properly should include three distinct steps—and here we are talking about shooting a compound bow with sights and a peep. In the interests of making these steps easier to remember each is assigned a label starting with A—as in AAA.
In the beginning this three-step process will feel forced and maybe even a little cumbersome, but given enough practice the process becomes seamlessly second nature. It is designed to help you perform under pressure and minimize the number of misses on important shots. The three A’s include ACQUIRE, ALIGN and AIM, and indicate exactly what you will be doing during the overall shooting process. Let’s begin.
Step 1: ACQUIRE
We’re first going to assume you have your overall shooting form ironed out, including proper shooting stance, a loose cradling grip and failsafe anchoring point, just as examples.
So, contemplating a shot you first ACQUIRE the target. All you are really accomplishing here is shifting focus onto the target as a whole, or to the general area you wish to hit. You can begin this shift of focus before or during the draw cycle, moving your draw hand into your anchor point and getting all of your pins into the general area of the kill zone or bull’s-eye. You aren’t aiming at all, only shifting concentration onto the target and performing the necessity draw cycle (while drawing on game this would by necessity include careful timing to avoid spooking your quarry).
That’s it, nothing more. Improve Your Hit-to-Miss Ratio.
Step 2: ALIGN
The ACQUIRE stage completed—tugging into full draw and moving all your pins onto the target or animal—Step 2 begins; ALIGN. This is when you ALIGN all the parts of the equation involved in aiming, including sights/peep and all parts of proper shooting form associated with executing a technically perfect shot. You will now place the appropriate pin on the overall kill zone or target center—but you are not yet aiming! There are those pesky checkpoints hinted at earlier to pass before you’re allowed to aim.
Snug into your anchor tightly, double-checking consistency and alignment. Mentally inspect every aspect of shooting form, including consciously loosening your grip. Meanwhile, the peep is carefully placed around the pin aperture and the alignment ring inspected for concentricity. At this point assuring everything is technically perfect is more important than releasing an arrow. Do not allow yourself to move on to the final step until everything checks out 100 percent—no matter how important the shot or how much you want that monster buck before you.
Step 3: AIM
Okay, so now you get to actually AIM… But hold on just one more heartbeat. True aiming is a bit more involved than simply hanging a pin where you want to hit and sending it. As all mechanical parts of the ALIGN stage are being finalized your focus should have shifted to picking a SPOT exactly where you want your arrow to arrive in relation to vital areas and the shot angle involved. This SPOT must consist of the smallest detail you’re visually able to discern—a single hair, a hitchhiking burr conveniently placed, a scar or a cowlick—depending on range and how sharp your eyesight. As you actually begin to AIM every molecule of concentration is directed into that single SPOT. Burn a hole through it. Everything else is ignored. And never, ever, never glance at the buck’s antlers, split concentration on another animal or focus directly on the sight pin.
Once committed to the shot, only the SPOT matters. That’s where you’re now willing your arrow to go.
An interesting transformation now takes place. Concentrating on that SPOT with all your existence, you will discover you don’t need to consciously AIM at all. Your pin will automatically cover the SPOT, floating over it automatically. Don’t fight it. Don’t attempt to control it. Don’t give it a single thought. Continue burning a hole through that SPOT, allowing the proper pin to float in and out of it, making tiny figure 8s if it wants and seen only in the peripherals.
Now begin slowly squeezing the release trigger (or allowing the bowstring to slip from your fingers), pulling your shoulder blades together, allowing the pin to float until the shot explodes of its own afford. And even then, continue burning a hole through that SPOT, willing your arrow in (this would be proper follow-through) until the arrow sinks home.
You may miss the SPOT, but I bet you won’t miss it by much. And big-game vitals aren’t measured in single hairs, burrs, scars or cowlicks, meaning that miss is inevitably a killing shot.
AAA aiming executed properly certainly requires patient mental reprogramming, but instill these three steps into your shooting program to the point of subconscious reflex and I guarantee your hit-to-miss ratios will improve dramatically, making misses actually rare. Improve Your Hit-to-Miss Ratio by Adopting AAA Aiming.
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