Gear requirements are simple for close-range indoor practice. You need a weight, serving thread and a few bare shaft or fletched arrows.
You can pretty much say winter is officially here. The majority of the bowhunting seasons are over unless you decide to pick up a late season OTC tag for Arizona. Either way… you shouldn’t hang up your bow this time of year.
A lot of people are in the stages of preparing for the offseason (I know you’re thinking it… there is no off season). If you’re like me, this is the time you’re stepping up your game to become a better shot. Winter means snow and cold temperatures, so normal practice sessions at 60 plus yards are out of the question.
The winter is the perfect time to work on shooting drills to make you more accurate come hunting season. Repetition builds strength and accuracy. You don't need to go to a pro shop and shoot 20 yard distances to improve your shooting. I have a separate room setup for hunting gear, bow tuning and shooting. I can get a distance of eight yards if I shoot down the hallway into my "man cave," but shooting at seven to twelve feet is plenty during an evening after work. It is best to have a dedicated target stand if you're shooting indoors so you can adjust the target height. Also, I prefer self healing foam targets like the Matrix Target System for all my indoor shooting. These targets stop hard hitting arrows effortlessly at close range. Layered foam targets do not stand up to close range abuse and could lead to holes in your wall from arrows blowing through the target over time.
During the winter I perform what I call the 5:10:30 routine. This involves practicing at least five days a week, at less than 10 yards for a total of 30 minutes. I feel this is the best practice for improving your form, working on shot execution and becoming a more accurate bowhunter.
To make this indoor practice even harder, take a piece of string and use a nail to secure the top part of the string to the target. I prefer to use BYC Halo braided spectra bow serving thread or dental floss as the string for the added difficulty.
Next, attach a small weight to the string to keep it perfectly vertical (think of it like a plum bob). Aiming at the string will allow you to notice when your shots are right or left of the intended point of impact. With a properly tuned bow, you will hit the same spot each time, so a larger circle target face won’t cut it. The string also keeps you honest and ensures you break a clean shot each time.
With each shot, focus on breaking the string. Trust me… it's harder than it looks. Make sure you shoot at different spots on the string or else you’ll break a ton of arrows. To avoid breaking arrows, take a marker and make a few dots on the string for you to aim at. Use a contrasting color so it looks different than your target.
This is the perfect winter shooting solution because not everyone has time to devote to a winter shooting league when they also have a gym membership, work to get done and a family. Another great way to improve your shooting is blank bale shooting in the winter. Both of these methods will make you a better shot.
In case anyone is wondering if their hunting setup will work shooting indoors... here is my current setup, which is also my hunting setup. This setup is extremely hard hitting and performs well at these close ranges without destroying the target.
After you’ve gone through this practice session for a week... now is the time to start shooting bare shafts at the target to make the practice even harder. When you shoot a bareshaft everything needs to be perfect. Your form must be spot on, your anchor points must be repeatable, your shot execution needs to be precise and your bow needs to be tuned perfectly. If any of those fail or are not up to par… the bare shaft will not go in the intended direction.
Caution: if you’ve never shot a bare shaft into a target… it is best to take your first couple shots outdoors.
Fletchings help guide the arrow and also mask form and shot execution flaws, even at a close range. This time of year the majority of my practice sessions are done using bare shafts. There are tuning methods out there that will get a bare shaft arrow touching the string. If you don’t have a bare shaft and a fletched arrow hitting the same spot, then some bow tuning is necessary.
Shooting at a close distance may seem monotonous, but it will improve your shot. You won’t be able to post cool photos on archery forums or social media of sub 2” groups at 60 plus yards... but you don’t have to prove to anyone that you are a great shot. The time for “showing off” is posing with that dream buck you shot because of your off season discipline. Taking quality shots at the string while maintaining the 5:10:30 routine will make you a more accurate bowhunter. This drill reinforces all the fundamentals of shooting form (stance, hand placement, anchor points) and shot execution. Best of luck this winter on your path to becoming a better archer and bowhunter. Winter practice is all about you… the bowhunter, so make the most of it.