The buck was oblivious to my presence as I plotted my kill from a juniper clump 51 yards away. He and several does were bedded next to a creek, soaking up mid-morning rays and snoozing to the creek’s serenade. I was unable to move closer, but I’d been practicing at twice the distance on my 3-D deer target. The opportunity was well within my abilities.

Suddenly, he stood. I drew and settled my 50-yard pin on his side. The shot broke perfectly, and he collapsed within 10 seconds. 3-D practice had developed the confidence I needed to swipe the beautiful public-land mule deer.

Perhaps you lack confidence or make marginal shots while bowhunting. What I’m presenting here — expert 3-D archery advice from pros Brandon Reyes and Chance Beaubouef – will help you become a deal-closer when the pressure’s on.

Shoot Often

Brandon Reyes, director of marketing for T.R.U. Ball and Axcel Sights and former IBO World Champion and Shooter of the Year, participates in at least 12 national and several local/regional 3-D events per year.

“I have a 60-target 3-D range, and I try to shoot through it four times weekly,” Reyes said. “With a busy work schedule, though, I usually only manage to shoot it twice weekly. But, one way or another, I shoot my bow every day.”

Chance Beaubouef shoots for a living, represents The Outdoor Group as a pro shooter and attends roughly 25 archery events per year. Most notably, he’s a three-time Las Vegas Champion and Indoor World Champion. In all, he’s captured more than 30 national titles.

“I shoot my home 3-D range daily,” Beaubouef said. “The final two 3-D tournaments of the year – the ASA and IBO worlds – are in August, so I shoot daily to prepare. I begin shooting my hunting setup by August each year, and I usually attend a few local 3-D shoots with it to really develop familiarity before I hunt.”

But Not Too Often

While regular practice is beneficial, Reyes warns shooting too frequently has consequences. “Over-shooting is a great way to burn out and lose interest,” he said. “Sometimes, I leave my bow at home and take a rangefinder to my 3-D course. I’m always working to improve my skills, and sometimes that involves exercises other than shooting.”

Beaubouef agrees. “The longer you shoot, the more your form and focus suffer,” he said. “Rather than instill bad habits, take breaks between every 15 to 20 arrows. Quality is far more important than quantity, and improvement doesn’t come by shooting to exhaustion. When I’m not shooting, I’m tuning my bows or judging yardage.”

Add Hunting-Realistic Challenges

Reyes believes outdoor 3-D courses where uncontrollable factors abound are similar to hunting. “Outdoor 3-D events simulate hunting-realistic conditions,” he said. “Rain, wind and snow can alter your performance, but practicing in them prepares you for bowhunting.

“The anxiety of something new causes bowhunters to blow shots. Confidence comes by practicing certain shots until they become second nature. Be prepared for anything by practicing everything. Then you’ll perform under pressure.”

Beaubouef echoed Reyes. “The best way to prepare for the shot of a lifetime is to duplicate it in practice,” he said. “Quarter the target to practice angles and master shot placement. Shoot from elevated positions to replicate treestand hunting. Shoot in low light to simulate dim hunting conditions. You can even add pressure by shooting against your buddies. These elements must be practiced thoroughly in order to develop rock-solid bowhunting confidence.

“The goal is to reinforce good form, execution and mental technique. Build a shot routine to keep your mind occupied and focused on positive things. One of the reasons the big one gets away is lack of preparation and confidence. 3-D archery is an excellent platform to help everyday bowhunters develop confidence. Shooting any form of tournament helps you identify and correct flaws well before bowhunting season. Shooting 3-D also helps you more accurately determine your ethical range and personal limitations.”

Master the Adrenaline Rush

Inevitably, the only way to prepare for big moments is to regularly experience them. “My adrenaline rush is the same, whether I’m on the line or in the field,” Reyes said. “Competing has helped my bowhunting performance substantially. Nerve management becomes easier the more you position yourself to win. The best thing you can do is slow down and talk yourself through the shot.

“When competing, I have multiple arrows to get to the finals or onto the podium. In contrast, hunting situations involve one critical arrow. After 25 years, I’ve managed to keep myself calm until after the shot. But after the shot, I get really excited. That rush drives me to become the best 3-D shooter and bowhunter I can be.”

Reap the Benefits

Reyes said 3-D archery is better bowhunting practice than spot shooting for several reasons. “Learning and mastering shot placement is 3-D archery’s greatest benefit to bowhunters,” he noted. “Knowing where to place your arrow is half the battle. The other half is actually putting it there amidst pressure and challenges.

“I owe my 2015 Idaho elk totally to 3-D shooting. I was presented a 75-yard shot. I’d made the shot hundreds of times during practice. In fact, I was easily holding 3-inch groups at 80 yards with fixed-blade broadheads. So I envisioned myself standing in front of a target, just shooting arrows. My guide cow called, and the bull stopped. I came to full draw, aimed small and focused on executing the shot. My arrow disappeared right in the boiler room. 3-D shooting developed the confidence I needed to land the beautiful bull.”

Beaubouef agrees 3-D archery sharpens skill and confidence. “3-D archery has made me a better bowhunter. I used to get extremely nervous and struggled to maintain composure when shooting at game. By competing, I’ve become a much more ethical hunter because I’ve learned how to execute under pressure. I owe most of my bow kills to 3-D archery.”

Like these archery pros, you too can develop rock-solid bowhunting confidence. Launch a 3-D shooting routine, implement real challenges and tackle them one at a time. Then you’ll shoot confidently next time a bruiser buck or bull walks into your sight picture.