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Practice builds confidence, accuracy

hen a person prepares for gun season, it is just a matter of going out, shooting a few targets, and going hunting. It is like riding a bicycle. Once a person learns to do it, they never forget. It is just a matter of making sure the gun is sighted in and the hunt is on. Little more practice is required.

Bow hunting is entirely different. Perhaps that is why I enjoy it so much. If a person puts up the bow at the end of the season and does not touch it until a week before they are going hunting, they are going to be sorely disappointed. The first few practice shots will let them know, they will be lucky if they can hit the broad side of a barn. With no practice, muscles change enough from one year to the next, a person should not be in the woods. Something unintended could be injured, such as one's foot.

Off and on, I have been practicing with my bow. I was feeling confident I was ready when I bought a new sight. It is entirely different from anything I have used before but looked like it might be just the thing to help me tighten my shots at longer ranges.

I adjusted the new sight and practiced for hours. Generally, it does help me hit smaller targets but occasionally one shot will go astray. I could handle missing by an inch or two, but for some reason, about every fourth shot misses by a foot or two. This is not acceptable. It is not one particular arrow as I first thought. The miss shows up entirely at random. I have been putting off going hunting for this very reason, plus the unusually warm weather causes the deer not to move as they normally would. Our autumn days have been warm but the nights have been downright chilly.

I finally decided to try my luck at getting a deer with my new sight. The temperature was supposed to be in the mid-30s Sunday morning. The deer should be on the move and I could be in the woods shortly after six. It would still be totally dark.

I climbed into the stand we had put along a trail crossing the creek. Stars shown brightly and the air was indeed crisp and cold as predicted. I had no more than sat down when I heard something below me in the creek. I could only assume it was a deer because even being only 20 feet above whatever it was, I did not have a clue. A bit of frost was on the leaves in the timber and I could hear sounds of animals moving in the darkness.

I sat stoically in my stand waiting for the sun to come up and keep me from freezing to the tree. When a person compares 10-below zero to 35 degrees, 35 seems almost balmy. When that same person is sitting motionless in a tree for close to an hour, 35 degrees starts to become painful.

The woods turned slowly from darkness to light. I could see the ground and gradually a larger area around my tree. A raccoon was making the considerable amount of noise as it hunted along the creek. At least I now knew what was out there. A young doe and her fawn from this year were browsing just off to my left. I thought about taking the doe, but I would like to have a large doe, or perhaps a trophy buck. I was thinking about the possibilities of either when a mature doe and her two fawns crossed the creek. She would be some good eating. I have plenty of time to get the big buck. I drew back my bow and put the crosshairs on her shoulder. The thought of the random miss I have been experiencing during practice stopped me cold. I could not shoot knowing this might be the shot that is off by a foot or two.

All five deer ran off when I started down my tree stand. I needed to go home and practice until I was sure my shot was straight and true.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.