“I wish it was something less serious but unfortunately you have serious case of Full Blown Target Panic!”
Kudos to you if you caught this reference but besides the joking around this is a very real condition. I don’t like to brag (no comment prostaff) but leading into the 2014 spring Turkey season I had been sporting a pretty damn good record with my Bear Truth II compound bow. Since I purchased it in 2007 I have shot 4 Doe and a Buck with it and only missed once on a Turkey. Now 5 deer in 7 years may not seem like very many to some of you but we hunt some highly pressured areas and I am proud to say that a lot of hard hunting and careful planning went into each of those deer.
Fast forward now to spring Turkey 2014. For any of you who have seen our Turkey video you know exactly what I am talking about here. We had some amazing turkey hunting action and got some great footage of birds all culminating in a whiff by yours truely on a long shot at a big Tom where I miss judged yardage.
I chalked that one up to a fluke combined with the yardage blunder. Mistake number 1: you own a range finder for a reason, use the darn thing!
Now it’s fall 2014. Its turkey season and I am out hunting on a farm north of Toronto with prostaffer Greg Mather. We got rained on all morning in the freezing cold (a common occurrence if you spend any time with our group) and I had no hand warmers. Don’t get me started. We were having lunch and shooting the bull, getting caught-up about our uneventful hunting seasons thus far, when we spotted a flock of turkeys out in the pasture. There was a turkey tag burning a whole in my pocket and only 2 days left in the season so it was game on!
After a 400 yard stalk left me even more soaked, I eased up on the pasture poked up over the fence. Turkeys, no where to be seen. Greg from the hillside 600 yards to my south indicated they moved west so I began to ease up a well used game trail. Then, 70 yards up the trail, gobblers. Like robin hood I dropped, knocked an arrow, drew back my bow… and completely lost my mind. I don’t remember if I knew which pin or if I anchored my release. Poof arrow sailing over the turkeys head. Expletive! I dropped down out of sight re knock a second arrow, at this point the turkeys were not alert to my presence. Again drew my bow. Same bloody thing.
I sat there. Heart pounding. Turkeys scattering. Arrows long gone. Wondering WTF? Back at the truck Greg had similar thoughts. Out came the target bag. Bang, bang, bang 3 arrow 2″ group at 20 yds. Same as I practiced all summer long.
3 weeks later it was our annual hunt blog rut hunt. Jim had bagged a nice doe the evening before and the pressure was off to bring some meat home. Now it was time to get serious and bag a buck. Cold windy morning and 8:30amout comes a buck I had been after. A nice 8 pt with a broken G3. I had filmed this deer a few times and been very careful not to move in on him until conditions were right. Finally I am about to get my shot. Broad side. 43 yards. I can make this shot in my sleep. Draw, this time I make sure of my anchor point and release. Whack! I drop that oak branch right in its tracks. The Buck makes me and I’m sure that’ll be the last of him for the season.
But more to the point of this article. These are all perfect examples of straight-up, true blue, clear as day, target panic. If you have ever experienced this you really don’t know until after the shot. What pin did I use? Was my bow level? How far was he really? Was he alert? Target shooting is easy. You have an easily identifiable spot you are aiming at. Your heart is not pounding. You aren’t freezing your tail off. And most importantly you brain and thoughts aren’t going a mile a minute.
In the emergency room when a trauma comes in things are not much different. In these instances however we follow a protocol that is the same every time. It keeps you organized and keeps your mind straight. ABC’s and D’s. Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Distracting injuries, Primary survey. Always the same and you don’t get to step 4 until you pass steps 1-3. Ie it doesn’t much matter if their heart is beating if they have a blockage preventing air entering their lungs. It helps me stay calm in a stressful and chaotic situation and keep organized.
It only recently occurred to me that I should transition this into hunting. On that last buck I missed I found myself trying to look through the peep and place the pins before I was even anchored let alone made sure the opening was clear of obstructions. Skipping important steps in the process that would never happen in practice sessions. See my article “you wanna talk about practice?”
The silver lining is that now I have identified the errors and I am changing how I shoot. Utilizing the guiding principles of emergency room trauma into my shot process. Check your yardage, ensure a clear safe shot then DAPPR. Draw, Anchor, Peep, Pins, Release. Again always completing the one step prior to starting the next.
Now I am sure many of you already utilize similar techniques but for any of you who have ever experienced a case of full blown target panic, hopefully you can make use of this to help you work through it and make the shot! As always we appreciate your feedback on our posts and continue to look forward to reading your stories! Now its time to put my plan into effect and get after another buck. Bow season re-opens in 3 days!