Published by admin on 22 Dec 2009
A Key to Hitting the Mark by Frank Addington, Jr.
I think that one of the most important aspects of any style of shooting is “target acquisition.” I don’t care how good or bad your vision is, what your method of shooting is, or how long you have been an archer. If you aren’t effective at target acquisition, you won’t be successful in the long run. Whether you are a 3-D champ, a bowhunter, backyard archer, or someone that enjoys days afield stump shooting, you cannot hit what you cannot see. And you must be able to do this consistently.
This single thing allows me to hit objects as small as a baby aspirin in mid air with an arrow. I have tuned my eyes, mind and body through years of practice to immediately acquire the target. In the old days they called it, “picking a spot.” It is simple in theory yet hard to master. I myself am guilty of occasionally staring at a huge set of horns and the whole animal instead of a particular spot. I miss when I do this and I bet you do too. You have to be able to shut out everything but where you want your arrow to land. I think this is a mental and physical exercise. I cannot rule out the mental side, after all, you have to be able to concentrate.
In my stage shows I have to be able to shut everything out except the baby aspirin. I have to ignore loud crowds, noises at sports shows, kids yelling, music blasting, and all the other sounds that go with sports shows. I also have to be able to ignore the media when they show up, VIPs, and anyone else in the audience that can break my concentration. When I am “in the zone” you could blow a bugle beside me and I’d never hear it. I would simply do what I do and hit the target. But being the zone can come and go if you don’t practice. You have to have a strong mental concentration. We did shows in downtown New York city a few years ago. Talk about mental concentration. I was outside at Tavern on the Green in the middle of Central Park on a Spring day. We also performed in the Bronx at Van Courtland Park. Again, concentration.
Locking down on a very small, distinct spot. No waiver, no second guessing, just locking down and putting 100% of your concentration on one particular mark. You can train yourself to do this with some practice. Learn to “acquire” the target. Focus. Concentrate.
As a bowhunter, you have to be able to ignore things too. The big rack, any other game, the elements,and anything else that serves as a distraction. As a competitive shooter, you have even more to ignore. Don’t let a competitor anywhere near your mental game. If they get in your head you may as well hand them the trophy. Game over. Be strong and stay focused. The late, great AL Henderson was the first to call my attention to the mental side of archery. I suggest everyone reading this column pick up a copy of Al’s book, “Understanding Winning Archery” sometime soon. It is a good read. Al was ahead of the game on his theories on the mental side of archery. Look for his book on Target Communication’s website.
When it all comes together you will bring a strong amount of shooting practice, a strong mental game, and the ability to acquire a target all together. Can target acquisition be learned? I certainly think so. My eyesight is good. Really good. But even if yours isn’t, I still think you can get better at target acquisition with lots of practice. When you see an object, look at it. Really look at it. Instead of the whole 3-D deer target, pick a spot where you can see a mark or a shadow or anything that serves as an “aiming point.” Smaller is better. Always try to aim small. Pick a tuft of hair when you see that big buck. Don’t see the whole deer, see a spot where you want that arrow to land. I do this on the balloons I shoot. I never shoot at the whole balloon.
I don’t shoot at flat target faces often. Why? It is more difficult for me to pick a small spot on those type targets. I prefer a lifesaver, a balloon, or any 3-D object. I will even tear a piece of paper off the target face and shoot at it instead of a bullseye. As an instinctive shooter, I look at what I want to hit. What I write about here will apply to all shooting styles. Think about it. You cannot hit what you cannot see. I hope this coulmn will help you become a better shot.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, Adios & God Bless.
Frank Addington, Jr.