Published by admin on 26 Nov 2013
This column celebrates the writing of Bowhunt America Founder Bill Krenz. This piece was originally printed in the June/July 2005 issue of Bowhunt America.
Work on Your Weaknesses
The best way I’ve found to become a more accurate shooter is to work on your weaknesses.
If you’re an NBA basketball fan, you know
who Karl Malone is. Malone, who retired after playing eighteen seasons for the Utah Jazz and one for the Los Angeles Lakers, was one of the greatest power forwards ever. Malone was the league’s MVP in 1997 and 1999, was a 14-time All-Star selection, and finished second on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Malone could do it all. He could rebound, play defense, and score.
But there was a time when Karl Malone was just average. He was picked by the Utah Jazz in the thirteenth round of the 1985 NBA draft. Twelve other teams passed on Malone before Utah called his name, and his rookie season was lackluster. His first coach, Frank Layton, called Malone in after that first year and explained, “Karl, you have a unique combination of size and speed, but your shooting is just so-so. You will be just a journeyman, an average big man in the league unless you work on your shooting. Your shooting is your weakness.”
“I’ll go home and work on that during the off-season,” Malone told Layton. Layton had heard the same line from a thousand other players. Most never did anything about it.
But Karl Malone wasn’t most players. He recognized the truth in Layton’s words, worked his tail off during that—and every other—off-season, and became one of the best shooting forwards in NBA history. By the time he had retired, Malone had scored 36,928 points, second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time NBA scoring list.
The biggest difference between Karl Malone and so many other players was his willingness to work on his weakness.
Most bowhunters recognize the fact that they must practice their shooting to become more accurate in the field. They set aside the time, ready their equipment, and pound arrow after arrow into their backyard target, hoping for the best.
I’ll tell you a secret. That’s not the way to do it. The best way I’ve found to become a more accurate shooter is to work on your weaknesses.
To do that, you must first identify your weaknesses. Check your ego at the door and objectively evaluate your own shooting. I like to do that periodically in two ways.
First, I’ll mentally take stock of my recent shooting performance by asking myself a series of frank questions beginning with, “How have I performed during my regular practice sessions?” The idea is to identify specific problem areas. Last summer I did that and had to admit to myself that I was missing to the right and left much more than I would like. Horizontally, most of my shots at all distances were quite good, but my weakness seemed to be stray rights and lefts. I next looked at my recent performance in the field, evaluating every shot I’d taken at big game in the last few years. I don’t mind telling you that I was a bit taken aback to note the same right-left problem.
Having identified a likely weakness in my shooting, I next set up a video camera and filmed my shooting from all angles. That’s the second step. A video doesn’t lie. It showed me exactly the shooting patterns I’d gotten into. I hadn’t taped my shooting in a long time and was amazed at how my form had changed. I was leaning back, my anchor point didn’t seem as consistent as I imagined, and my bow hand
was jumping around far too much at the shot.
The next step in serious shooting improvement, beyond identifying weaknesses, is to develop and implement a plan to work hard on those specific weaknesses.
In my case, I zeroed in on cleaning up my right and left misses. To do that, I created a four-step shooting checklist for myself. On my checklist was to stand up straighter during the shot, concentrate on a consistent anchor point, do a better job of centering my sight’s circular pin guard in my peep sight, and maintain ideal bow-hand position through the shot. That ideal position was established by consciously trying different bow-hand positions on my bow’s grip (moving my hand right and left) until I found the position in which my shooting was most consistent right and left.
I also decided to shorten the draw length of my bow slightly, as a too-long draw length often contributes to right and left misses, and to spend at least 20 minutes each practice session shooting at a target with a black, 1-inch-wide vertical line drawn down its center. The object was to hit that vertical line every time, somewhat disregarding where on the line the arrow hit.
After a month of such focused effort, my right-left problem diminished considerably.
Honest introspection may reveal different shooting weaknesses at different times. At different times, I’ve struggled with a failure to follow through properly, shooting too fast or too slow, handling the pressure of important shots, judging shot distance, shooting in dim-light situations, being able to draw my bow smoothly and easily without jerky movements, and picking a specific aiming spot on big game. Those are all common weaknesses that can be worked on and significantly improved, although each requires a different plan of action.
NBA great Karl Malone recognized his weakness and worked hard to correct it. You can do the same. Working specifically on your weaknesses is an important key to
improving your shooting.