The first arrow I released as a Traditional Bowhunter never should have been released. Its not that the shot angle was bad, or the deer was out of range: It was all about I didn't believe.
If you don't believe that you can do something you'll never be able to do it. True belief comes from knowing, but at some point belief has to become a educated guess...That's especially true in Barebow Hunting. Once the mechanics are ingrained into your muscle memory Traditional Bowhunting is completely a metaphysical contest that takes place within your mind. Until you master your mind there will always be doubt. Here are three ways to gain the confidence before you have the spend the years hoping your arrows will fly true when you finally get into range of that bull or buck.
1. Mentors paid or not. Tradition Speaks of handing down knowledge, and nothing builds confidence faster than a mentors help. They have been there and done that. They know the frustration and doubt. They have had to deal with it, and their wisdom is invaluable. If your having a hard time finding a mentor look towards a couple of organizations that exist to help people get into this lifestyle. The top organizations that come to mind are Professional Bowhunting Society and Compton Traditional Bowhunters. Here are the links so you can get plugged in PBS and Compton
For those that want to smash that learning curve there are some great video resources out there as well. I would suggest Masters Of The Barebow or some more personalized courses like Joel Turners Shot IQ and Tom Clum's Solid Archery Mechanics. Whichever direction you choose building confidence will keep you on the Barebow path.
2. Shoot Small Game. This was the game changer for me. I didn't have a YouTube, or Video series when I started down this path so I ingested every Traditional Bowhunting article I could come across and applied it to any small game animal I could legally hunt. I would try to get as close as I could at first, this taught me to keep calm in the stalk, which is super important with Trad Hunting as you have to get close. If you get jacked 30 yards before a shot opportunity you'll never make a the shot when it does present itself. Small game is a great way to introduce some adrenaline to your shooting. Once I learned how to control the excitement I started shooting small game at big game distances. This did two things. First it taught me draw sequence, when and how to draw in relation to the animal. Second, it gave me a faith anchor. If I can hit a grouse at 30 yards consistently, I could legitimately tell myself that a elk was way easier at that same range.
3. Be sure of your equipment: Early on in my Traditional Bowhunting venture I skimped on gear. I'm not saying you need the most expensive gear you can find, but don't settle for something close to what you need for the price. My accuracy didn't improve until I decided to quit trying to make the hand me down, or used gear work. This is a huge mistake I see people making today. its better to have 6 arrows that are perfectly tuned to your bow than 12 that you got from your buddy that got close. All it takes is one bad hit for your confidence to go into the toilet.
Confidence is key, and if you find it early on it will be easier to stick with it. I hope this article will help you find that confidence, and make you a better bowhunter.
See ya in the woods Nate.