The key to improving at most anything you do in life is practicing. It’s often said that practice makes perfect. That statement is not entirely true. It’s perfect practice that makes perfect. In order to practice perfectly, you need to be able to repeat the steps you take from the time you cock your crossbow until the time you fire it. Theses steps make up a shot sequence. If you don’t already have one, you should. A shot sequence can vary from person to person, but there will be a few steps within the shot sequence that do remain consistent. Some of these steps will include cocking your crossbow, loading an arrow into it, pushing the safety into the fire position, aiming your crossbow, and then pulling the trigger. Parts of a typical shot sequence that may differ from shooter to shooter could be in the way they breath during the shot, at what point the safety is removed, how they aim, and follow through. The end result will be the same for all of us. But how we get there most likely will not.
So why have a shot sequence in the first place? I guess the most important reason is so that you can duplicate your shot as close as possible time after time. In order to be the best shot you can be, you need to be able to duplicate your shot over and over again. If you have no sequence of steps to follow each time, you will not be able to duplicate your shot. Another reason would be for safety. Most people that have ever dry fired a crossbow have done so because they did not have a shot sequence. If they had executed their shot sequence, they would have never forgot to load an arrow into their crossbow. A shot sequence also teaches you to become a more disciplined shooter. Have you ever watched an archery tournament where a shooter will draw his bow back to shoot a target and after a set period of time, they let their bow down, only to start their shot sequence over again? Why do you think they didn’t just keep aiming and force the shot? The answer is because that’s not how they practice to shoot. The best shooters have a mental timer that begins inside their head when they first draw their bow. If they cannot settle there sight on the target, or cannot execute their shot within that given amount of time, they let the bow down and start over. That is discipline. The same should hold true when you are shooting your crossbow. From the point you reach down to cock your crossbow to the point your arrow is fired down range, there should be a step by step process. Over time, this process will become second nature to you. If at anytime during that sequence a step is interrupted, you should start back at the beginning of your shot sequence. Except for the fact that you will not have to re-cock your crossbow. But should you take your arrow out and reload it? If you feel that should be apart of your shot process. At the very least, you may just want to slide it forward a couple of inches and push it back again to make sure it is well seated. Even though your arrow hasn’t moved, it causes you to take a few extra seconds, allowing you to catch your breath before starting your shot sequence over. Again, the steps you take may not be the same as the ones I take. The most important factor is that you have a series of steps that make up your shot sequence.
Here’s an example of a shot sequence to get you started. You are free to modify it to suit your needs.
1.) Cock Your Crossbow: This step alone could have multiple steps within itself to ensure that you cock your crossbow the same every time.
2.) Check Your Safety: Most crossbows will have a safety that will automatically engage when you cock your bow. If your bow does, it’s a good time to check that it did move into the safe position. If your crossbow doesn’t include an auto engaging safety, now is the time to manually move it to safe.
3.) Load Your Arrow: Sounds simple enough, right? But this step could have multiple steps within it too. Such as, make sure the cock vane is down. Make sure the nock is indexed correctly. Make sure the arrow is pushed all the way back against the string. Etc.
4.) Visualize Your Shot: This is for those of you that shoot targets. In this step, you actually play out in your mind firing your crossbow and watching the arrow strike the center of the bullseye. This helps clear your head of outside distractions, allowing you to focus on the upcoming shot.
5.) Remove The Safety: For some of you depending on what crossbow you are shooting, you may not be able to reach your safety once you shoulder your crossbow. At this point you’ll need to move it to the fire position. Even if you can reach your safety when your crossbow is shouldered, this will most likely still be the point where you remove it.
6.) Shoulder Your Crossbow: Again, seems pretty basic. But do you shoulder your crossbow so that your sight is higher than the target allowing gravity to pull you down into the bullseye? Or do you start low and come up from the bottom? Or maybe from the side? This is one of those steps that seems like it would be no big deal, but could make all the difference in the world when trying to duplicate the perfect shot each time.
7.) Aim Your Crossbow: How long will you aim your crossbow? At what point is too long to aim? At what point should you let the crossbow down? Are you breathing during this process? Or holding your breath?
8.) Execute The Shot: This means pull the trigger. But what works for you. Are you punching the trigger the second your crosshairs hit the center of the bullseye? Or do you do a slow squeeze allowing your crosshairs to float around the center of the target until the trigger breaks?
9.) Follow Through: How long do you hold your crossbow up after the shot? Are you following through? You should be. With a good follow through, you should be able to see your arrow hit the target through your scope. There is no reason to pull your head away from the scope until your arrow hits the target anyhow. If you find yourself looking for your arrow, then subconsciously, you cannot be thinking about executing the shot.
As you can see, there are many steps to having a solid crossbow shot sequence. You may have twice as many in your shot sequence. Take as many as you need. The amount does not matter. What does matter is that you develop one to fit your shooting style. More importantly, you stop and reset your shot sequence gets interrupted.
By developing a crossbow shot sequence and sticking to it when practicing during the off season, it will become second nature to you by hunting season. As a result, when you find yourself in the heat of the moment when that buck of a lifetime walks out in front of you, executing a perfect shot will be one thing you will not have to worry about. Hopefully, finding the number to your taxidermist will be.