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Don’t Panic… It’s Just Target Panic

At the time of writing this article, I have been shooting bows for about 14 years. I remember the first time I heard someone mention aiming drills because they were “panicking” when they would shoot their bow. I thought they were crazy. Boy, did I ever find out that my time with target panic was coming.

So, What Is Target Panic?

Target panic is basically being afraid of missing the target, thus causing an anxiety of sorts.

It wasn’t until the Summer of 2018 that I found myself having a problem with target panic. I first noticed it at one of the Total Archery Challenges. My shot process would fall apart every time that I would draw and try to take aim at one of the 3-D targets.

As I fought through the rest of the summer, I forced myself into thinking I could just ignore it, shoot more, and it would get better. I did this nonsense all the way through late fall. 

I somehow managed to harvest an elk in early September, with one of the best shots I’ve ever made. Looking back it was a miracle or just luck. That’s the only way to explain it with all the struggles I was having. After elk season, I didn’t shoot much for a few weeks until I was getting ready for archery whitetail season.

This is when things got worse.

From Bad To Worse… To Missing Completely

The first step to curing target panic… Admit you have a problem.

target panic poor groupings

While shooting one day at a 3D deer target, I started missing completely at 40 yards. I was only hitting the deer every two or three shots! Needless to say, my issue was getting expensive very quickly, at the loss of several Easton Full Metal Jackets. From an archery standpoint, I was pretty much falling apart. I knew then that I had a big problem.

Obviously, everyone reacts differently, but the following is the detail on what happened to me.

Itchy Index Finger…

As I was going through my shot process, I would knock an arrow, attach my release to the D-loop, draw the bow and find my anchor.

After this is where I was a complete mess.

When I would go to acquire the target in my peep, my heart would begin to race, my mind would scramble, and the second that my pin would reach the desired spot on the target, my index finger would have a mind of its own and just yank the trigger.

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Basically, I was shooting my bow the same way you would shoot at clay pigeons with a shotgun.

Those who have been in archery for any length of time know that, with all that movement, it was impossible for me to have any type of grouping. I was anticipating the shot so badly, that I simply could not be accurate.

So, If you cannot simply draw your bow, acquire and hold on your target, then squeeze your trigger without anticipating the shot, I am willing to say that you have some sort of target panic.

So I have target panic… now what?

How I Cured It

First things first… you have to ADMIT you have a problem. When I finally came to terms with the fact that I was experiencing target panic, I began calling around to a few of my friends that have been shooting for years.  I got several different answers.  I also watched YouTube, read articles, Googled information, and tried a pile of other things.

Archery Coach

Now, I’m not saying everything that I tried and learned didn’t work. For the most part, it was all great info. But, I wasn’t getting any better. Finally, once I got sick enough of not being able to hit the broad side of a barn, I got in touch with a local pro named Gregg Copeland.

Gregg is a phenomenal coach, who I had met at a few indoor, Vegas-style shoots. He had me to meet him at the local bow shop that had an indoor range, so he could see how bad things really were.

Thankfully, I don’t get my feelings hurt very easily, because my shooting was downright laughable. I also enjoy joking around and Gregg knew that.

After my first 3 shots he told me that he would let me shoot at him at 40 yards and not worry a bit. This is all the more funny if you’ve ever seen Gregg… he’s 6’3”, 350lbs!

“First things first,” Gregg said. “We start with aiming drills.”

Target Acquisition Drill

He placed me 10 feet from the target. He then had me knock an arrow, draw the bow, and hold the pin on the target until I started wavering. I would then let down, rest for a minute, and repeat. I would say that we did this 20 to 30 times. By the end of the aiming drills, I was able to at least aim without completely losing my cool. A huge sign of progress already! Aiming was something I hadn’t been able to do in months!

Tension Release Drills

Next, Greeg had me tighten the tension on my bow release to as stiff as it would go. This forced me to squeeze the trigger until the shot went off, so I that I could no longer “punch” the trigger, as I had been doing.

Now, keep in mind, we never moved back any from the aiming drills. We were still only 10 feet away from the target.

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We went through the release drills a good 20 to 30 times. By the end of those, I was able to make decent shots at 10 feet. At that point, Gregg could have told me to stand on my head and I would have done it, because the sequence he had me doing was working!

I was taking each piece of advice like it was gold, and to me it was.

He wanted to see how I would do if we stepped back to 15 yards. Sure enough, in that short time, I was able to repeat what he had taught me and hit right where I was aiming.

Archery Homework

After the lesson we shook hands and he left me with instructions of what to do once I got home. Gregg told me to go and set up at ten feet from a target and practice aiming drills every day before I shot a single arrow.  He also forbid me to shoot a single shot past 15 yards until I was able to make perfect shots at that distance. I did these exact drills for at least a month.

So, Does It Work?

man nocking an arrow

Following Gregg’s instructions, I rarely missed a single day of shooting. After about a month of nothing but the daily drills, the anxiety finally subsided and I was able to enjoy shooting my bow once again.

I am now able to shoot pie plate groups out past 80 yards. I am not saying I am currently the best that I have ever been, but I am well on my way.

One of the things that I took from shooting with Gregg was how much importance he put on the shot process.

He told me multiple times, “without a shot process, you have no shot.”  He said, “without all the right ingredients, you can’t cook what you desire, so you sure ain’t going to shoot what you desire with out the exact process every time.”

Look at it this way, if you are struggling with target panic, with the right methods, and hard work, you are only 3,000 to 6,000 shots away from it being “fixed”, and yes, it is fixable.

Five Steps To Fix Your Target Panic

Follow these steps to begin to fix your target panic:

  1. Aiming Drills

    Hold your pin on the target until you start to waver let down rest 15 to 30 seconds and repeat. Do this at least 30 to 50 times a day before you release a single arrow.

  2. Go Through Your Shot Process

    Know how to, grip, draw, anchor, aim, and squeeze the trigger. This is your shot process… master it.

  3. Stay Close

    Shoot with in 15 yards of the target and don’t go any farther for at least 2 to 3 weeks.

  4. Move Back

    Once you can go through the shot process and not experience any anxiety, then start with 20 yards and work your way back.

  5. Repeat

    Go Back and repeat steps 1 through 3.

Final Thoughts

Now, I try and do things that might trigger target panic. For instance, I will shoot at a 3-D deer out to 70 yards, extremely quartered away. I also have a basket ball size target that I will try and shoot at farther distances as well.

By doing these things, I am simply just trying to make myself uncomfortable. This way, I can remember my shot process, regardless of the situation, and still make the shot smooth and clean.

You do the same things at 20 yards as you would at 80 yards, you just have to convince your brain of that. Through this process, I have learned so much about archery and have experienced a whole new love for shooting my bow.

So, having target panic wasn’t so bad after all. I guess you could say there was a silver lining. I have 100% come through target panic as a better archer. Come September, the Elk better be on their “A” game, because I will be on mine.

Target Panic Kyle Mcdonald

If you have interest in researching various types of archery broadheads, be sure to check out our broadheads blog post.S

piebald deer

Piebald Deer | Not Your Ordinary Whitetail

Piebald Deer | A Rare Sight

As a deer hunter, a whitetail deer hunter is a welcome sight, but not necessarily a rarity. But, catching a glimpse of the incredibly rare piebald deer is a scarce and beautiful sight. Every now and again, hunting enthusiasts get to witness rare images of a piebald deer on social media, discovered by a “lucky” select few hunters. This unique deer features impossible-to-miss white markings, standing out like a unicorn in a forest full of horses. In fact, many hunters focus exclusively on these hard-to-find critters – determined to add a new trophy to their collection.

But – just how rare are piebald deer?

What is a Piebald Deer?

DID YOU KNOW? The name “piebald” originates from the word “pie” – short for magpie, a black and white bird in the crow family. Piebald deer look bald because of their patchy appearance… Pie + Bald = Piebald!

Contrary to what many hunters believe, piebaldism is not a combination of a regular whitetail deer and its albino counterpart. Piebaldism is a genetic abnormality responsible for the piebald deer’s appearance. It’s a rare condition that affects less than 2% of the whitetail deer population.

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According to geneticists and researchers, the name “piebald” originates from the word “pie” – short for magpie, a bird in the crow family. The magpie has black and white plumage. The piebald deer has a genetic abnormality, causing patches of white across its body. This patchy look gives it a mixed up appearance, in which the patches, or lack of pigmentation almost make it “bald.” Pie + Bald = Piebald!

Piebald deer come in a range of colorations and variations. There is no stock-standard. Some piebald deer look as though they’ve been splashed with white paint. Others may look almost “airbrushed” or spotted. It is believed that this recessive trait must be carried by both deer-parents, maternal and paternal, in order for the offspring to be piebald. That’s what makes the condition of piebaldism so exceptionally rare.

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Piebaldism presents itself in many different forms, varying from moderate to severe depending on the circumstances. While some piebald deer can live normal, long, happy and healthy lives, most aren’t so lucky.

Interestingly, piebaldism isn’t just  isolated to deer. Throughout nature, we see many other species experiencing this genetic abnormality, including horses, certain dog breeds, python snakes, moose, bald eagles, and on some cases, even humans.

Piebaldism | More Than Just A Coloring Abnormality

boy with piebald deer

Apart from the strikingly unique coat, a piebald deer usually has other distinguishing features, include shorter-than-normal legs, an arched spine (scoliosis), and a prominent oral overbite. Beyond the surface, a piebald deer normally experiences certain organ deformities, and even arthritis.

According to geneticists, this boils down to something called “pleiotropy,” which causes one single gene to control numerous traits. The affected traits range from pigmentation to bone development and more. It’s not unusual to see a piebald deer with debilitating genetic mutations and severe birth defects. Combined, these factors make it exceptionally challenging for piebald deer to survive in the wild – let alone make it to adulthood.

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In one recent case study, Missy Runyan, a New York-based wildlife rehabilitator, was called to the scene of a distressed fawn in May of 2017. The white-as-snow piebald fawn was plagued by severe birth defects, including life-threatening internal genetic mutations. The fawn didn’t live for much longer, but Runyan managed to X-Ray the fawn’s body and detect numerous internal abnormalities. The results showed internal defects that made it impossible for the fawn to survive in the wild.

Piebaldism Vs. Albinism

The genetic causes for piebaldism and albinism differ, something you can easily spot by gazing into the affected deer’s eyes. While an albino deer’s eyes are pink, accompanies by a pink nose and hooves with pink hues, piebald deer have brown eyes, a brown nose, and black hooves.

Piebald deer should also not be confused with melanistic deer, which typically lack brown or white color variations and usually appear to be black across their entire bodies.

While geneticists and scientists are still hard at work to fully understand the genetic mutation that causes piebaldism, one thing is for sure: If you see one, you should count yourself lucky. Few hunters will ever get the chance to get a glance of this rare creature out in the wild.

Piebald Deer | To Shoot…Or Not To Shoot?

More and more hunters are emerging on social media, slammed for their short-lived success at when taking rare trophy piebald deer. In various parts of North America, these rare white animals are seen as “sacred,” and not to be harmed. Certain indigenous communities see piebald deer as “returning ancestors,” serving as a “reminder that something of significance is about to happen.”

There are also various “myths” and “legends,” stating that by capturing and killing a piebald deer, you will “experience bad future hunts,” or, “guarantee your own death in a year’s time.”

Laws Regarding Piebald Deer | Check Your State Hunting Regulations

If you aren’t superstitious, do your homework by researching the rules and regulations of your state. For example, it is illegal to shoot any white deer in Wisconsin, as herds of white deer are rising in numbers, making locals rather protective of the rare animals.

While certain jurisdictions have laws in place to protect piebald deer, among other white animals, many locations allow (licensed) hunters to lawfully harvest these rare creatures without consequence.

According to Brian Murphy, wildlife biologist and the Executive Director of the Quality Deer Management Association, there is no biological reason to protect piebald deer or albinos. Protecting them should not be regulated by the state, but rather, should be the decision of the landowners and hunters.

While piebaldism is indeed rare, population problems are apparently not a concern. Emerging research shows that the act of hunting a piebald deer will have no significant impact on the deer population, let alone damage it. If you would wish to take such a rare trophy (and meat) back to your home, and if it is legal to hunt them where you live, there’s no reason not to hunt piebald deer.

Have you ever seen a piebald deer out in the wild? Leave a comment on this post or share your photos with us here at N1!

You can also view bow hunting tips videos and other hunting and fishing tips articles by visiting our blog.

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Muzzle Loader Memory

This hunting season has been nothing but hard work, patience, dedication… rain!

On the morning of New Jersey bow season opener, it was pouring rain, and of course I went out in it… but saw nothing moving in the area. Later, I went back out for an evening hunt and I had three bucks come out to me at the same time, following one another.  However, I was unable to harvest one of those bucks, because for early bow season, it’s “earn a buck,” which means you must harvest a doe first. Nonetheless, opening day was exciting with all the buck action I was seeing, and it gave me even more confidence for the rest of the season.

Wanted: Solo Doe

I sat just about every evening after work, waiting for that solo doe to walk in, and I just was having no luck. I was seeing deer, but they were either too far away, with fawns, or were bucks.

Finally, on September 19th, I kicked off my 2018 hunting season when I harvested a mature solo doe with my bow. I couldn’t have been more thankful!

I continued to check the trail cameras and scout new areas, looking to punch my buck tag. There were numerous young bucks coming to the bait or checking out the area I was hunting, but not any buck I wanted to fill my tag with.  All the bucks I was seeing still needed a few years to reach maturity.

Wanted: Punched Buck Tag

October was about the same as September, as I saw young bucks and does coming in. I was able to harvest another doe that came in with a broken leg and could barely walk.

As I continued checking trail cams, a couple of our shooters were hitting our bait piles or scrapes, but just at night. They became nocturnal and only does were coming during shooting light.  November was coming, and that meant rut season for bucks. And, muzzle loader season was right around the corner.

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I took the time on the weekends to shoot my muzzle loader to make sure it was dialed in for the first days of the season.  I sat both days at the end of November and I was able to lock in on a mature doe, 80 yards out in the field. She only ran about 30 yards until we found her.

The following week for us was 6-day firearm, and I knew that any deer we’ve had on camera will soon be moving all over, so we would likely have a chance to see new bucks come in the area. However, 6-day firearm came and went and I still had my muzzle loader buck tag waiting to be punched. I continued to sit the days that were open for muzzle loader season, hoping to punch my buck tag before the year was up.

Muzzle Loader Season Magic

That day finally came, December 26, 2018 at 3:38 pm! That is when the wait finally ended and I was able to fill my last tag for muzzle loader, and fill it with an incredible buck.  I had to work the morning of the 26th at 5 am until 1:30 pm. I got home, changed, and my dad and I went out to both sit in an evening stand with the muzzle loader.

I got in the stand around 2 pm.  The wind was blowing in my favor, the weather was perfect, and it was quiet. Around 2:20 pm, I kept hearing something to my left but saw it was just some squirrels chasing each other. I turned to look to my right… and that’s when I caught a glimpse of his antlers.

Love At First Crab Claw

The only thing I could see at first was the crab claw on the left side.  When he walked a little farther out of the laurels he turned to look next to him and that’s when I knew he was a shooter.  My heart started to race, my breathing got heavy, and my hands started to shake.  I reached to grab my gun, although very slowly, since he kept looking around curious about something. His tail was going up and down and he acted calm as he walked the area.

I finally got the gun half way onto the shooting rail when he turned to look in my direction.  I thought he could hear my breathing, because in my head, I thought I was so loud. So, I hid my mouth in my scarf and took a deep breath.

Please Mr. Buck, Turn Broadside

moved the gun up to look at him through the scope.  I still couldn’t believe this buck just walked out in front of me. And, it was a buck we had never seen before. He went 10 yards behind the pile and made a half circle and then looked straight toward me. I had the cross hairs directly on his chest and was debating about shooting him right there.  I thought to myself “he’s going to take two steps left or right to be broad side and that’s when I’ll shoot.”

Sure thing, he took two steps to his left looking to my right, stood completely broadside, and I knew that was my shot.

Breathe… Trigger… Smoke… Buck Down!

woman with muzzle loader buck

I took one last deep breath and squeezed the trigger.  Through the black powder smoke, I saw him jump in the air and do the famous kick, and took off.  I watched him run directly away from me and then I heard the crashing and saw the white of his tail and that was it.

Now, my nerves kicked in again and my heart was racing. I took a deep breath and couldn’t believe what had just happened.  My dad heard my shot from across the field and texted me to ask if that was me who shot.

I was in total shock.  We waited a good 45 minutes until we went to go look. My dad stayed in his stand hoping something would come out since it was still early.

My boyfriend came to help me track. We bean following the blood trail, and not 50 yards away, we saw his white belly sticking out in all the green laurels.  I couldn’t believe that I harvested this amazing, mature whitetail buck! Especially since it was my first buck with my CVA Muzzle loader!! This was definitely an N1 Moment that I will never forget!

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