Another Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone and I passed it partaking in one of my favorite outdoor archery activities – stump shooting. I’d be hard pressed to think of anything in life as fun or as liberating.
I’ll never forget the first time my Dad and I tried it. We had been shooting at boxes and 3D targets for a month and decided it was time for something a little less stagnant. We didn’t get it at first. How could shooting logs with a blunt-tipped arrow be more fun than a 3D course? Nonetheless, we split a pack of judo points and hit the woods. Three hours and countless mosquito bites later, we were hooked!
The concept is simple: you go for a hike with your bow, you look for a stump, mound of dirt/moss, pop can, or rotted log, and you shoot at it. The forest provides a target rich environment for any traditional archer. The opportunities are endless. Shot customization is endless. It’s nearly impossible to get bored…especially if you bring a fellow archer along.
Stump-shooting is also perfect for honing your hunting skills. There is no substitue for shooting within a natural environment. Foliage is the perfect obstacle as there are too many factors at work in the woods to shoot the same shot twice. This forces the archer to find different angles and shoot from awkward or uncomfortable positions. Range is often difficult to calculate. Getting used to the environment and the shapes and shadows created by its movement is an invaluable skill for any bowhunter. The unconventional targets also test a bowhunters focus beyond the predictable norms of 3D target archery. It is much harder to pick a spot on a hunk of moss than the well-memorized vitals of your garden variety foam deer.
Above all else, stumping acclimates you to the wilderness. It can increase your level of alertness and your ability to navigate quietly and efficiently through vegetation. You may even sneak up on a critter or two if you’re careful enough! In this case, a stumping scenario can become a hunting scenario fairly quickly, which is why I enjoy doing so in early October. An hour of stumping between a morning or evening hunt (in a different location) keeps you attuned to your surroundings and could result with meat on the table. Stumping often becomes squirrel hunting in my case! There is nothing I enjoy more.
While not as likely to run into game (due to the noise), I find stump shooting with a partner to be equally enjoyable and just as educational. An archer can pick up some pretty nasty habits when stumping solo, namely: a) shooting at the target as a whole rather than focusing on a spot (and then lying about what you were REALLY aiming at), b) repeatedly shooting the same targets from the same angles. A partner’s eyes can help you with this by offering their perspective on a shot. No two archer’s eyes are alike in the wilderness. Your buddy may be taller or shorter, shoot with a different cant, or find different colors, shades, or shapes more appealing. By taking turns and shooting each other’s shots you can make a game of it and avoid falling into a rut. Having a partner can also keep your form in check by preventing habit-forming physical mistakes while in the field.
Ultimately, stumping is a wonderful way to change up your shooting routine. Grab a buddy, grab your bow, a strong blunt-tipped arrow, small-game license and hunter orange (if required in your state), and get into the woods! Its fun, its cheap, and it will give you an excuse to get outdoors.
My Dad and I have tried nearly every blunt/small game point on the market while stump shooting and have found the following to be extremely effective: Zwickey Judo points, Barta Blunts (the nastiest small game head on the market IMO), and Barta Bunny Busters. My personal favorite is the Bunny Buster (pictured on my arrow above). They are superior to a traditional rubber blunt and are the best point on the market for aerial shooting into trees. They also work great when salvaging a broken wood arrow. I also like the fact that they don’t have any moving parts to rattle, make noise, or accumulate dirt and debris. As much as I love them, Judo points do. Their spring-activated claws break loose and rotate around the head after awhile.
I tend to prefer a hardwood arrow like ash or ramon while my Dad prefers a carbon arrow footed with aluminum. I like to shoot wood in the woods, it feels natural to me and they pulverize most targets. However, footed carbon shafts are almost impossible to destroy. My Dad’s been using the same footed carbon for quite some time. I’ve also stumped with aluminum in the past but find them easily bent when deflected. If you want to stump with aluminum – I recommend the Easton XX78 (Super Slam). Carry a backup regardless.
Fletching your stump-shooting shafts with flu flus is also a lot of fun. The larger fletching slows the arrow up enough for the archer to better track its flight. They are also a whole lot safer to shoot up into trees with if you intend to take a shot at a squirrel (despite the fact that they’ll hear it coming regardless of how sneaky you are). Keep in mind that adding flu flus will change your arrows trajectory. Don’t expect to stump with a flu flu all day and then shoot a deer that evening with your standard hunting arrow. It isn’t worth risking a miss when it could have been avoided. You’ll never forgive yourself.