Question: What is the best way to prepare for a bowhunt - Spot targets, or 3-D?
There really is no substitute for either of them. Both are necessary. Let me elaborate.
Spot shooting at targets at prearranged distances does two things necessary for a successful bowhunt.
First, it allows the archer the opportunity to establish their shooting form and make it consistent. Anyone can learn to shoot a bow reasonably well in a very short time. Perfecting that shooting is what spot shooting is all about. The goal is to make your technique second nature. Every time you draw the bow, the anchor point is the same, the grip on the bow is the same, the stance is the same, the breathing, the posture, the release, and follow through are the same. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. This is sooooo important for those hunting situations. Your shot technique should be automatic when that big buck steps out so you don't have to focus on every element of your technique. Shooting hundreds of arrows at spot targets will result in what many call muscle memory. Your body will KNOW if that draw is just right.
Secondly, spot shooting will allow you to get your equipment set up properly. Pre-measured distances will give you accurate settings for your bowsite's pin settings. Watching your arrows flight and how it impacts the target will tell you whether your bow is properly tuned, and allow you to make adjustments under controlled circumstances. You can determine the proper arrow, including spine, weight and length, tip weight and fletching, to pick the perfect arrow.
The combined gains of spot shooting will result in a honed archery form and properly prepared equipment.
To stop there however, will be a disservice to the game you hunt. Judging distance on live game is not an easy task. Game come in all different shapes and sizes - even among the same species. Misjudging distance WILL result in missed and worse, crippled game. We owe it to the game we hunt to make every effort to be accurate in judging the shot distance. There is no substitute in this regard than 3-D shooting at unknown distances.
When practicing your archery at 3-D shoots, avoid the temptation to share your distance views with your shooting partners. You need to develop these skills independent of your hunting associates. It will not be very often that you will be able to query your hunting partner about the yardage of a closing Buck.
Make sure your 3-D practice includes all the kind of terrain you will be hunting as well. Uphill and downhill shots are very different from each other and simple horizontal shots. If you will be hunting from a tree stand, make sure you practice from an elevated platform.
Throwing lots of arrows at predetermined "spot targets" coupled with a bunch more arrows at good 3-D courses, will enhance your total outdoor experience and will certainly increase your success rate during the actual hunt.