Today’s archery equipment is capable of shooting remarkably well compared to even 10 years ago. Some of the most accomplished archers are shooting groups of eight inches or less at 100 yards under target conditions. Few archers would take shots like that at animals in the field, but the fact is that a modern, well-tuned bow is capable of shooting far better than you can shoot. If your effective range is say 30 yards, your bow is very capable of shooting much farther. All that is left is improving your skills so you can catch up.
I have shot three deer in the past two years at just over 40 yards, which I consider to be my effective range. I am working diligently to extend my effective range to 55 yards, since I will be drawing an antelope tag for Wyoming next year and the shots are likely to be long ones.
Here are five tips to help you add 15 yards to your effective hunting range. You can do this within two to three weeks if you are willing to shoot about 50 arrows a day.
Know your current capabilities
Before we add any range to your shooting abilities, you must first establish a baseline to start with. To do that, you need to be honest with yourself about what your current range is. If you are punching groups that can be covered by the palm of your hand at 30 yards, that’s probably your effective range. That means under hunting conditions—with the possibility of the target moving, adrenaline glands pumping, and maybe some crosswinds—your groupings will probably be more like twice that big. That’s barely good enough.
Shoot a dozen arrows and actually measure the group. One flyer out of the group is not cause for alarm, but it is something that needs to be worked on. If you can’t be consistent in a relaxed and controlled environment behind your house, you sure aren’t going to be consistent with a big buck in front of you. Plus, even today’s fast and quiet bows still cannot outshoot their sound. A tense deer is going to move a little before the arrow gets there. The longer the shot, the more time it has to move.
Shore up your style
Take a critical look at your form and style. It’s not a bad idea to even have an archery coach lend his or her perspective as well. Any little mistake you are making at short to medium range is going to be magnified at a longer range.
Several fundamentals need to be critiqued, such as arm position and elbow bend, anchor consistency, head position, stance, and back tension. Work hard on using good form before you try to extend your range, it will make a big difference in your confidence too.
Practice is important, but the right practice is even more so. If you set out to shoot 50 arrows a day, do not try to do it all at once—especially at first. If you have been shooting a lot of arrows, then you may be okay, but if have not been shooting every day, chances are by the time you get to about 30 arrows, you are getting tired. Your form is going to suffer, which will open up your groups and add to the number of bad shots. Remember, you are trying to simulate hunting conditions as much as possible. In hunting situations, you are not going to be shooting a bunch of arrows, you need one shot to count. It’s better to shoot five sets of 10 shots over the day than one set of 50 shots.
With each shot, concentrate on your form and fundamentals. Take your time and as the days pass, proper form will become second nature to you as muscle memory helps your brain perform properly.
Baby steps, not giant leaps
Don’t try to add 15 yards all at once. Add five at a time. It’s a good idea to add five a week for three weeks. As you become confident with the addition of five yards, move on to 10 yards. I cannot overstress how important confidence is in your shooting. There are a lot of things that can go haywire in your mind and if you notice that your pin is hanging up right below the bullseye and you have to forcefully move it up, you are going too fast. Slow down and relax. This is supposed to be fun and it will be so much more fun when you can be shooting great groups at longer distances.
Don’t overestimate your abilities
Now that you are confidently shooting father, it’s easy to go back and make the mistakes that we talked about in step one. You now have a 15-yard-longer range to which you can set up your hunting locations, be it a treestand or ground blind. But you still have to factor in the environmental conditions. Don’t take chances on alert deer, keep in mind the factors of uphill and downhill effects on your range, and wind might play a trick on you. Trust your instincts and be ethical in your shot selection. Anything that could go wrong at shorter distances can go even more wrong at longer distances.
Wait for the right shot, and then make it count! For visual representations of these tips, check out the video below.
Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.