By Jace Bauserman
Putting a broadhead-tipped piece of carbon through the lungs of a living creature isn’t easy. Just earning a moment of truth opportunity can seem like mission impossible. Things can get flat whacky when you earn a chance–when you’re in bow range, and your pin hits hide. The heart is racing, the mind is far from steel-trap-like, and your pin seems to be doing a disco-dance on the animal’s side. Sound familiar? If you don’t do your all to prepare for these moments, you’ll be in for some miserable times.
Yes, you want to be proficient at close ranges. Bowhunting, after all, is meant to be a close-range game. Double-distance practice, however, is the best way to develop ice-water veins, especially between 20 and 60 yards.
Be honest with yourself about your max hunt distance–the furthest yardage you feel comfortable taking a shot at an animal. Max kill distance is different for every bowhunter, and mine is 80 yards if the animal is broadside or quartering-away and has no idea I’m about to deflate its lungs. I’ve hunted with bowhunters who can shoot 3-inch, three-arrow groups at 140 yards, and I’ve watched them pin-wheel critters out to 100 yards and make it look easy. Yes, 80 and 100 yards are far, so don’t feel they should be your max hunt distances for a second.
I have a Midwest buddy–a whitetail slayer–who won’t shoot beyond 35 yards. Why? Because he’s been honest with himself, knows his limitations, and wants backstraps for the grill and a trophy for the wall. When we shoot together at his home each year, though, he welds arrows out to 65 yards. Yes, double-distance practice.
The curmudgeon amongst us–and there are thousands of keyboard cowards who put no time or effort into honing a craft and being their very best—will give you a hard time. Post a pic of you flinging an Easton at 120 yards, and the negative comments will come in droves. Ignore them. You see, foam doesn’t bleed. It doesn’t duck or dodge, and there is zero risk of you wounding it.
If your max hunt distance is 50 yards, do yourself a favor, don’t walk to 100 yards, and start cutting carbon loose. You will lose and break arrows, and the joy of long-range shooting will vanish before it begins. Rather, take the necessary time to set and check your tape (you’ll need a moveable sight) at every five-yard increment between 50 and 100 yards. The process should take days. Once you’re satisfied with each distance and have your tape dialed to your double-distance yardage measurement, start shooting three-arrow groups.
Keep in mind, things are magnified at a distance. Put extra torque into your grip and you’ll be off eight inches, not one inch. Jab at your trigger and you may miss the target. Grit your teeth and forget to push the bow hand into the target while driving the release arm back while relaxing the release hand from the wrist down, and your groups will look like you shot blindfolded.
Please do your best to execute every shot flawlessly. And by flawlessly, I don’t mean an arrow in the target’s center. I mean going through your entire shot process, from getting into your grip to crawling into your anchor to trusting your pin float while you aim, I.e., making the best shot possible on each arrow. If you take your time and make each shot count, long-range bow shooting will reveal flaws in your form, your bow’s tune and, eventually, turn you into a lethal weapon. After a week of shooting your bow at double your max hunt distance, move up to 30 or 40 yards, and get ready to be blown away. The target will appear to be feet out, and as you go through your shot process, a sly smile will slide across your face because you don’t think–but rather know–your arrow is going to hit its mark.