It’s cool, and I get it. I like to send carbon at extended distances, too. It’s fun. With that noted, let the following burn into your brain: Bowhunting is a close-range game. Yes, today’s bow, arrow and accessory combos are capable of incredible things, but that doesn’t mean you should make a purchase, step back to 80 yards and let it rip. The same holds true for those who’ve been shooting for a grip of time but are struggling with target panic that has led to accuracy issues. Distance shooting, if not approached in the right manner, can be a recipe for frustration, anxiety and loss of shooting joy.
If you’re new to archery and want to learn to shoot further, great, I’m all for it. If you were once able to pound foam at extended distances but now feel like you’re fighting your bow each time you shoot, read on. The to-come info is going to help you shoot better at ranges close and far. A lot better.
Tune It Up
Nothing trumps having a bow that shoots darts. It’s likely the pro shop tuned your rig before sending you out the door with it, but now that you’ve got your new baby home and have spent some time with it, recheck the tune. Why? It’s likely, especially if you’re new to shooting, that your grip has changed as well as your anchor. A slight change in grip can create torque, which can alter arrow flight. Many new archers, as well as those struggling with target panic, will put a lot of face pressure (nose, lip, cheek or a combination of) on the string. This can also negatively impact arrow flight.
Visit your pro shop or set up a paper tuning device in your backyard. Building one is super easy. I often use an old window frame, some typing paper and a staple gun. Stand or kneel three or four yards from the paper and shoot an arrow. If you have a tear — right, left, high, low or a combination of — you need to fix it.
First, evaluate your grip. Your thumb should be at a 45-degree angle and the center of the bow’s grip should rest outside the lifeline of your bow hand. In addition, your grip should be relaxed. The bow isn’t going to jump out of your hand, so don’t put a death grip on it. Try and relax from the elbow down.
Next, evaluate your anchor. The tip of the nose should rest gently on the string, and the position of the release hand should put the fletchings of the arrow in a location where they will not impact the face. If you feel a fletch tick your face at the shot, or you notice some fletch rippling or discoloration, you’re getting contact. If this is the case, adjust your anchor. The arrow should rest in the area between your lower lip and chin. The face creates a valley in this area, which reduces the chance of fletch-to-face contact.
After working on your grip and anchor, shoot another arrow. You’ll be surprised. These simple changes may totally eliminate your negative paper tear. If not, and you’re familiar with paper tears and what they mean, you may need to move your rest, change the position of your d-loop or alter the timing of your cams. If you’re not an experienced bow technician, visit your local pro shop.
You’re bow is paper-tuned perfect. That’s awesome. It will give you confidence, and confidence is key. Now it’s time to build on that confidence. Cover the face of a foam or bag target and stand five yards from it. Get your grip right, draw and settle into anchor. Developing this system is a must. Now let your pin float on the target with your index-finger or thumb resting on the trigger. You need to learn to find your trigger and realize it won’t cause the bow to fire with the slightest pressure. If it does, you need to heavy that trigger up. You can’t be afraid of your trigger. Finding your trigger is a key element to the shot process. We don’t want the finger or thumb resting off the trigger or feathering it.
You’re not aiming at a spot, you’re just letting your pin float. Hold until exhaustion and then let down. Do not fire the arrow. Take a few seconds to let your muscles relax, and then repeat the process. Think of it like lifting weights. Do four sets of 10 and then call it a day. Repeat this process for five days without shooting an arrow. It’s difficult not to fire, but trust me, it will be worth it in the end.
Stay five yards from the target and keep dots, vital organs and the like covered. Go through your grip, draw and anchor process. Be sure to find the trigger just like you’ve done in previous practice sessions. Let the pin float and let the release fire the bow. Don’t get punchy. Find that trigger and while letting the pin float, push hard into the target with the bow arm and imagine there is a wall behind you that you’re driving your back elbow toward. While doing this, relax the release hand. Do it right and the arrow will just be gone. That’s what we want. Each day for five days, repeat this process at a distance of five yards. You’ll soon notice that there is no anxiety or worry. You’re just going through your system until the arrow hits foam. It’s a great feeling, and again, your confidence will grow.
20, 30 and 40
I’ve been bowhunting for over two decades and have taken hundreds of animals with my stick-and-string. Most have been plucked from the vast landscape of the West. Guess what? My average shot distance on game is 32 yards. Remember, bowhunting is a close-range game.
You’re full of confidence. You have a system that is working. Take the cover off your target, step back to 20 yards, pick a spot and go through your system. Don’t worry about trying to hold that pin dead on the spot. The best archer in the world can’t do this. Let the pin float. Go through your process until the shot breaks and hits home. If you executed flawlessly, shoot another arrow. It should hug the other shaft tightly. Now fire a third. If all your arrows could fit inside a golf ball, you’re doing things right. Repeat the process again and again. How many times? As long as your muscles are feeling good and you’re making every single arrow the best possible, as many as you want.
Today we’re backing up to 30 yards. Nothing changes. Understand before you start shooting that your pin movement may be magnisfied a bit. This is due to the extra 10 yards you’ve moved from the target. Your pin will cover the dot a tad more and the dot may appear a bit smaller. Pin float may also increase slightly. No biggie. You have a system. Go through your process and let the arrow go. Again, we’re wanting a perfectly executed three-shot group. The goal is a group that is the size, or smaller than, the diameter of a baseball (2.75 inches).
Our last close-range distance is 40 yards. Most of your archery shots will be had at distances between 20 and 40. Anything beyond 40 starts to get into the long-range side of things. Again, nothing changes. The goal today is three-arrow groups that are consistently the diameter of a softball (3.5 inches).
Spend a few weeks shooting at 20, 30 and 40 yards. If at any time you start to feel anxious or any part of your system starts to break down, stop shooting. Aimlessly firing arrows won’t fix the problem. It will make it worse. Move back inside 10 yards, cover the target, relax and let the release fire the bow.
It’s also a great idea to drop some coin and invest in a 3-D target. You don’t want to spend all of your time pounding dots. Yes, 3-D targets have scoring rings, but that’s not your goal. Your goal is to send three-arrow kill groups into the target from ranges of 20, 30 and 40 yards. A 3-D target will add some realism and help relieve any remaining anxiety you may feel when spot shooting.
In the next article, we will start stepping back to ranges up to 100 yards. Do yourself a favor: Don’t try and jump ahead. Trust the system. If you do, you’ll be regularly dropping arrows into the 10-ring at distances you thought never possible, or distances that once caused you to tremble. Stay the course. It’s going to be a great ride.