(This is part two in a series about shooting long range. If you haven't read part one, we suggest going back and starting there.)
You’ve been trusting the system, right? You’re feeling confident and dropping arrows into the 10-ring at distances between 20 and 40 yards? Good. The foundation has been built. Now it’s time to start stretching the legs of that bow. Just remember, before we dive into distance, archery is close-range game. We aren’t practicing at 80 yards so we can deflate lungs at this distance. We are building our long-range game to make those close-in shots feel super easy, even when the nerves spike.
50 and 60
I’ve shot a grip of animals while on spot-and-stalk sojourns at distances between 50 and 60 yards. Pronghorn and mule deer seem to have a sixth sense that put them on alert when bowhunters creep inside the 60-yard mark. In my opinion, if you’re going to hunt the West, you need to be able to deliver a lethal arrow at 60 if you plan on filling the freezer.
Before you set those 50- and 60-yard pins or mark your sight-tape at these distances, put the cover back on the target. Why? Pin-float will be magnified. Your pin, especially when placed on a dot, will seem to cover it. This can cause anxiety. In addition, natural factors like wind will magnify pin movement. Spend some time shooting arrows at these distances at a blank target face. Pick an imaginary spot on the paper and go through your system until the shot breaks. Learn what it feels like to execute at these distances before shooting at a spot.
Now that you have some arrows under your belt at 50 and 60, don’t go right to a dot. Rather, move to your 3-D target. Again, you’re not aiming at an exact dot. You’re letting your pin float on foam — where you’d want to hit the animal — and executing. Do this for several days, and I highly recommend turning your 3-D target to quartering-away and slightly quartering-to positions. Shoot lots of angles to build confidence.
Move to a dot to dial those pins or set that tape. If you’ve done your blank target and 3-D shooting, this process will be a breeze. Be sure to shoot a dot that’s large enough your pin won’t fully cover it. I like a three- or four-inch dot at these distances, and I make sure the dot isn’t the same color as my pin. You want your pin to standout and not blend into the dot. Don’t panic. Trust the system you’ve developed. Breathe and execute.
Don’t call it good yet. Yes, you’re dialed at 50 and 60, but you want to make sure. The day after your dot shooting, step outside and fire a pair of cold arrows. By cold, I mean zero warmup. Step back to 50 yards and shoot an arrow at your 3-D target, and then repeat the process at 60. You know the spot you’re visualizing on the target. You saw your arrow in the target before it even got there. If the arrows hit home, you’re good to go at 50 and 60.
70 and Beyond
If you’re planning to shoot distances beyond 70 yards, it’s likely you have a multi-pin slider sight or a single pin, which means you’ll be using a tape. Don’t bank on your tape being dead-on. I see lots of archers with a tape set perfectly between 20 and 60 yards, and then assume their 70- to 100-yard marks will be exact. While this is possible, especially when using a platform like Archer’s Advantage, you need to double check.
Again, I prefer to start with a blank target face at each distance before moving directly to a 3-D target. Also, I don’t like setting more than one distance per day. If I’m sighting-in at 70, for example, I will spend a day working at that distance. My goal is to constantly remind myself that the shot I make at 70 is the same shot I make at 20. I stay true to my system and execute, and I don’t panic if I put an arrow or five outside the six-inch diameter dot during my shooting session. It’s important to remember that 70 yards is a very long way, and you will have arrows that don’t always hit the mark. If you step out to 70 yards the day following your dial-in session and deliver a kill-shot on foam with your first arrow of day, you’re good to go.
My process for dialing-in at distances of 80, 90 and 100 yards mirror my 70-yard process. My dot-size remains a six-inch diameter, and I spend a lot more time shooting a 3-D target at these distances than I do a spot. The key, just like shooting any distance, is to make every arrow the best it can possibly be. Don’t revert back to bad habits like jabbing the trigger or other shot-rushing methods. Everything is magnified at distance. While a quick punch may put you a little high or low at 30 yards, you’ll miss the target at 80. Stay clam, cool and collected. When focusing on that 3-D target, let the phrase “ribs and relax” go through your brain. I do this with every 3-D shot I make. My coach and mentor, Yahsti Perkinskiller, gave me the tip and it has served me well. If you let your pin float on the ribs while pushing and pulling, the arrow seems to find its mark. Plus, in a real hunting situation, if you hit a little forward, you’re still in the lungs and out of the shoulder. If you hit a little back, you get liver, which will do the job if you don’t push the animal.
Keep The Routine
The key to accuracy, especially when it comes to long-range accuracy, is keeping up a routine. Don’t perfect your system and call it good. Keep shooting. Practice regularly at distances close and far and be sure not to always shoot distances that end in a zero or a five. You’ll have 47- and 53-yard shots in the field, and you need to know you can make them. Jump in some 3-D tournaments to get the blood pumping and simulate in-the-field shot scenarios. It also helps to shoot against others. Executing perfectly in front of your peers creates pressure situations and learning to handle these situations is paramount to being lethal in the field.