If you’re like me, you’ve spent your spring and early summer managing your habitat and food plots in preparation of the upcoming hunting season. Now it’s time to get those game cameras out, if you took them down, to watch velvet bucks develop into what you hope are the hit list bucks you’ve been waiting for. I know how time consuming managing your hunting property can be and we often do it at the expense of equally important tasks. Now’s the time to extend your bow range and make sure you’re in bow shape come opening day.
In an earlier bog post, I mentioned that spending time with your bow is a great item to add to your whitetail off-season to-do list. Well this is one instance when I’ve taken my own advice and joined an archery club. This off-season I purchased a completely new set up; new bow, new release, and new rest. Needless to say, I need as much bow time as I can get until this new one begins feeling like an extension of my body.
As if breaking in a new bow isn’t challenging enough, I also set a personal goal to extend my effective bow range out to 40 yards. Living in the suburbs and with our farm being a 3 hour drive away, my best option to get in plenty of range time to meet my goal was to join the Wapiti Archers of Pennsylvania archery club 10 minutes from my house. They have everything I need: a nice bag range out to 50 yards, and two 3D courses with shot distances out to 50 yards. Now just going to the range alone isn’t going to help me, or you, achieve our goals; a plan is necessary.
Know Your Limits
Before beginning to extending your effective bow range, it’s necessary to understand the baseline your attempting to increase or enhance. A great way to test your current effective range is to shoot two separate groups of six arrows. If both groups fit within the diameter of a softball, then you can consider that your effective at that range and are ready to increase your distance. It’s important to be honest in this step. If you find yourself saying “close enough” during this step, you’ll need more time dialing in at a comfortable distance before adding yardage.
One thing you’ll need to determine quickly is if you’re consistently using proper form. Small quirks are of little consequence at the range shooting at bags and 3D targets. Those small quirks are a different animal when in the stand dealing with a full blown case of buck fever. Do yourself a favor and head to a pro shop near you. The guys and gals at the pro shop can help even the worst form offenders and can help put you on track to more accurate shooting at longer distances. While you’re there, have them check your draw length and make sure your bow fits as it should. One of the most common reasons for an archer’s lack of consistency is due to an overly long draw length.
Less Is More
Now that your dialed in at your current effective range and you’ve addressed any form/technical issues, begin adding yardage to your shot. “Less is more” is absolutely one of the worst cliches known to man, but in this instance, it is the best advice to follow. Ideally you’ll want to add yardage in 5 yard increment, spending approximately a week at each new distance until you reach your goal range. This of course is only a guide, as some may be able to make a 10 yard jump. If you find yourself struggling at the new distance, or worse yet experiencing target panic, it may be time to head back to close range practice (around 10 feet shooting into a blank target) to regain your form and confidence. Even the best archers will use the blank target method to tighten up their form, mechanics, and shot sequence.
Once you’ve extended to your goal range, why stop there? Continue to extend your range. You may not ever take a 70-80 yard shot while hunting in the whitetail woods, but shooting accurately at more extreme distances can make your 20-40 yard shots on stand easier (I hesitate to call any shot in the whitetail woods a gimme).
Extending your effective bow range from 20 to 30 yards nearly doubles the area you can cover from the stand. Thirty yards is my current effective range. My groups at this range are consistent and I’ve harvested whitetail just beyond this distance in the past. Ideally, I’d like to extend my effective range to 40 yards. At my archery club, I’ll be able to shoot out to 50 yards and I’ll have the opportunity to stretch that distance out to 55 or 60 yards when I’m at the farm. The process of extending my effective bow range won’t happen overnight, but I know that it will be time well-spent come this fall.