If you are still practicing close hunting range shots, its time to move back. Maybe way back.
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Long shots is one of the most important practice strategies to become a better hunter.[/caption]
Years ago when I first picked up a traditional bow
for hunting, I placed upon myself a huge burden to become proficient with the bow at hunting ranges before taking it to the field. I spent many, many hours practicing shots from 20 yards and in. Practicing these shots I assumed would make me a better archer at those ranges and soon I would be hell on wheels. While I did become proficient at close shots, I never developed the ability, or confidence, to stack arrows consistently in the bull.
As life began to get full, I lost the time necessary to devote to my trad bow and picked up a modern compound bow
. I made the same commitment to myself and the animals I would chase to become absolute poison in my hunting ranges. I became proficient, but still felt like I wasn't taking the next step in my archery skill. Then I finally learned the huge mistake I was making in my practice sessions.
I got to watching Youtube videos of pros like Cameron Hanes, Dwight Schuh, Randy Ulmer, and Chuck Adams, and realized all of these accomplished hunters had one thing in common; they could shoot a long ways.
All these pros could step back to 70, 80, even 100 yards and beyond and still perform decently. It was then I decided to get out of my comfort zone, quit worrying about practicing my hunting ranges, and break down the mental barriers I had placed on myself. Soon with my compound I was stepping back to 70 yards and letting arrows fly. By no means was I 10 ringing all my shots, but stepping back helped me in three distinct ways.
One, it broke down the mental barriers I had placed on myself. When I had committed myself to close hunting ranges I would say to myself things like, "Man, a 40 yard shot is sure a long shot on a deer." Sure, depending the situation, a 40 yard shot might be a long shot, maybe even too long. The problem was different though. I had placed a mental barrier on myself at 40 yards. In other words, that became a "long shot" to me and pressure built accordingly.
Secondly, by practicing long shots I was really able to identify flaws and inconsistencies in my shooting. I've heard a one inch miss at 20 yards becomes a six inch miss at 40 yards. Whether the exact numbers are true it matters little. It is true that flaws will magnify themselves as the gap widens between shooter and target. Long shots also highlight problems with your equipment. A bad arrow, poor arrow rest, inconsistent anchor point, or an inconsistent release are noticed pretty quickly at 70 yards.
Finally, shooting long ranges had another huge impact on me and my hunting ability. As I moved back, I not only began to notice more confidence at the deep ranges I practiced, but my confidence in my hunting ranges became incredible. Now the 40 yard shot that used to give me a mild case of target panic became my warm up shots.
Any discussion on long distance shooting needs to include a disclaimer about ethical shots while hunting. Just because I shoot from 80 yards deep while practicing doesn't mean I'd dream of shooting an animal at that distance. It simply wouldn't even cross my mind. I'm just not that guy. In reality the longest shot I've taken at a live animal is in the 30 yard range. In those situations even though the adrenaline was flooding my body, my confidence remained at 100% certainty I could nail the shot. I can credit all my shooting confidence to the fact I got outside my comfort zone when I stepped back.
NEXT: OFFSEASON PREP: 3 RUNNING WORKOUTS FOR HUNTERS