By Randy Ulmer
If you’re consistently hitting everything you shoot at 30 yards, maybe it’s time to extend your effective range 10 more yards. Here are a few tips that can help you make that jump.
If there’s any tension in your body, it will be transferred to the bow and make your pin flit around the bull’s-eye like a moth around a streetlight. Ideally, your pin should float in small circles around the tiny aiming point you’ve picked. The pin will never stop moving, but it should stay close to the spot. Relaxing all of the muscles not essential in holding the string back and the bow up is the key to making this happen.
Starting with your legs and working up, focus on each body part to assure that you are fully relaxed while shooting. Improving your strength and/or reducing your bow’s draw weight will help steady your bow arm. Some archers, me included, think a slight bend in your elbow — just enough to unlock the joint and allow it to act as a shock absorber — will help you hold better.
The fingers of your bow hand should hang loose and free. The bow arm should act as a lifeless post. Be sure to check your bow hand regularly — consciously keeping it relaxed is crucial for consistent long-range shooting.
Smooth Out the Release
You can get by with rough shooting on close shots, but when you stretch things out, you have to be as smooth as silk. With a release aid, this means squeezing the trigger while the pin floats. As long as you don’t break your concentration on the target to mentally shout “Now!” the release will be fine — squeeze that trigger like a good rifleman. Ideally, the shot will take you by surprise; your only job is to remain relaxed and keep the pin near the spot you want to hit until the bow goes off.
Follow-Through Is the Glue
There’s nothing more important to long-range shooting than your follow-through. I’ve helped a lot of average bowhunters improve their shooting at 35 and 40 yards by doing nothing more than insisting that they keep their bow arms steady until the arrow hits the target. The number of people who drop their bow arm at the same instant they trigger the shot is amazing.
Follow-through is also a mental exercise. If you’ve conditioned yourself to hold your focus until the arrow hits the target, you won’t be tempted to break your concentration at the moment of release — a deadly sin.
If you want to be a great shot at 40 yards, do most of your shooting at 50 and 60 yards. With enough long-range practice, a 40-yard shot will feel the same way 30-yard shots used to feel. Push yourself. You will never improve and never increase your effective range unless you make your practice sessions more difficult. Don’t just cater to your strengths; challenge your weaknesses.
Increase Arrow Speed
Let’s suppose you take a range reading but, as you draw your bow, the animal moves closer or farther away. A fast arrow will help to compensate for the uncertainty that results. Here are four ways to increase arrow speed.
Increase draw weight
For every pound you increase draw weight, you increase arrow speed by approximately two fps. Crank the weight up until you can no longer draw the string straight back and hold it for more than a minute without shaking, then back it off a half-turn. This should put you close to your maximum draw weight.
Increase draw length
For every half-inch you can add to your draw length, you increase arrow speed by approximately two percent. At your correct draw length, the elbow and forearm of your release arm will point straight away from the target. If you’re stopping short of this position, you can increase your speed (and accuracy) by increasing your draw length slightly.
Be very careful when increasing your draw length. Most archers will shoot much better with a draw length that is slightly too short than a draw length that is slightly too long.
Shoot a faster bow
IBO ratings between 310 and 320 fps are plenty fast and a good choice for the majority of bowhunters. There are, however, a number of bows with IBO speeds exceeding 320 fps. They aren’t for everyone, but if you have excellent form and expect to take longer shots, they might be for you. They will definitely flatten your trajectory.
Shoot a lighter arrow
For every five grains you reduce arrow weight, you increase arrow speed by approximately one fps. I like to shoot for a minimum arrow weight of roughly six grains per pound of my maximum draw force (e.g., 360 grains total arrow weight for a 60-pound bow); this will provide you with a nice compromise of speed, penetration and noise.
Increasing your arrow speed is a solid step toward increasing your effective range. If you bump your speed from 260 fps to 290 fps, your margin for error at 40 yards will increase by a full 25 percent. That will make you slightly more accurate in real-world hunting situations.
As your archery skills improve and your mastery of your equipment grows, you will be ready for longer shots. If you can add just 10 yards, increasing your effective range from 30 yards to 40 yards, it will pay huge dividends. This simple improvement nearly doubles your area of coverage when hunting from a treestand.