August 17, 2022
In today's world of bowhunting, the final few moments before an arrow is released dictates whether we will be accurate or not. Mental composure — mixed with confidence and good form — is what puts an arrow in the “x," or punches a sought after tag on a trophy bull or buck you’ve dreamed about your entire life. One way I’ve been able to make my shooting confidence soar is by practicing at longer distances each and every year. This type of shooting has sharpened my mental game, as well as chiseled my archery form into tip-top shape. Let’s dive into why practicing at longer distances can and almost certainly will make you a more lethal bowhunter.
Don't Overthink Distance
Everyone knows that shooting at a longer distance requires more skill and mental dedication than a closer shot. But no matter if we break down a close shot or a longer range one we will find that they happen in the exact same manner. We pull back the bow, we aim and then we release. Nothing changes in the dynamics of a longer shot versus a shorter one. The only difference is that our own minds tend to make a longer shot a lot bigger deal than it really is. Simply put, as long as we aim the bow and rely on perfect form and our tried-and-true aiming methods, longer shots are no different than a short one.
Where archers get into trouble is by overthinking longer shots and not having confidence in our form and mental aspects of archery — mainly aiming. This happens because instead of calmly aiming at the target that is at 60 yards (like we would if it were at 20 yards), we complicate the process solely because of the distance. But why? Why are we making this shot any different than a 20-yard shot where we know we will hit that “x” every time? The answer, in my opinion all comes down to confidence and consistency!
Why Shoot Longer Distances?
For myself and many others, practicing at longer distances does two major things for a bowhunter. Number one, it forces you to focus on shot execution, form and bow tuning. Secondly, it gives us more confidence afield. Let’s break both of these down a bit more.
Shooting longer distances is more difficult than closer distances because of the small margain of error involved in making a longer shot. What I mean by that this: let’s say you’re at 20 yards and when the arrow is released you’re off center a little bit. Realistically, you will still hit center or fairly close to center, but if we moved back to say 80 yards, the same mistake would have much larger concequences. We'd be sure to see that we missed our mark but quite a lot.
Knowing that there is less of a margin for error, practicing at longer distances makes us hone our form and shot execution during the moment of truth. We know that if we want to be accurate at 80, we have no room for error on our end when it comes to our form and execution of a good shot. This has forced me in the past to do things like break target panic, reprogram my shot, retime my bow/arrows and also reevaluate my form and shot execution. All of these things have made me a much more accurate archer, and these problems were magnified when shooting longer distances. I knew if I wanted to be proficient at longer distances I had to correct these things immediately.
Confidence Is Key
I mentioned that one of the key benefits to practicing at longer distances is gaining confidence. Confidence, in my opinion, can and will absolutely make or break a bowhunter during the moment of truth. Many times I’ve been in that exact same sitution — at full draw on a buck or bull — and had to rely solely on my confidence in shot execution, form and setup to get me through the high pressure situation. For me, that has a lot to do with honing my long-range shooting skills and the practice and discipline that it takes to get good at feeling comfotable at longer distances. This confidence building not only helps a bowhunter shoot further and more accurately, but as previously mentioned, it helps during those critical moments of truth when we need to hyper focus on the task at hand.
A More Proficient Bowhunter
The last reason that I have loved every aspect of shooting further distances and becoming proficient at it is that it has increased my bowhunting success rates. I am now a more effective bowhunter because I have increased my killing range by almost 25 yards. This is huge! Becoming deadly and confident at a distance well past where I typically felt comfortable now gives me a world of new opportunities that I once had to watch walk by. By practicing at 80-100 yards, I have now made myself a very accurate and deadly archer at 50-60, which increases my odds of success.
Another great reason why I love to practice and shoot extremely long ranges is because of the realization that one day I will make a bad shot (it happens to us all!) and will need a follow-up shot if possible. By being able to accurately shoot further distances, this also increases my ability to be proficient with a second arrow if and when the situation arises. We owe it to the animal to be as proficient as possible, but sometimes things don't go according to our plan. Maybe we hit a limb, or the animal moves at the shot — you know, things that are out of our control. But by being accurate at further distances now gives me the opportunity to follow up with a second shot if needed.
Practicing long-range distances has not only honed my skills as an archer physically, but also mentally. In my opinion, having the confidence that this kind of shooting will give a bowhunter will without a doubt make you a better and more proficient hunter with a bow in hand.