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Bowhunting World’s Adventures In Archery

The World Past 20 Yards—Extending Your Range 
by Joe Byers

Stuck at the 20-yard threshold? Three nationally known bowmen show how to increase your effective range and make the most of each opportunity. 

“You guys will have about two hours to hunt and still catch the plane,” said the manager of the Jupiter caribou camp in northern Quebec. “If you can pack back the meat, I’ll take things from there. Just don’t miss that plane!” 

Pressured by an unexpected departure schedule, I dressed by candlelight as the eastern sky began to pale. Pushing the darkness, I climbed the ridge, stopping often to survey the tundra surroundings. Several days before, thousands of caribou migrated through this area, concentrating in a narrow patch of black spruce. The nearby funnel would offer close-range potential. As the sun crested the horizon, action soon followed. 

A mature white-mane bull emerged from the timber. Another animal soon followed. Were there five, a dozen, or 20? Numbers didn’t really matter; one caribou in range was all I sought. 

Testing the wind, I retreated and then made a wide circle. Sneaking to a large rock, I inched above the horizon, scanning the vicinity for antler tips. No caribou. Glassing intently, I finally spotted tall velvet passing through thick brush well to my right. There was no time to waste. 

Reversing course again, I dashed through several openings, then closed the distance toward an ambush trail. The bulls were traveling through waist-high brush, making enough noise to cover my approach. Crouched as low as possible, I closed a final 50 yards with just seconds to spare. My hands trembled as I ranged a scrubby bush at 30 yards. The first bull stepped just beyond the shrub. The second bull was larger. 

The duo moved steadily and I remembered a trick a guide had suggested. “Ark!” I barked briskly, and both animals stopped. Already at full draw, I settled the 40-yard pin high in the chest, held and released. In an instant the Carbon Express shaft flashed to the target, zipping through just behind the shoulder. The arrow was exactly on target, a shot for which I had prepared and practiced. In this instance, preparing to surpass the 20-yard pin spelled the difference between success and “next time.” 

Think Short, Prepare for Long 
The first rule of long-range shooting is “Don’t.” During my photo assignment/caribou hunt I encountered 14 hunters, all of whom carried rifles, most zeroed-in at 200 yards. Despite the potential for long-range hunting, employing ambush tactics put me within solid bow range. The same is true for pronghorn, mountain sheep, and other animals that inhabit wide-open spaces. Usually, they approach some cover that can disguise a bow hunter. 

My rule of thumb: never take a long shot if you can plan a short one. 
Closer is always better, especially in field conditions which may hamper form and cause emotional duress. Humans are not bowhunting machines. Even Olympic archers exhibit a margin of error. Otherwise, they’d place every arrow in the same hole. Through proper practice and form, you can strive to minimize this error for tight groups. 

To ethically hunt whitetail deer from a treestand, an archer must place an arrow within a 5-inch circle at 20 yards. This margin of error is 2.5 inches from the point of aim. Extend this degree of accuracy to 30 yards and wounding may occur, even under ideal circumstances. For this reason, the 20-yard threshold has become a “glass ceiling” for many bowmen. 

Today’s advances in archery technology such as carbon ICS arrows, one cam bows, fiber-optic sights, and vibration reduction—and, most notably, rangefinders—can reduce the “error of arrows” and extend your effective range. 

Each year, more and more hunters take actions to extend their effective range well beyond the 20-yard pin. Is that right for you? Only you can answer that question, yet consider the views of three nationally-known bowmen. 

The 100-Yard Pin 
“People look at my sight and ask about all the pins,” says Robinson Laboratories President and world-class shooter, Scott Schultz. “Although I have no intention of shooting an animal at 80, 90, or 100 yards, I have pins on my bow and practice at those distances.” 

Schultz has been an IBO World Champion several times and grew up with a solid background of long-range target shooting. His ability to use extended range pins is a combination of finely tuned form and equipment.

“My fixed-blade broadheads fly at about 320 fps,” he says. “It’s all about alignment—little things like twisting the cable yoke. Also, I twist the bowstring to increase brace height. This increases the preload on the limbs as well as brace height.” Schultz shoots a Hoyt Hyper-Tech bow set at 79 pounds, Easton ACC 360s and a Titanium 100 broadhead. 

Schultz believes his long-range ability is an excellent insurance policy when the unexpected happens. 

“If something unexpected occurs, you are helpless unless you have those long-range pins to fall back on,” he says. “If your arrow hits a twig, the animal suddenly moves, or some other calamity occurs, the long-range pins may allow a second shot.” 

Several years ago Schultz was moose hunting and believed he had a stationary target of immense size. At the moment of release the big bull took a stride, causing a non-lethal hit. 

“I killed that moose at 67 yards with a second shot in the ribs,” he says with satisfaction. “I relied heavily on my Leica rangefinder and plenty of practice.” 

Spot and Stalk to Success 
Steve Kobrine was introduced to the bowhunting community through the pages of Bowhunting World. The 30-year old Maryland native has taken every species of African game with a bow and arrow. His powerful arrow shot completely through a bull elephant at 45 yards. 

I had the good fortune to practice with Kobrine in his expansive back yard; where retrieving arrows and walking for exercise go hand in hand. 

“I practice between 60 and 80 yards because that’s the range I expect to shoot,” says Kobrine. “Most African game will give you that leeway.” 
Once Kobrine’s accuracy skills backfired after shooting a Coke can at 80 yards to demonstrate his effectiveness. The native workers then constructed a blind 80 yards from the crossing Kobrine expected to watch. 

This young man’s physical prowess adds to his hunting effectiveness. A lanky 6 feet 6 inches, he shoots a full-length arrow at a draw weight of 80 to100 pounds. This long power stroke combined with a heavy 1,000-grain arrow can provide kinetic energy in the 100 foot-pound range. 

How Far Is The Moose? 
Bob Foulkrod reels them in like a Bassmasters champ. Each year he conducts a seminar on long-range shooting, one session of his comprehensive Bowhunting School. A full-size 3-D moose target stands in the background and inevitably a participant challenges the wily archer. “Betcha can’t hit that moose,” chides an archer in competitive good fun. Foulkrod displays a doubtful frown until the entire group demands the attempt. Like a con man closing a sting operation, his Golden Eagle bow bends and the carbon shaft smacks the boiler room 125 yards away. 
After hearty laughs Foulkrod gets serious about determining “how far is too far?” He is quick to suggest there’s no mathematical formula to the answer. His extensive shooting camp helps archers determine this exact point. Although targets are 3-D animals, hunters are hurried, harried, and otherwise challenged to make lethal shots on targets that pop up, drop down, and move among obstructions. The five-inch circle is still the kill zone, yet archers are presented with many complications to making the shot. 
“We test each hunter’s limits,” says Foulkrod. “We want ethical sportsmen taking high-percentage shots and our course helps each person learn his limits.” 

Small Steps To Extended Range 
Kobrine, Foulkrod, and Schultz have several characteristics in common, similarities that allow archers to compare their shooting styles, gear, and tactics. First, each man practices at long range. Even the fellow who shoots in thick cover from a treestand can benefit. 

“If you practice at 60 yards, you either improve your aim or you lose all your arrows,” says Schultz. From a practice standpoint, the farther away you can group arrows, the more consistent your shafts at a closer range. A flaw in form or rest clearance may not affect your shooting at 20 yards; however, beyond 50 yards erratic arrow placement becomes clearly evident. 

All three men shoot fixed-blade broadheads and practice with them. Foulkrod has been a consistent advocate of the Titan four-blade, a large cut-on-contact head that creates a large slash factor. Like Schultz’s 100-yard pin, Foulkrod counts on the extra cutting power of his broadhead as insurance, should something go wrong. 
Kobrine built a bow that exceeded 100 pounds of draw weight by customizing his gear. Unable to purchase such horsepower over the counter, he mixed and matched parts to create the energy required. All three men are experts with equipment, learning their gear inside and out. This familiarity builds confidence in equipment and shooting skill. 

“I never thought I’d give up aluminum arrows,” admitted Foulkrod several years ago, after learning from a bad experience. Traveling through dense alders on a rainy Kodiak bear hunt, several of his shafts bent, without his knowledge. “Feathers can get wet and not work,” said the Pennsylvania resident, however, my Carbon Express arrows are always straight.” 

Foulkrod’s shafts are beefed-up to 12 grains per inch. His 500-grain arrows develop between 72 and 75 foot pounds of kinetic energy. 

Foulkrod alters his maximum range with available practice. Early in the season after a full summer tuning form, he extends his effective range, based on conditions. However, with many days in treestands and the onset of bad weather, he reduces that distance. 

Scent control is a top priority of each sportsman. Schultz produces Scent Blocker Plus, Kobrine uses Scent-Lok even in Africa, and Foulkrod employs the Hunter Specialty scent elimination system. The message: relaxed game stands still. 

Range And Animal Behavior 
Determining effective range depends as much upon the game animal as the archer. A nervous buck at 10 yards may dodge or duck an arrow, while a feeding deer at 30 yards may not budge an inch. Reading the behavior of game animals takes experience and expertise. 

Just as I stopped the caribou with a sharp vocal sound, “cow calling” will almost always stop a bull elk in its tracks. Allow a bull or cow to move into an open shooting lane at a known distance and then chirp. Whitetails bucks often stop at the sound of a grunt, even a voiced “baa” sound. 

Feeding animals are usually relaxed and fairly stationary. In this situation, hunters can often wait until the near front leg moves forward fully exposing the heart/lung area. An animal in a head-down position can signal a closer stalk. The sounds of crunching acorns or grazing grass will help mask approaching footsteps. If the animal is feeding in a general direction, you can circle ahead for an ambush. 

Bedded game is another matter. Lying down, a deer or elk’s vitals are compressed to the bottom quarter of its body cavity. If possible, wait for the animal to stand or sneak in very close. 

How Far Is Too Far? 
Today’s digital laser optics are perhaps the greatest aid to enhanced range. With a moderately fast arrow, misjudging distance by three yards past 40 will result in a miss or worse. To appraise the effectiveness of your set-up, shoot at 30 yards, then take two steps backward and shoot again using the same pin placement. Standard pin shooters can use sight pin spread to judge arrow drop. Hold your 30-yard pin on the bull and then look where the 40-yard pin points. The distance, divided by 10, is the proportional drop for each succeeding yard beyond 30. Be sure to practice at ranges other than multiples of five. 

Finally, rangefinders are wonderful tools; yet require practice in actual hunting situations. Treestand hunters should make a habit of ranging trees as soon as they are buckled-in. Spot-and-stalk artists require familiarity with the device. Opening a Velcro pouch can be too noisy at close range. Bushnell’s pocket size optic saved my caribou hunt. From pocket-to-range-to-pocket took mere seconds. 
Advances is shooting technology allow greater accuracy at longer range, however, bowhunting ethics require each archer to set his own limits. Sight pins past 20 yards shouldn’t be ego points, but insurance in case a second arrow is needed. 

The maximum range is the distance you can put a broadhead inside of a five-inch circle every time. Practice realistically, know your limitations and you can release with confidence. 

Extending Maximum Range 
A dozen tips for maxing-out

  • Practice at 50 yards or more. Tight groups at long range assure gear is tuned and form is consistent. 
  • Number your arrows. Test each with a broadhead. 
  • Practice with your rangefinder. Is it quick, quiet, and accurate? 
  • Use vibration-reducing devices to quiet bow noise. 
  • Evaluate game movement—angle, alertness, reaction time. 
  • Stop moving game with natural sounds- grunt, cow call, etc. 
  • Stalk or ambush for short-range action. Closer is always better. 
  • Conceal your scent. Relaxed animals stand still. 
  • Reduced shooting practice equates reduced maximum range. 
  • Practice on a McKenzie or other life-size target. Missing magnifies the responsibility of one good shot. 
  • Practice under pressure. Mentally visualize the excitement of the moment. 
  • Finally, practice in camp. Tune up every day if possible. 
Article reprinted with permission from Bowhunting World magazine. For more information contact: 

Bowhunting World Magazine
PO Box 362
Mt Morris, IL 61054-0362

Call 1-800-877-6118
Web Site:
Email: Mike Strandlund, Editor
Mark Melotik, Managing Editor

Bowhunting World Magazine
PO Box 362
Mt Morris, IL 61054-0362

Call 1-800-877-6118
Web Site:
Email: Mike Strandlund, Editor
Mark Melotik, Managing Editor

For cutting-edge how-to information, bowhunting gear know-how, and exciting adventure, look to Bowhunting World magazine for the best and most reliable articles in the industry.
Editor Mike Strandlund and Managing Editor Mark Melotik are professional, award-winning journalists with passion for bowhunting and nearly 50 years combined experience in the sport. Field editors Chuck Adams, Norb Mullaney, Richard Combs and Jeff Murray are among the most respected in the bowhunting writing field.
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