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!?
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
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
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
?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
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
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
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
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
?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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
with permission from Bowhunting World magazine.
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