My hunting partner wore a look of confusion and frustration that was offset by the hum of adrenaline coursing through his veins. The velvet mule deer buck was standing in the shade of a small tree, hunched up and looking sick. My buddy's quiver was empty. It was the only time I'd ever watched anyone fire off an entire quiver at any animal.
When his last arrow arced across the small washout, I ran up next to him to see what had happened. I knew that some of his arrows definitely had connected, but others were buried harmlessly in the grass, and he needed my help.
"Sixty-five yards," my hunting buddy whispered. With an arrow nocked (and a tag of my own in my pocket), I dialed up 65 on my sight and aimed at the deer.
When the arrow hit, the buck mule-kicked and took off farther down the washout. We sipped water and ate granola bars while the midmorning sun intensified overhead. It was that sun, along with the realization that we were a long way from the truck, that caused us to start in on the trail before too long. As silently as we could, we followed up on the blood trail for only a short distance before finding the buck dead.
It wasn't pretty. It was, however, a good reminder that while long-distance shooting often gets a bad rap, it can sometimes save your neck. I've had a few experiences over the years where I've gotten long-range follow-up shots at mortally wounded game that ended things more quickly.
I've also heard the stories, and watched the videos, of bowhunters launching arrows at animals 100 yards in the distance. I'm a big believer in being able to take shots that you're confident in, whatever the range. If that happens to be a football field away, so be it. But please, don't show it to the world.
There seems to be a subtle movement among certain archery hunters where long shots are standard, and nothing to be ashamed of. Capable bowhunters shouldn't be ashamed, but the conditions and the personal skill level that play into long shots are not to be taken lightly.
Naturally, nothing says that just because you can hit a target at 100 yards, you need to fling away at antelope and elk at that distance. You don't. Instead, use that 100-yard practice to become lethal at say, 30 to 50 yards. That is the primary justification for your long-range practice sessions. Before you start, consider a few pieces of equipment that might help you in your quest.
A Sufficient Stabilizer
The first should be a good stabilizer. I'm not talking a stubby, three-incher that only serves to cut down on shot noise and vibration. I'm talking longer, heavier stabilizers that do that, while also helping you hold, aim, and follow-through like a champion.
Exhibit A is Easton's new Contour Hunter ($90/8"), which is offered in either an 8" or 11" version — both of which are compatible with any 5/16-24 weight system. To help you achieve true long-range accuracy in all conditions, the Contour Hunter is built with a streamlined design to shirk heavy winds with ease.
The Bee Stinger Sport Hunter Extreme ($60 — $100) is another great option for dedicated distance shooters. Choose from a 6", 8", or 10" version in a variety of color and camo finishes. Each Sport Hunter Extreme works effectively to tame shot noise, but also allows you to customize end weights to meet personal shooting preferences and bow balance.
Weighing in at 6.2 oz. and measuring 9.5" is Limbsaver's contribution to the help-you-shoot-farther game — the LS Hunter Bow Stabilizer ($70). Since this is a Limbsaver product, you know it will quiet your hunting rig down. But the LS will also greatly improve your bow's balance, and it's available in several camo patterns.
Once you've got bow balance squared away, you'll want to consider the right sight.
A Superior Sight
Extremely popular these days are multi-pin sights that move and allow you to truly stretch out your shot distances when necessary. A great new option is PSE's 4-pin X-Force Drive Max sight ($200), which is 2nd and 3rd-axis adjustable, and features a yardage-indicator pin and elevation lock.
Archer Xtreme's RAK1000 sight ($260) is another great option for long-range flinging, thanks to its HD Hunter Lens, ALL ACCURATE AXIS Adjustment (2nd and 3rd), and three-pronged EDGE Gear Drive, which provides ultra-smooth micro-adjustment. To ensure you can see your pin during the last minutes of daylight, Archer Xtreme runs their fibers through the pin (Core Pin Technology), instead of outside the pin in a channel.
Few sight manufacturers have garnered the following that Spot-Hogg has amongst precision-minded shooters, and for good reason. Their latest, the Fast Eddie XL ($230 — $270), is 2nd and 3rd-axis adjustable, built from 6061 aluminum, and features the Double Pin scope with BulletProof pin technology. Dialing into out-there shot distances is a breeze thanks to the large, easy to use yardage knob.
One company that has dominated the target archery market, and has made serious inroads into the hunting industry, is Sure-Loc. Their latest, the Lethal Weapon Red SLDR 5 Pin ($370), is an engineering marvel that is micro-adjustable in every way you can possibly imagine.
It also offers zero stop for repeatability, adjustable slider tension, and stack-tight pins (.019"). Few accessories scream quality the way Sure-Loc does.
The Right Rest
Sights are important for increasing shot distance, but without a quality rest it's all for naught. Of the rests on the market that I've come to rely on, Trophy Taker ranks high up on the list. Their latest — the X-Treme FC Pro Arrow Rest ($135) — is a full-capture fall-away that attaches to the buss cable. Its 100% metal construction and unconditional lifetime warranty ensure that no matter how rough things get on the mountainside, Trophy Taker has got your back.
Of all the little things you can do to tighten long-range groups, the most overlooked might be addressing your peep sight. And if you're talking peeps, you're talking Specialty Archery. Their newest is the 5/16" XL Peep ($25) and Verifiers ($35). Some hunters prefer a small-diameter peep, but not this guy.
I like a larger peep to center my sight aperture ring and allow as much light in as possible. Specialty's new peeps do just that. Their Verifiers are a different story. If you have trouble seeing your pins, a Verifier, with its built-in lens, might clear up your sight-window vision. The right Verifier can literally change the game for older bowhunters, or anyone who suffers from blurry pins.
A Reliable Release
What is accurate shooting without the right release? The Jim Fletcher Archery Outsider ($82) loop-only release is designed so that you rest your index finger on the stabilizing arm, and then trigger it with your thumb. Sound complicated? It's not. And it results in a true surprise release, which is key to shooting better.
If looking good while hitting distant bull's-eyes is your thing, consider Bohning's new True Color Blazer Vanes ($44/100-pack). Created with a UV-cured printing process, these vanes not only look sharp, but they also promote killer arrow flight, especially when fletched at three degrees of helical.
Bohning has also introduced True Color Vane/Wrap combos for the ultimate in ease as far as creating slick-looking ammo that will carry broadheads far, far downrange.
At the onset of the quest to be a better bomb-dropper with your bow, it's a good idea to shoot at a target like Block's Vault XXL ($180). The black-and-white facing of this four-sided target allows for easy acquisition, even at serious distances, with one side sporting a large bull's-eye. That's a good place to start building your confidence before rotating the target and trying to tighten groups on smaller dots.
Lastly, if you really want to enjoy this type of practice, it would be wise to outfit your arrows with some Lumenoks ($11 each/3-pack) from Burt Coyote Company. Nothing is more satisfying than watching a lighted nock arc its way downrange and thump into a bull's-eye sitting 70 or 80 yards away.
As an added bonus, if you're experiencing any tuning issues that are throwing off your arrow flight, a Lumenok will expose them on the first shot. Of course, if you get used to shooting lighted nocks on the practice range, you'll also carry them in the woods, and the benefits they provide on shots at game cannot be overstated.