Here's a hot-button topic among bowhunters. Some archers flatly condemn shots beyond 20 or 30 yards, yet official statistics from Pope and Young and other record clubs support a more practical view of shot distance on deer.
For whitetail deer entered into the P&Y record book, average shot distance is about 19 yards. Less than five percent of record book whitetails are shot beyond 40 yards.
But the story differs somewhat for the other four varieties of North American deer. For mule deer entered into the P&Y record book, average shot distance is about 35 yards, and more than one-third of record-book muleys are taken beyond 40 yards. Shot statistics for Columbia blacktail deer are almost identical. If you go after either of these species with expectations of a shot under 30 yards, you are setting yourself up for severe disappointment.
Average shot distance on P&Y Coues whitetail deer is about 25 yards, but about one-quarter of record-book bucks are shot beyond 40 yards. Average shot distance on Sitka blacktail deer is about the same as on Coues deer, but nearly half are taken between 30 and 60 yards.
The lessons here are clear -- tailor your archery tackle to the varieties of deer you plan to hunt, and keep an open mind about distance. If you can practice hard and extend your sure-kill distance on an average deer's nine-inch vital chest zone, so much the better. Every shooting situation is unique, and longer-range proficiency often bags the buck.