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Shooting a compound bow past 40 yards was once frowned upon. How times have changed. Advancements in bow performance and technology have shooters around the globe extending their shooting range. Why? Aside from being fun, practicing long-range shooting makes closer hunting shots easier. In addition, those of us who know how to shoot a bow on the open western landscape have found that extending effective range puts more antlers on the wall and more steaks on the grill.
While bow performance and technology have come a long way they won’t do you any good if you shoot with poor form. As you increase your distance from a target, even the slightest mistakes in form become magnified. So, even if you never plan on shooting at a deer from farther than 30 yards away, follow these bow shooting tips to practice at long range and tighten your groups at every range.
Do whatever is comfortable, but be sure you develop a stance that promotes a solid shooting platform. Get your feet too far apart and you will be unbalanced forward or backward. Place your feet too close together and you will feel very unstable left or right.
Try shooting with your feet shoulder width apart or just past shoulder width apart. But if you want to do more than pound targets at long range, you have to practice shots from hunting positions (how many times has an elk allowed you to stand flat-footed in the open and shoot him?). I recommend practicing by putting your feet close together, kneeling down and letting your butt rest on your heels. This creates a very solid platform, and one that I use regularly whether I’m firing an arrow at hide or foam. You’ll notice when you first start shooting from this position it’s pretty easy. But the longer you stay kneeling, the more you’ll begin to shake. Keep practicing until you can shoot a softball-size 5-arrow group even with tired legs.
This is the big one. If you plan to drive arrows into the 10-ring at extended distances, you must take the time to develop a proper grip. First, find a bow that feels good in your hand. I also recommend a bow that has a thin grip. The thinner the grip, the less torque you can put on the bow. Less torque equals more accuracy. Another option is removing the grip panels from your bow. Ideally, you want the grip to sit firmly against the line on your hand that starts above the thumb and runs through the palm area (palm readers call it the life line). Once you achieve full draw, the bow should feel like it’s pushing into the palm. Now, relax your grip. Most archers, especially when they start increasing shot distance, want to put more grip on the handle. Remember, everything is magnified at longer distances, so you want to keep a very open grip, putting as little torque on the riser as possible.
3. Anchor Point
Having an anchor point is essential to accuracy. However, there is more to a consistent anchor point than meets the eye. Most assume that a kisser button inserted into the bowstring at the proper point will solve their anchor needs. However, to some, a kisser button is uncomfortable and draws focus away from shot execution. Honestly, finding a consistent anchor point can only be achieved through the process of shooting. The key is finding a comfortable anchor point or two that can be repeated shot after shot.
Looking through a peep sight at a target 100 yards away can be intimidating, especially the first few times you do it. When you get nervous about the distance, you’ll want to hold your breath. Don’t do this. Holding your breath reduces oxygen flow to the brain, causing you to shake and lose mental focus. Also, your visual acuity starts to decrease after holding your breath for only 8 seconds. Do you need to take deep soothing breaths? No, but don’t cut off the oxygen supply entirely.
5. Confidence in Aiming and Execution
This may come as a surprise to many archers, but according to Eric Griggs, a professional archer with an impressive shooting resume and vice president of Scott Archery and Custom Bow Equipment, there is very little an archer can do to increase his accuracy while aiming. “There are so many variables that are out of your control once your reach full draw,” said Griggs. “You can’t control that gust of wind or any of Mother Nature’s other elements. You can’t control what the animal is going to do once the shot is fired, and you honestly can’t even control your sight picture and how much pin movement you see while aiming. All that you can do is have confidence in your execution and execute the best shot possible under any given circumstance. As far as holding the pin dead-steady, stop worrying about that. The best archers in the world don’t hold their pin dead-steady. Instead they allow the pin to float on the target and begin to squeeze.”
Probably the hardest thing to achieve—an unanticipated release—will boost your accuracy like nothing else, especially at extended distances. Again, as you move farther from a target, mistakes in form are magnified. Jerking and punching at the trigger may only cause you to miss the mark by a few inches at 30 yards, but step back to 80 yards and you will easily miss a large 16×16 target. So what does the perfect release look like? Griggs had this advice: “You must condition yourself to make the best shot possible no matter how far you are from the target,” said Griggs. “You must develop a disconnect between your aiming process and your release process, which means you allow your subconscious mind to draw the pin back to the spot you want to hit. In truth, during the aiming process, this happens multiple times. Index-finger release shooters really need to focus on getting their finger wrapped around the post or trigger and begin pushing the bow toward the target while using muscles in the back to draw the shoulder blades together. This creates the push-and-pull motion that is so heavily talked about and ensures a surprise-type release.” “A back-tension release is another way to go, as this style of release can’t fire from punching. This forces the shooter to use back-tension to get the release to fire, thus ensuring a surprise release every time. However, I only recommend this style of release for bowhunters who feel extremely comfortable with them and have spent a lot of time practicing with them.”
When shooting long distance, you really have time to soak the shot in before the arrow impacts the target. It’s natural to want to drop the bow out of the way immediately after the shot or jerk your head to the left or to the right to better track the arrow. Resist this urge. It takes lots of practice, but upon the release of your arrow you need to keep aiming until the arrow actually impacts the target. If possible, hold the bow up and try to keep the sight picture the same. Well, there you have it, seven tips to becoming a long-range ninja with your bow and arrow rig. If you take the time to develop a year-round shooting regimen and heed this advice, you’ll be pounding the 10-ring from distances you never thought possible.