Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Far Do You Practice?

Practicing bowhunting skills involves many different aspects that we never consciously break down.  So I will try to break it down to where we understand each aspect through different posts (after all, I have to keep you wanting for more in order to keep you reading my blog, right?).

The first break down will be based on how far do you practice your shots.  I look at shooting the bow the same as a basketball shooting a basketball, a field goal kicker kicking the football, or even a golfer practicing long putts.  The basketball player for instance does not want to have to take a 35 foot shot, especially when the 3 point line is over 10 feet closer to the basket.  However, if he is comfortable shooting that distance, the shot from the line causing no worries.
The same is true when practicing long bow shots.  I use a Spot-Hogg Seven Deadly Pins sight.  Many do not like to use a sight with that many pins for fear of using the wrong pin when hunting.  I use it to calm any nerves I may have when preparing to shoot.  By having to stay alert and focused enough to count my pins, it diminishes any 'buck fever' I may have.  But that is another topic for a later post...

I have each of the pins set at 10 yard increments.  When sighting in, I will start with the 10 yard pin, then the 30, the 50, and finally the 70.  I then go back to the 20, 40 and 60 yard pins, setting them close by splitting differences then actually going thru the sight in process.  Once I have them set, I will practice with usually 3 to 6 arrows at the closer distances (10, 20), expand to 12 or so arrows at the medium distances (30, 40), then practice hard at 50, 60, and 70.

I read where Chuck Adams set a goal of a 1 inch group for every 10 yards, meaning at 30 yards the group would be in a 3 inch circle and 50 yards would be a 5 inch circle.  I try the same philosophy.  First, its easy to calculate in your head and second, it corresponds well with the game you will hunt.

Whitetail deer are very high strung, so even if I practice to 70 yards and have a 70 yard pin, it does not mean I will attempt that shot.  The whitetail will jump, dodge, and do a cha-cha while waiting for a 70 yard arrow to come its way even from the fastest of bows.  However, an elk, caribou, bear, moose, or bison presents a large target that a 60 yard shot can be taken ethically-if you are comfortable at that distance.  Remember the other sports analogies in the beginning of this post?  I recently watched Sebastian Janikowski (Raiders) practice kicking 70 yard field goals before a game.  It would be hard pressed for a coach to put him in a situation to try the same distance field goal with the game on the line.

When traveling and checking my sights, I will shoot the 10 and 30 pins a few times.  If everything is in line with those distances, the others will be in line also.  Also, if the 10 and 30 are in line, it will cover my hunt, as most shots will present themselves within those distances.

This is how far I practice, but feel free to share how far you practice as well by commenting below.  Hopefully the ideas I have presented can help with your own practice routines.

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.


  1. I regularly practice out to 60 and 70 yards. I START from there. Then, when I finally go in to 30 yards I am super comfortable and dead on. Some guys like to start at 30 and move out. I think it's a bad move because by the time you hit 70 yards your arm is already fatigued and your shot placement will vary even more. Not saying my way is the best, but it sure works well!

  2. 10, 20, 30. I am a meat hunter and have no illusion that I'll get to thwack a 14-pointer at 60 yards. Also, as you know from being in NC, it's not uncommon to not even have a 20 yard shot due to heavy brush.