Traditional Archery: What is Your Effective Range?

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EffectiveRange blogBowhunters who pursue game using traditional gear must overcome the challenge of shooting without sights. As I've written about before, for most of us, this requires constant practice to ingrain sight pictures for different ranges, as well as proper form and confidence into the archer.

Everyone has a different way of practicing for hunting, and I'm a strong believer in the "whatever works for you" approach. But I also think that the success of your practice needs to be confirmed by the acid test, which is answering honestly the question, "What is my effective range?"

For deer, that's the maximum distance that I can consistently put arrows inside a pie plate. For turkey, change pie plate to softball.

And when testing for both, you need to do so with hunting clothes on using hunting arrows with field points of equal weight to the broadhead you plan on using.

You'll note I used the word consistently. That's really key.

Anyone can hit dead center of a softball at 20 yards if they fling enough arrows at it, but it takes a good traditional archer to do that 90 percent of the time. And it takes a great archer to do that all the time at that range.

When shooting at game, I only want to be great. So I limit my shots at game to the ranges where I can be that. If that means my shots are limited to 20 yards, so be it.

That's not to say I'm not always trying to extend my maximum effective range — because I am. I work at it by shooting at my target daily. My drills go something like this.

I shoot four arrows at 5 yards. If every one is within that pie plate or softball, depending on what season it is, I shoot four arrows at 10 yards.

Again, if everyone hits within the target, I move back to 15 and aim for the same results. If that works, I move to 20 and so on.

The minute I miss, I work on that range until I am consistently on the money again. Then I start at 5 and shoot at the various ranges all over again.

Do this for a few weeks and you improve dramatically, but you will also quickly determine what your maximum effective range is, where you have most trouble and where your "sweet spot" is too.

In my case, that sweet spot is at 17 yards. For some reason, I very rarely miss at that range. That's good to know and I typically set up deer ambushes with that in mind.

One last thing: this isn't about impressing anyone but yourself.

I talk to archers all the time — and often, their performance when telling me and showing me are two very different things. We all think we can consistently hit small targets farther than we can. It's human nature.

But a softball sized target can humble the best of us. I'd urge you not to think you can hit it, but to know you can because you prove it to yourself continually.

You can lie about your shooting skills to everyone you know. But you can't lie to yourself or the game you just shot at.

Practice seriously, and regularly, and you won't have to.