What's the one thing you could be doing now that would most enhance your
chances for bowhunting success? It's increasing your accuracy so you
can kill effectively at longer ranges. That's what I spend my time doing this
time of year, and I'd like to share with you my formula for extending my
Use A Rangefinder
In my opinion, the laser rangefinder is what legitimizes efforts to extend
one's shooting range and hunting situations. I have always maintained, and
still do, that a typical archer has no business shooting at 50 yards or beyond
when estimating yardage, as almost no one can estimate yardage precisely enough
at that distance. A few yards off at 50- or 60 yards can result in a marginal
hit. With the laser rangefinder, however, it's a whole new ballgame. The
average shooter can shoot with more accuracy knowing the yardage at 50 yards as
opposed to estimating distance in the 30-yard range.
Increase Your Rig's Speed -- Within Reason
Yes, greater arrow speed and the resulting flatter trajectory will increase
accuracy at longer ranges, or more precisely, be more forgiving of errors and
yardage estimation in shooting. But you have to make your choices wisely and
not go overboard in accuracy, or you will lose rather than gain accuracy because
of erratic arrow flight.
In choosing among the faster bows, look for bows that provide longer
axle-to-axle length, greater brace height, inline nock travel, and smooth
drawing and holding characteristics -- all of which will enhance accuracy. Most
importantly, try the bow out to make sure it is comfortable and shoots well for you.
I have never agreed with some of the more popular ways of increasing arrow
speed, such as using a severely reflexed riser bow, or a short arrow on an
overdraw, or using dangerously light arrows. All of these make for unforgiving setups
that tend to erode accuracy, especially in a typically stressful hunting
situation where shooting form is likely to suffer.
The best way that I know of to increase arrow speed is to increase draw
length by using a release that brings the nock of the arrow closer to your
anchor point. Most shooters use an index finger release with jaws that
extend an inch or even two, which cuts their draw length by an inch or two.
Bringing the draw back more will make a surprising gain in arrow speed.
Fit, Tune, And Familiarize
You will never reach your shooting potential unless the bow fits you, it is
well tuned, and it's all working in harmony. Most important for accurate
shooting is proper draw length. If you are not familiar with fitting proper
draw length, go to a pro shop and have an expert help you. The same with
tuning: Make sure your bow is timed, your arrows and broadheads are matched,
and your rest, peep and nock point are all adjusted properly to the point where
your bow is shooting bullet holes through paper. You can have an expert at a
bow shop help you with all of this, but you will become a better and more
accurate archer if you familiarize yourself with procedures and with your bow
specifically. The more intimate you are with your equipment and knowledgeable
about the techniques, the better you will be.
Use A Bow Sight Suited To The Range You Wish To Shoot
If you are seeking modest shooting range extensions like say, from 20- to 30
yards, there is not much that you can do to improve your sight other than maybe
using a sight with a level (and making sure that the level is square to your
bow and that you use the level each time you shoot). For longer-range extensions,
there are several options that might aid your accuracy. One of those is using
smaller diameter sight pins, especially for the longer ranges. The smaller pin
tips are simply more precise and allow you to shoot with more precision
Add Accuracy-Enhancing Accessories
If you have been restricting your shooting to closer ranges, you may have been
able to get by without some of these accessories. But if you wish to extend
your shooting range, take a hard look at bow slings and stabilizers to minimize
the effects of small errors in your shooting technique. Consider too small
peeps, kisser buttons, no-contact arrow rests, and similar bow accessories.
Hone Your Shooting Form
Assuming you have made some equipment upgrades, now is the prime time to
re-examine some of the fundamentals and fine points of your shooting form. Use
a no-torque grip with your bow handle across the base of your thumb. Making
sure your bow is level and your sight is centered, draw with push-pull motion,
putting your finger on the release trigger immediately when you come to full
draw, focusing on the tiniest possible spot on the target that you want to hit,
subliminally keeping the sight pin there and subconsciously increasing back
tension and pressure on the trigger until you get an involuntary release.
Follow through without blinking, without dropping your bow arm, and with your
release hand springing naturally straight back. If you find any deviations in
any of these elements of your shooting form, work on it. If you run into
problems, seek expert advice.
Lower Your Anchor Point
A lower anchor point allows you more margin for error at longer ranges because
of its effects on the arrow's trajectory and the resulting increase in "depth
of kill." Depth of kill is a term describing the range of yardage an animal can
occupy while allowing the arrow to strike somewhere between the top and bottom
of its vital zone. For example, with a specific arrow trajectory and a specific
aiming point, a deer might be at 38 yards when the arrow would enter the top of
its vital zone and 43 yards when it would enter the bottom of its vital zone,
giving that certain situation a depth of kill of 5 yards. Because an arrow's
trajectory is first up and then down, a lower anchor point will give you a
broader range of trajectory and a greater depth of kill than a higher anchor
point and is more forgiving for small errors in yardage calculation or shooting
Simulating real hunting conditions while you practice will increase your accuracy.
It is surprising how much differently you shoot and how much you learn when you
get off the formal practice range and into hunting garb with the rangefinder
around your neck, stalking a field of 3-D animal targets. Practice kneeling,
sitting, drawing behind a bush, and all other scenarios that you can imagine.
When I'm practicing for whitetail season, 90 percent of my shooting is from
Trust me -- it works.
Shop The Sportsman's Guide for a fine selection of Archery Gear.
Mike Strandlund is the late editor of Bowhunting World Magazine and bowhuntingworld.com, and is a member of the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame. We continue to run his insights into bowhunting to help others, which Mike would have loved.