I just returned from my annual South Dakota pronghorn archery hunt.
Unlike past hunts when I was fortunate to tag antelope bucks, this hunt was less successful, at least in terms of hunting success. Partners and I saw lots of “goats” and one in our group shot a very good buck. For the most part, however, wet conditions had the goats spread out and not too interested in coming to water near our blinds.
Nevertheless, the hunt was a success as I got to spend several days on the wide open plains of South Dakota with good friends. And, in preparation for the hunt, I was able to increase my effective shooting range from my past years’ maximum of 35-yards out to 50-yards this year.
As primarily a Minnesota whitetail hunter where most of my shots have occurred inside 30 yards, I never saw the need to be more accurate at longer ranges. That is until I started hunting South Dakota where shots of 30-to-50 yards, and even farther, are common.
Here are the steps I took to increase my range. Steps that might help other archers wishing to do the same.
Shoot at distance
I started my shooting in preparation for past seasons at 20 yards and worked out as I got comfortable. This year, however, I started at 40 yards and quickly shot out to 60 yards.
Those longer distances have always been a bit intimidating for me, particularly after spending hours shooting shorter distances. Shots of 40 yards and further seemed too far, and I lacked confidence. This year, by starting at the longer distances initially, they didn’t seem as far, and I quickly found myself shooting the best I’ve ever shot at those further distances.
Not only did my long range accuracy improve, but when I took a few shots at 20 yards, my accuracy was the best it’s ever been at my more normal ranges. Those 20 and 30 yard shots now seem very close!
A hunting partner often advises “aim small, miss small” as a tip for better shooting accuracy. The target I’m shooting this year has several “bullseye” aiming points less than 2-inches in diameter, as opposed to the approximate 4” bullseyes on other targets I’ve used.
Concentrating on those smaller targets has been another contributing factor to better shooting accuracy too and, now when I do shoot at bigger targets, they seem easier to hit.
The challenge on those bigger targets, and especially on game animals this fall, will be to focus in on a minute part of the animal to “aim small” for those shots too!
Practice sessions of past years often saw me shooting at least a couple dozen arrows each. This season, I limited those sessions to a dozen shots per session. The main reason for limiting my shots was to promote better concentration.
It’s easy to get lackadaisical on shooting form and concentration when a bad shot just becomes a do over. Knowing I was only shooting 12 shots forced me to concentrate on those 12 shots and make them count, knowing that a bad shooting session couldn’t be redone until the next day. I like to shoot daily and to shoot well and found my practice sessions got better when the do-over option of lots of shots wasn’t there!
Hunters don’t usually get the option of lots of shots in the field either so making shot opportunities count is important. The tips above have helped me be a better archery shot and hopefully that pays off this fall.
Good luck in the woods this fall and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series and is a co-founder of the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s School of Fish. Mike is an avid archery hunter as well. Visit fishingthemidwest.com to learn more.