I’ll have to knock on wood after saying this, but my in-the-field accuracy has improved drastically in recent years. What did the trick? Well, quite a few things, actually. Mastering my release is one of the most important — learning to trust my pin float and push and pull until the mechanical release fires the bow. But if I had to name one, single tip that has made the biggest difference, it would be double-distance practice.
Routinely shooting on the range at twice your maximum field distance is easy to do and incredibly helpful. I live in the West and have zero issues sending an arrow at an unaware pronghorn, elk, or mule deer up to 70 yards. This is my max hunt distance, and for this reason, 70 percent of my practice sessions are done at 140 yards. Yes, this is far, and no, I would never shoot at an animal from this far. But it makes those 70-yarders seem so much easier.
Set Your Own Max Practice Distance and Build Up to It
My shooting confidence soars when I can stand 140 yards from my Block Range Target and put six arrows in a 16-inch diameter circle. When I step up to 70 yards, the target looks close, and my group sizes shrink dramatically. During those times in the field when I earn a shot under 70 yards (my 20-year average distance on critters I’ve taken is 36 yards), I fee like there’s no way I’ll miss. Double distance practice has taken me from hoping I make a great shot to knowing I will.
You don’t have to shoot 140 yards, of course, to work on double-distance practice. If your max hunt distance is 30 yards, spend 70 percent of your practice sessions at 60 yards. You won’t believe the difference it will make in your shooting. It takes time though. If your max hunt distance is 40 yards, you probably don’t want to just walk back to 80 yards and start slinging arrows, because it’s apt to be frustrating and expensive. So a few days or weeks if necessary to set your yardage tape. Get your bow dialed at 50, 60, 70, and eventually 80 yards, and then start practicing more at 80.
Once you’re dialed and have been practicing a while, go out and shoot 20 arrows at your max practice distance on a nice, calm spring day. Then move up to you max hunt distance, and shoot a three-arrow group. I promise you’ll be taking a selfie with that group.
As your shooting confidence grows, I recommend entering some 3-D tournaments. My favorite is the Total Archery Challenge shoots. These shoots are more for fun and conquering personal goals than anything, and you’ll get the chance to shoot lots of foam at very long distances. The TAC crew sets up the targets and shots to simulate in-the-field hunting situations, so it’s good practice for the fall, too.
Listen to Best About Double-Distance Practice
I’m not the only double-distance practice freak. Levi Morgan, the world’s top 3D shooter also recommends it. “Few things will make you more accurate in a tournament or deadly in the woods,” he said. “Because of that, you should spend most of your shooting time firing arrows twice as far as your furthest hunt distance.” And no one knows better than Morgan that shooting well at a distance takes hard work and discipline. “You can’t say your furthest hunt distance is 50 yards and shoot your bow three times a year before hunting season,” he says. “You also can’t say your max hunt distance is 60 yards, not shoot your bow for weeks or months, and then go out and practice at 120 yards effectively. Shooting distance takes time and requires a serious commitment. If you do commit to it, though, and extend your practice range, you will become a better archery shot. ”
What better time than the start of the pleasant-weather off-season to set yourself a goal and get after it. Spring and summer are tailor-made for becoming a better bow shot, and this year, instead of following the same old pattern and getting sub-par results come fall, start working on double-distance practice. Come fall, you’ll feel like you can’t miss.