I’m embarking on a mission this year: to take a 10-point buck with a bow. This is a quest that began more than 15 years ago when, as a teenager, I bought my first compound bow. A PSE. I hadn’t killed so much as a squirrel. I knew nothing about broadheads or scouting or tree stands or scent control. But shooting a bow sounded like a hell of a lot of fun.
This year’s quest will be difficult for two important reasons:
- Hunting with a bow. The effective shooting range of a bow for ordinary shooters (and I’m definitely in this category) is 20 to 30 yards. Yes, we have sight pins set for distances out to 40 yards, 50 yards. I can shoot consistent groups from those distances at the range. But I doubt I can hit a deer, in cover, under pressure, at that distance. And I doubt I could make a clean hit.
- Hunting on public land. Unlike the many fortunate hunters who have farms, leases, or other private bits of land that are simply bursting with deer, I’m limited to public land. Conservation areas, for the most part, and some federal land. All within a few hours’ drive of my house. The deer in these areas see intense hunting pressure. They’re wary. They’re clever. The ones that weren’t have already been taken.
I’ve already begun putting in the work to make things happen this year. To start with:
Bow Tuning and Shooting Practice
I’m making some adjustments with the goal of shooting arrows more accurately and in tighter groups this year. I’ve gone to a shorter arrow length (28″, down from 30-31″). With help from some knowledgeable fellows in my local archery forums, I’ve added a few steps to the shooting routine to be more consistent. Specifically, as part of my draw, I touch my nose to my string so that my line through the peep to the sight pins is consistent. I’m also going to put a small bubble level on my sight (there’s a groove for it) to ensure that my bow is perfectly upright with every shot.
To me, the hardest part of shooting accurately is estimating the distance correctly. I know that many hunters actually pace out distances from their stands and mark them, but I’m reluctant to make noise and leave scent all over my hunting areas. On public land, I generally hunt a place just a few times before moving my stand. Keeping a low profile seems too important. So here’s the system I’ve developed:
- 20 yards is about as far as I can throw a wiffleball.
- 30 yards, a baseball (without windup).
- 40 yards, a baseball if I take a step and make a “rainbow” throw in from the outfield.
I know it’s not the most systematic thing, but it’s a start.