Long Shots: How Far Is Too Far?

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Analyzing the temptation to launch arrows at 40-plus yards

Shorter shots are always better. (Bill Konway photo)

Bowhunting should almost always be a short-range sport. There is too much that can go wrong once the arrow flies. I won’t take longer shots if the angle is bad, body position is awkward, or the wind is blowing. These factors make it too difficult to settle the pin. However, under the perfect set of conditions, can longer shots be ethical?

There's no doubt that deer have more time to move during longer shots. This opens a very complex discussion that I’ll expand on another time. In short, deer with their head down are less likely to move. A deer standing on alert is a totally different situation.

I’ve shot a lot of deer. In the Midwest, they tend to jump the string at ranges from 20 to 40 yards, with the worst of it occurring between 30 and 40 yards. At those distances, they have time to hear and react. Past 40 yards, it seems they are less alarmed by the sound. These are just very general observations and should not be taken as gospel, though.

Practice and skills matter, though. I’ve done a lot of practicing with a bow over the years. I’ve received input from some of the best shooters ever to draw a string. Personally, I can hold a 3- to 4-inch group at 50 yards all day long, especially if the wind isn’t pushing my bow arm around and I can use good form. I spend a lot of time practicing at distances well beyond 50 yards. This makes short, real-life shots much easier.

Shots further than 40 yards are not for everyone. Nor is it for me in all but the absolute perfect set of conditions: no wind, a perfectly broadside deer that's unalert and not moving, etc. I have to feel extremely comfortable and confident when I draw back, too.

Don’t infer that I take long shots all the time. I rarely take them, and only when things are ideal. I’ve practiced for years, so I can hit the spot I am aiming at. Don’t try long shots unless you have done the same and can differentiate between when long-shot opportunities are and are not OK.

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