by: Krissy Knox, Bowtech Ambassador
As a bow hunter, one of the most critical parts of the hunt is determining range, or yardage, from a game animal. This is especially important for most women and young adults. For example, when a hunter is shooting a 70-pound bow, you’ll notice the pin spacing in their sights is very close together. Whereas the sight pins on a 50-pound bow will be spaced much farther apart. Essentially this means that the person shooting the 70-pound bow can miss-range an animal by 5-10 yards, and likely still make a good shot that may only be a couple inches high or low. That same shot and same miss-range with a 50-pound bow will be far more evident by missing the chosen spot by possibly 6-8 inches, which can mean a miss, or worse, a marginal or bad shot to the animal. While this adds a little more stress to the hunter, it is a skill that can be learned and honed with a few simple practices:
Step 1: Get familiar with known distances while shooting your bow. For example, commit to memory what 20 yards looks like on the range, and so on.
Step 2: Participate in 3D archery shoots in your area. In the beginning, practice guessing the yardages first, and then use a rangefinder before you take the shot, taking note of how close your estimation was. As you feel more confident, don’t use a rangefinder at all until after you’ve shot. If you wish to really put yourself to the test, allow only 5-10 seconds to estimate range before loosing your arrow.
Step 3: In the field, constantly test yourself and your hunting partner(s). Pick a tree or stump within archery range, and guess how far it is. Make it a fun competition. You’ll be amazed how quickly you sharpen your ranging skills. (Hint – Since you’ve now learned what 20 yards looks like on the shooting range, pick a tree that looks the same distance. You can use that measurement to visually determine how far an animal is beyond that point.)
Step 4: Keep in mind a large bodied animal will appear closer (Ex. elk) while a smaller animal will seem further away (Ex. deer) even when they’re the same distance from you. Looking at an object or animal across a ravine or creek bottom may also make it seem farther away than it actually is.
Step 5: Don’t be too proud to carry a rangefinder, and USE IT! When you’re solo, it’s not very often you will get to range the actual animal you intend on shooting, however you may have time to range reference points before the animal gets to you. Make it a habit to range a couple of landmarks when in a stand, or when you set-up to call an animal in, or even when you just stop to rest. I’ve had elk walk by while I was eating lunch or trying to take an afternoon nap, and I wish I had ranged that tree they strolled by before I broke out the jerky and fruit roll-ups! Hunt Happy!!