Practice Makes Perfect
Over the years I have heard many philosophies on ethical shooting distance and on practice methods. I have heard stalwarts in the outdoor industry make statements like “an ethical hunter will never shoot past 40 yards” and I have watched others shoot animals at 120 yards. I have studied the practice methods of both.
I have concluded that ethics is something that is quite unique to each individual. There are black and white laws and rules and then we get into this fuzzy area of ethics. The problem with ethics is that each person defines their own without any real barriers or guides. So what is ethical to one hunter will be unethical to another and what is unethical to one will be readily practiced by another. At times this all happens within the confines of the law.
I was even disappointed when I took my two daughters to their hunter safety course in my home state and listened as the DOW tried to teach ethics and did so in a way that it sometimes superceded the law. My opinion is that they should teach the law and ethics is developed in the home and the family. I watched as it caused confusion with the young kids. The law said you can do this, whatever this is, but ethically you probably shouldn’t. The quizzical look on the kids’ faces said it all.
For that reason I am going to depart from the word ethical in this blog and journey into the arena of ability and practice. I really believe that for both individuals that I mentioned in the opening paragraph that their choices were right for them. They both were speaking to what they were prepared to do and therefore that was their limitations. The problem comes when we speak about our choices, when it is not written in law, and think that we have the right to confine others or limit others by our opinions.
I have and do mentor several young men in the arena of hunting. I have never told them a distance that they shoot at an animal. I have never told them to shoot closer or farther. I have never told them about their hunting limitations. I have spoken to them about the accuracy with which they shoot at certain distances. I have spoken about their bow weight, their arrow weight, their downrange kinetic energy, and their overall set ups and capabilities of their equipment. I have never said you can or can’t shoot this far.
The reason I have done so is because it is up to each hunter to make that decision. Hopefully they will make that decision based upon their ability and their practice regiment. I know that many archers enter the woods and never have practiced at 60 yards and will fling a wild arrow at a deer at that range and farther. That is irresponsible for sure and that is not how I hope any serious hunter will approach shooting at game. Each bow hunter should practice enough in order to know what their ability is and they should have done enough homework to know what their equipment is capable of doing.
I shoot all of Mathews bows the same way and with the same set up. I have a Ripcord rest on all of them and even have a new Ripcord SOS on one of them now. I have a 7 pin Spot Hogg Hunter sight on each one. I shoot Muddy Industries Bloodsport HT1 with Norway Industries Fusion Vanes and a Tru-Fire 100 grain T1 fixed broadhead on the end. I shoot a Tru-Fire Hardcore Release with each set up and I shoot each bow and practice with each bow the same way.
I shoot consistently at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, and 80 yards with each bow. I often shoot at 90 and 100 yards also and sometimes farther. I will practice at these longer distances because I have found that if I can shoot a 6 inch group at 100 yards then I will be in a 2 inch group at 70. The distances I shoot make me better in practice and prepare for the perfect instance in a live hunting scenario. Sometimes I will start with my .010 80 yard pin on my Spot Hogg Hunter sight and work in. Sometimes I start with my 20 yard pin and work out. I shoot as many shots at each distance as I am able based upon time and fatigue. (The .010 bulletproof pin in my Hunter sight has made all the difference at these longer distances. My accuracy has been greatly increased and you can read about that in my blog on that pin on Spot Hogg’s blog.)
Because of the amount of time I practice, the consistency with which I practice, the equipment I use, the draw length and poundage that I shoot, the downrange kinetic energy that I produce, I am very comfortable shooting at an animal in ideal situations 80 yards and beyond. It is still always my goal to shoot my animals at 20 yards and in because that is what I love so much about archery hunting. However, in some circumstances that is not possible and if the scenario is right I am ready for longer distances. I am ready because my preparation and my ability from that practice and dedication have made it possible.
That is what works for me. Each one of you will need to determine what works for you. Hopefully you will be able to accurately assess your skill level, your practice time, your equipment, and your hunting knowledge which will allow you to make a right decision about how far you should shoot. I have been able to harvest an American Bison at 66 yards that went 200 yards before expiring, a Bull Elk at 60 yards that went 80 yards before expiring, a monkey at 81 yards that went 15 yards before expiring, and many other animals between 40 and 70 yards over the years. I don’t say that to brag or sound arrogant but to only demonstrate that when all the pieces are in place and when our practice meet opportunity that it is only me and only you that can ultimately decide what distance to shoot.