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Taking Long Shots
Posted By Bill Winke at 12/3/2012 12:00:00 AM

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Bowhunting should always be a short-range sport. There is too much that can go
wrong when the arrow is in the air.  However, under the perfect set of conditions
longer shots may still be ethical and lethal.

Overwhelmingly, most of the feedback I got on the G4 Buck hunt was positive. Thanks to everyone who sent me a note or commented in the Ask Winke.  However, I did get a few negative comments related to the length of the shot. First of all, I could have simply just not said how long the shot was (51.4 yards) but that would not be in keeping with our goal of trying to keep the shows as real and useful to the viewers as possible. 

Yes, it would have saved me some face with those who regard the shot as irresponsible, but then this conversation never would have taken place.  The comments I got were not really sour grapes but more people concerned about the message I was sending and the affect it has on bowhunting.

The negative comments focused on two things. First, the shot was too long because the deer could move while the arrow is in the air.  No doubt, and I will get to that in a minute.  Second, they felt I was setting a bad example by seeming to promote long shots encouraging bowhunters to exceed their skill level in the hopes of arrowing a buck.  Again, there is definitely a point here.  I will take them one at a time. 

THE DEER CAN MOVE

No doubt about it, the longer the shot, the more time the deer has to move.  This opens a very complex discussion that I will save for another time to really dive into, but here is the short version.  In my experience in having shot a lot of deer over the years, they tend to jump the string (at least here in the Midwest) at ranges from 20 to 40 yards, with the worst string jumping occuring between 30 and 40 yards.  At those distances they have time to hear and react and the sound is close enough that it causes alarm. Past 40 yards, it seems that they are less alarmed by the sound.  These are just very general observations and should not be taken as gospel.  Each deer will be different. 

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You have to know the distance to the yard when taking longer shots.  Precise range
becomes increasinly important past 25 yards - even with fast bows!
The G4 Buck had his head down feeding when I shot.  I felt that he would be least likely to react quickly under those conditions.  A deer standing on alert is a totally different situation.  I would not have shot under those conditions.  So, first of all the likelihood of string jumping has to be low. 

I aimed with the 50 yard pin just at the brisket line (low heart).  That way, if he dropped some (which he did) I would have a good vital hit.  If he didn't drop, I would have missed him low, at that distance. 

YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO MAKE THE SHOT

I have done a lot of practicing with a bow over the years with input from some of the best shooters ever to draw a string.  I have better than average skills with a bow. I can hold a three to four inch group at 50 yards all day long 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.  I won't take long shots if the shot angle or body position is awkward - or the wind is blowing.  These factors make it too hard to keep the pin settled.  

The evening when I shot the buck, the wind was really dead calm and I was using backyard form (shooting from a standing position at near eye-level with the deer) so the pin was not moving when the bow fired. If I had been struggling to keep the pin still, I would not have shot.

PRECAUTIONS AND DISCLAIMERS

No, this shot is not for everyone nor is it for me in all but the perfect set of conditions.  So don't infer from that shot that I take long shots all the time. I take them rarely, only when things are perfect.  Never forget that I have practiced for years so that I can hit the spot I am aiming at even at longer distancesDon't try this at home unless you have done the same thing. 

I never thought about ethics at that moment.  I knew I could make the shot, so I took it. Maybe I got lucky that the buck didn't move more and maybe I shouldn't have taken the shot, but I wasn't just out there winging arrows.  There was a lot of thought and preparation that went into that shot.