Capability VS Ability: How Far Should You Shoot?

By Jordan Hoover, Quest for the King

Modern bows have come an incredibly long way from the stick and string that started it all. It’s fair to say that modern bows are marvels of engineering. The technology involved in the manufacturing processes is incredible and is producing amazing bows. They’re lighter, they’re faster, they’re more durable, they shoot farther, they transfer more energy, and are capable of great precision. The fact is most stock standard bows that are priced in the $1,000 range will perform better than the person holding the bow is capable of shooting in most cases.

Today archers are pushing their personal limitations to the edge of the envelope trying to make use of the capabilities of their bow. It’s not uncommon to listen to bow hunters talking about shooting deer out to 60+ yds. There are certainly bows that will perform at long ranges without issue…the trouble is…too many hunters are taking shots that are not within their ability. This results in negative reflections upon hunters in general, and unfortunately wounded game. It’s a matter of ethics.

The time and dedication it takes to be a long range archer isn’t a matter of dispute regardless of bow. Long range archers are a special breed in my opinion. The average hunter is simply not capable of consistently putting 3 arrows in a 4″ circle farther out than about 40yds at best. That is not to say that you have to be a long range archer to be a good archer, but the demands and margin for error differ drastically.

No matter the distance you shoot it’s common sense to me to only take shots that fall within your ability as an archer. I don’t care what your bow can do, I care what you can do! I was taught from a young age that ego had no place in the hunt and never to take a shot that was risky. I have held true to that creed all of my hunting life. As a result I have only ever wounded one animal in 26 seasons. I also refuse to take a shot beyond 35 yds. I am comfortable at that range, and confident that I WILL hit my mark.

Shooting distance at the range or in your yard is also quite different than doing so in the woods. Where I hunt it’s so thick I don’t think it would possible to take a shot beyond 60 yds in most cases even with a rifle. The risk of deflection on a distance shot in the woods must be considered! It’s first light, that monster buck finally comes through…sure you can see your fiber optic sight plainly…but can you see every limb and every branch between you and him? Likely not. One branch is the difference between a clean kill and a gut shot deer you may not recover. Is it worth it? I don’t think it is.

Modern hunters seem to believe there is room for negotiation in the ethics of the hunt. I assure you there is not. Those who seek to make arguments about ethics to justify their poor decisions do a disservice to us all. Shooting within your ability IS a matter of ethics. If you ever find yourself at full draw wondering if you can “pull it off”…let the bow down, and let it walk. You’ll never be sorry for making an ethical choice. You will be sorry if you arrow that monster and miss or wound him and never recover him. Have no regrets.