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judging distances


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#1 mudduck

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 07:00 PM

How's your range estimating ability?

(Originally posted in early 2001)

Judging distances may be an archer?s most important task. No matter how well you shoot you need to know the distance to hit your mark. Even with today?s fast shooting bows we only have a few yards error between our perfect hit and a marginal one. We owe it to ourselves, as well as the animals we hunt, to work on our range estimation.

Carrying a rangefinder is not enough. There are times when you cannot use it, an animal comes in unexpectedly you move and suddenly he?s on alert, probably not a good idea to risk the movement to range him. If you are confident in your range estimation you won?t have to risk anything. Range estimation is a lot like you?re shooting, in "that" you have a maximum effective range. Once you know your effective shooting range learn to estimate yardage to that distance, you can work on farther distances later. If you can be within three yards plus or minus, out to forty yards you will be a much more successful hunter. With better ranging comes more confidence, and that always means better shooting. It?s ironic, but to improve your ranging skills you need some type of a ranging device. It does you no good to guess distances if you have no way of knowing if you are right or wrong.

Judging distances on flat ground is not to hard once you practice for a while. The most common approach is to move your eyes in ten or twenty yard increments to the target. Pick a spot ten yards away from you then pick a spot ten yards from that and so on. Just be careful not to judge distances by how far your quarry looks to be. From shooting 3-D tournaments I?ve learned the size of an animal can throw your estimations off unless you stick to the ten or twenty yard routine. You might shoot two or three deer targets in a row at forty yards then they throw an elk up in front of you; he looks to be the same distance as the last three deer you?ve shot at. You shoot and you miss low. How could you be off so far? The size of the deer vs. the size of the elk, although the elk looks to be the same distance it?s really his greater size that makes him look so close. Rule of thumb, smaller targets look farther away and larger targets look closer than they are. Since most of us practice shooting at deer size targets we need to remember this when heading into the woods.

Up or down hill shots have perplexed many archers. You look at an animal and think he?s 35 yards away and then miss low or high. Again how could you be so far off? Let me explain this way, if you were twenty yards up in a tree stand (I use a treestand as an example it could be up on a hill). A deer is directly beneath you, he is twenty yards from you but your arrow will need to cover only one yard to reach him. You shoot him to be only one yard away. If he were ten yards out from the base of your tree you would shoot him for ten yards although he looks and actually is farther from you. Gravity has the same effect on an arrow whether it is flying across flat ground, up or down a hill. One tip on shooting down hill if there are trees, look to see which tree he is standing by, then follow it up level with your vantage point and range the tree. This is also hard to do with nothing between you and the tree but it is better than trying to guess yardage down hill.



Judging distances across ravines with no terra firma between you takes practice then more practice. It can be done but there are no shortcuts. This is when taking consideration of the size of the animal is most important. A great place to practice your ranging is at your local 3-D shoots. You will be able to shoot at numerous animals of various sizes at different yardages. Most of the shoots try to mix they?re shot selection so your not shooting on flat ground each shot. If you are not shooting for competition most of the smaller tournaments will let you take a rangefinder on the course with you. Be sure to ask when you sign up and pay your shooting fees. By taking a rangefinder with you you?ll be able to guess how far the shot is, then check yourself. When doing this please be courteous and don?t say the yardage out loud. Remember there are other people around who don't want to hear what the yardage is or may be competing. Most of all enjoy the beautiful Arizona weather and have fun.

Happy hunting

John Samsill Team AZOD, Arizona Outdoorsman

#2 REDGREEN

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 02:11 PM

Hey, Jeff. I've got that one covered real well. I've hunted the same area for years and set up in pretty well the same place each time. I've pre lasered everything in the area and know my yardages to each point of reference. I'm not bow hunting anymore, but a pre scout and range marking would help immensely in the above situation. I still carry my laser with me for that unforseen occurance that does happen on occassion. Are you chompin at the bit yet to get out there?

#3 Rowdy Yates

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 02:37 PM

Good read. What I've done since I hunt mostly all new land almost everytime is to get my range finder out immediately and guess yardage then range it. It teaches me the proper distances real quick. If I'm treestand hunting I'll range from the base of the tree several land marks, stumps, logs, and other trees, etc.. before climbing. Then I'll check it once seated for the hunt with my range finder. So if things happen fast I don't have to rely totally on a current read from rangefinder.

I took it out before every shot when we hunted last February at Wilderness because of the size of the target and the lack of familarization of the distance change between shots. It helped me so much I don't leave home without it. I have it on me now :rofl:

Edited by Rowdy Yates, 18 August 2006 - 07:19 AM.

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#4 Leo

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 04:26 PM

Well pretty much, I have to COMPLETELY trust my rangefinder. One of the side effects of being cross-eyed for 15months my depth perception is quite bad, even though I now have (mostly) single vision.

That being said I can say that when you rely 100% on something you find out if it's right 100% of the time. Rangefinders are not. Take at least two or three readings on everything. Animals in high grass range off their head if possible. Something next to the animal. Reflections from nearby ground cover or trying to range thru a hole in a bush can really mess up a reading.
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#5 TerryfromAR

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 04:39 PM

i don't know how to explain the way i do it, but i will try, i imagine a straight line between me and the "target" whatever it may be, then imagine my home range over it, this helps me alot, i shoot a few archery tournaments, and i'm pretty well accurate with my ranges.. if anyone wants to improve their range estimation i highly suggest 3D tournaments.
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#6 huntfromthesoul

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 02:53 PM

Well I don't have a rangefinder. This is what I do. Its real simple I have yardage written on my bow in steps. 20 yards is 26 steps ect. I step this off in a couple different directions and mark or remember the spots. It works for me and its so simple its stupid. This however doesn't work well in the dark so I seldom hunt a new spot in the morning.
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#7 Spirithawk

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 07:54 AM

When hunting from a stand, my son and I, always premark the yardages. But, one of the things we have done for a long time is to take turns guessing the yardage to differant points. For instance I'll point to something and he guesses, then he points to something differant and I guess. Then we check with our Yardage Pro, each time, to see how close we were. We make a game of it and you'd be surprised at how accurate you guesses can get after a while. :yes:

Edited by Spirithawk, 21 August 2006 - 07:55 AM.


#8 tomscheland

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 12:25 PM

well i'm color bglind and have no depth perseption so i shoot and miss a lot :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: ....no i try to step of the yardage to the deer trails ...this way i know close to the yardage....but going to try and get on of those range finders...
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#9 PA RIDGE RUNNER

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 02:33 PM

I most always got into a tree stand pretty early. Most always there is time to figure out some distances. I can picture what a yard looks like on the ground. I then mentally measure out ten of those and now I have a ten yard mark. It is fairly easy to double that and get a 20 yard mark to a tree, stump, or rock. It becomes fairly easy to go another ten yds and for most of us that is as far as we want to shoot. I usually look not at the bottom of a tree where the deer will be but at a tree at the height that I am sitting.

Having said that, many times I have missed high because after I drew back convinced myself the shot was 5 yds further, adjusted and promptly shot over the critter.
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