The Disciplined Shot Afield

By Glen Wunderlich
Outdoor Columnist
Professional Outdoor Media Association

Since deer season is already upon us, I will focus on a means to determine what your effective range is. It doesn’t matter whether you are shooting arrows above 300 feet per second (fps) or recurve-propelled shafts at less than half that. During firearms season, it won’t even matter if you choose a powerful handgun, the slowest muzzleloader, or a center fire rifle with horsepower to spare.

I believe it was the late local icon, Jack Eddy, that wanted us to use a six-inch bulls eye when practicing for deer. This means our practice target is some 3 inches less in diameter than an actual kill zone of a deer; however, using the conservative approach gives us humans a built-in margin for error. Now, here’s the test: If you can put 9 out of 10 shots in the six-inch circle, you are within your range. Be honest with yourself and find out how good you really are. If you are getting any less than 9 out of 10 in the circle, get closer until you are able to do it. This is what a sportsman does. Remember, above all else, we must all do our part to minimize less than perfect shots. It’s our duty.

Set up your six-inch target farther and farther away and keep testing with the 9 out of 10 barometer. If you are going to hunt from an elevated platform, do your testing from a similar platform height at known ranges. When you determine your effective range, you only need to translate your knowledge to the field.

If you are hunting from particular set areas, such as tree stands, or a certain ground blinds, the set up becomes easier. Use a rangefinder or step off natural markers such as trees and identify them by memory or by visible means. When deer come into your setup, you will have figured out the actual range in advance and will be able to take your shot confidently.

There are many methods to increase your effective range, but the best one is practice. Once you have done your sighting in, begin to shoot offhand, kneeling, or prone. If you will use a handgun, practice with a good rest. Find out how difficult it is to hit that 6-inch circle, while using a makeshift rest such as the side of the tree. It’s not usually going to be as easy as it was under practice conditions once you get in the field, but that’s why we use the six-inch target. Stick with it and hunt within your particular capabilities and you will be doing your part to display sportsmanship to the game and everyone that hears your stories.