Is 38 yards considered “Long Range” if … ?
Is 38 yards considered “Long Range” if the shot was taken not with a precision rifle but with a bow? This thought was not present as I walked out to my stand last evening. My route took me through woods with yellow pine needles recently deposited neatly on the path I took. This year’s growth of rich green needles still hung from the white pines but some of last year’s needle growth was now muffling the sounds of my feet on the tractor trail. Here a two-foot thick pine had fallen in a summer storm and was blocking the trail. As I stepped over it I noted the mixed pattern of yellow needles and rust-colored oak leaves deposited randomly on the coarse bark of the pine. This would be a photo opportunity for tomorrow.
My shortcut through the woods next took me out into a hayfield. The warm glow of a yellow sun reminded me that on my stand I would be squinting into the sun until it dipped below trees on the far west horizon. The clover and alfalfa mix I now walked through had been given its last haircut of the year a few weeks ago. It reached to just above my ankles and was still attractive to the whitetails since we had not yet seen enough frost to turn its taste bitter. This field would be in sight from my stand but any deer in it would be well out of my range.
This past August I had set a new record. On only my second summer evening scouting session I had counted ten different bucks entering this same field in single file bachelor-buck formation. Two of them had been two and a half year olds. I hoped to see one of them today. But now I quickly passed to the other side and used the tree line to give me some cover as I continued toward my stand.
I heard a “swishhh…swishhh…swishh” sound and peered upwards. There was a foursome of sandhill cranes quietly skimming just over the treetops, coming into view above the hayfield. Their wingspan is huge and their wingbeat slow. No doubt this is mom, dad and their two grown babies. Their spring nest was just a few hundred yards from me out on the safety of my marsh. This is my favorite time of the year to be outdoors.
About 100 yards further I had skirted the edge of a soybean field and was now just 20 yards into the three-foot high grass of the marsh. I climbed into my 6-foot high metal ladder stand. This is quite low for me but I was well tucked in among the branches of a multi-trunked basswood tree with cover behind me. Varied bird activity was welcome and helped me pass the time. I enjoy stand locations like this where I can see for hundreds of yards out across the marsh. I now gazed out across the soybean field. The leaves of the plants had dropped leaving only the bean pods hanging downward. This is what would attract the whitetails. The wind direction was good and with luck would hold.
About 20 minutes later I heard a rustling sound and then a doe popped out of the tall marsh grass and entered the bean field. Two nearly grown fawns followed her closely. The group was just over 50 yards out and I hoped they would work their way along the edge of the field and closer to me. The wind shifted slightly and the doe reached her nose upward sensing something strange in her neighborhood.
Then she went on eating but over the next 30 minutes repeated her scent checking routine about every 5 minutes. I was wearing a Scent-lock suit and would have been totally busted by now without it. These suits aren’t full proof but sometimes they give you just enough edge in marginal wind situations. At one point I tried to reach into my pocket to put on a glove. She came to alert and seemed almost to hear the fabric on my jacket swishing as my fingers searched for the glove. I froze and she relaxed, going back to her meal.
Now the wind shifted some more and the doe became agitated, walking along the edge of the field. She was alarmed but could not quite place the source of the danger. Several times she looked right at me but my leafy-flage camo fooled her. She was now moving closer to the danger without knowing it. I had ranged a certain spot in the field when I arrived and decided I would take my shot if she reached it. The spot was 35 yards out and she stopped when she neared it. Even more agitated now, she reversed direction, nose in the air, and took a couple of steps back the way she came. As she turned I drew and took the shot when she had stopped once more, quartering slightly away from me.
By now the lighting was low as I watched the arrow’s flight. It looked good but I lost it at the end. I thought I heard it strike. The doe whirled and ran. I mentally marked the spot and watched her fawns follow her. Flashing white tails seemed to stop then about another 100 yards out in tall weeds.
An hour later my son accompanied me as I returned to track the deer in the pitch-black darkness. I am partially colorblind and don’t see blood worth a darn. He quickly found blood where I expected and started following the curving trail. By now I felt confident and decided to walk by myself directly to where I had mentally marked the last spot I saw bobbing white tails come to a stop. With only a small flashlight in hand I was still able to walk right up onto the fallen deer. The arrow had penetrated well, two-thirds of its length exposed and tipped with a mechanical broadhead. I shoot carbon arrows at about 290 fps. This really helps on long range shots. The arrow entered a few inches behind the last rib and exited through at least one lung, just behind the front shoulder.
This had been my first really confident shot taken at an archery deer in well over a year. For years I had considered myself to be a pretty good archery shot. At my residence I have a 28-yard target range in the basement. Over at my cabin I often practice out to 40 yards. The open nature of much of my hunting land affords some enhanced shooting opportunities if you can reach out for your deer with a long shot. Five years ago I grunt-called a buck from about 400 yards out in the marsh. I was up in a pine tree at 22 feet on a clear, frosty morning and could see the whole thing play out. Over the course of twenty minutes he finally got close enough to see my doe decoy and rushed in to 38 yards where I double-lunged him.
Then 2 years ago my groups developed excessive horizontal spread. I decided to limit the distance of any hunting shots until I corrected the problem. I tried a lot of new things to improve form, read many articles and was very frustrated. Then two weekends ago Bud Meadows, from this forum, came out to visit and we shot rifles and bows. His good shooting with the bow reminded me of my own in the past. After he left I took another look at my sight system and finally discovered the problem.
For about two years I have been using a holographic sight. Its mounting system allows for in-the-field elevation adjustments. I have never used this feature and just discovered it was causing sideways shifting of the sight under the harsh recoil of the fast carbon arrows. The mounting system screw heads themselves were tight but there is a nylon fitting designed to allow movement of the adjustment lever that was the problem. I have disabled that fitting.
My groups are now back to normal, which for me means pushing the envelope on long range archery shots – just as with a precision rifle. So…in two weeks our whitetail T-zone antlerless rifle season starts. I will be back on a different stand looking out over this same marsh. My search will be for another doe ---this time at 600 plus 38 yards.
[ 10-13-2001: Message edited by: Len Backus ]