Friday, August 19, 2016

Aim Small--Miss Small

I shot this group at 70 yards. Yeah, seventy. I actually had a better grouping at 70 than at 50 or 60 and wondered why that might be. If you look at the target, you'll see the plate I was shooting at and the little pink piece of paper above it. I don't have a 70 yard pin on my sights so I put that little piece of paper about 18 inches high of the bull's eye and held on it. Holding tight to a smaller target, even at that yardage, helped increase my accuracy. At 50 and 60 yards, I was holding my pin on a larger target and thus, a larger grouping. So I should be good for shooting an elk or an antelope at that distance, right?
Let's not get carried away. There are a lot of variables that come into play as you get further and further out. The great thing about having a pass to this outdoor range is that there is a 3D coarse so I can test out some of those variables. On a flat range I was pretty good but once you enter things like terrain, branches and wind into the equation, I definitely need to put some time in before shooting out that far.
A couple things I noticed when on the coarse about shooting that distance is that 1) it's hard to pick a spot 18 inches high on a target without some kind of point to aim at. On and elk, I would figure 18 inches to be just about the top of its back. I'm confident that with the drop, the arrow would find vitals. On anything smaller like a deer or an antelope, I'd be way low so essentially, I'd have to put the pin about 6 inches or even more above the back, which would mean holding my 60 yard pin out in space somewhere. If you think about picking a point to aim small and miss small, space is not great.
The second thing I noticed that has a huge impact on arrow flight is the terrain. They make all these sights that compensate for the angle of the shooter when he/she is in a tree above the animal but I don't see a lot of compensation tools for when the animal is above the shooter. The first thing I did on the coarse was to shoot at a target that was uphill from where I was standing and I was lucky not to lose my arrows. The first shot, I held 18 inches high and the arrow dropped well below the target. Now fortunately, these targets aren't the real 3D targets that simulate an actual animal but more the burlap sack type that are pinned to a carpet bail and are huge so I was at least hitting the bottom of the bail.
"That can't be right," I thought so I held on the same spot and although my grouping was really good, I was way low again.
There is no real good way to compensate for an uphill shot. Yes, there are some really expensive range finders that will do the math for you but for most of us, our gear just isn't that sophisticated. I was 70 yards out and the target was probably ten feet above me and my arrow dropped about three feet from where I was holding. In a real life situation, my arrow would be buried in the grass and I'd be watching and hearing tines clatter through the brush. So basically I'd be kicking myself and I'd be out $21 for the arrow and the tip. (I'm cheap, remember?)
Another thing a shooter has to take into consideration is shooting off side-slopes. I never really thought that much about this until I was at John LaRue's, shooting behind his house in the South Hills of Helena. His entire range is on a side-hill and if you don't think that matters, try it sometime. My sights have a level and because of losing a couple arrows, I now pay attention to it. Trust me, I've never actually looked at the level while shooting at an animal but it does help with form and just being aware of how your body leans into the hill, which will canter your bow away from the hill. Your arrow will be off the direction your bow is cantered. (I'm sitting in my office right now writing this and I'm pretty sure that's how it was working for me but you'd have to try it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.) If you're off an inch at ten yards because of this, you'll be off; well I don't know. I'm not a physicist but you'll be off quite a bit.
I did shoot a few more targets at 70 yards that were either level with me or slightly downhill and I actually shot pretty well but there was no wind or tree limbs. Actually, there was one target that did have a limb about 20 yards out from me and I thought I could sneak an arrow under it. I held on the target 18 inches high, let my arrow go and it actually sailed over the limb and then dropped dead center for a bull's eye. So what that tells me is that the flight of my arrow climbs way higher than I would have ever anticipated before dropping back to center.
The bottom line here is that everyone needs to figure out what distance they are comfortable shooting at and although you might be able to hit a plate at 70 yards when conditions are perfect and you're able to place a pink square 18 inches above the bull's eye to aim at, when you're out in the field in a real life situation, that all changes and you need to know how you and your gear are going to react. I can tell you right now, I have a sixty yard max but I could foresee getting out to 70 before the season starts but only in ideal conditions. Anything more than that and I'd need to upgrade my bow.
As a side note, I was back on the river today and was very impressed. I fished with a gentleman I've guided a number of times now but he was always with other guys who didn't have a lot of experience and weren't all that interested in challenging themselves to throw dries. Bob was by himself today so we, I mean I, put him through a day-long crash course in dry-fly fishing on the Mo. It was good. REAL good.
Keep 'em where they live...

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