OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: 100 shots a day and the need for a rangefinder

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a new, on-going series by Andrew Spellman concerning outdoors. Think of it as a column, but on a rolling basis.

Every day we’re getting closer to Sept. 26, the opening date for West Virginia’s deer and boar archery seasons. 

There’s a lot to do to finalize preparations for deer season, as I mentioned in a recent article for The Dominion Post, but there are two things I want to touch on: Getting more comfortable with your bow or crossbow and the need for a rangefinder. 

I talked a lot about crossbows in that last article, so I’m going to switch over to compound bows in this one since they’re far more popular when it comes to a weapon of choice for archery hunting. What I won’t do in this article is to paint the differences between the two platforms, instead, I’m going to talk about my practice methods and why it helps me.

As a disclaimer, I’m not giving you the 10 commandments or what you need to do to be a better hunter. By no means do I consider myself an expert in any of this. Rather I’m just sharing my methods in the hopes that maybe a new hunter who is reading this can pick up if it works for them, too.

Practice, practice, practice

Allowing the bow to drop away and follow the arrow or “following through” is an important step in shooting a compound bow. (William Wotring/The Dominion Post)

Obviously, the best place to start is with practice. Like any other sport, bowhunting isn’t something you can pick up the day or a few weeks before the season starts and immediately go kill a deer ethically. It’s just not going to happen. But, I’d argue because it works for me, that if you hammer hard you may be ready by the time the rut hits – early November for West Virginia. 

My method has been simple: Wake up, stretch my shoulder, back and arm muscles, put 50 arrows downrange, rest and work, put another 50 downrange in the early evening after my work is done, go to bed, repeat. Interlaced in that schedule is also work on cardio, do free weight and other core exercises and eat nutritious meals. All of this is just as important as shooting every day. 

Not only does 100 arrows day help you if you started practicing late into the year like me – more in a second on why – but it’s also good for building your accuracy, knowing your bow and practicing different situational shots. 

Wait a minute, Andrew, you started late? Yes, I sure did. In late July nonetheless! Like a lot of folks, when COVID hit I had to set aside purchases I planned on making, such as getting my first adult compound bow. When I was younger I had a Bear compound that I somehow inherited from my brother (I still don’t know how I did, it just showed up at the house one day) and I used to shoot boxes with that, so I’m not entirely foreign to the idea of it. I never harvested an animal on that bow, though. 

The bow I’ve been shooting is actually one of Dr. Dave Samuel’s old back up bows, a 2008 or 2009 Hoyt Kitara XL model that still shoots like it’s brand new. I’ve only added two things to it, a D-Loop and an 8-inch stabilizer, and do not plan on taking it out until I’m absolutely certain my arrow is going to go where I put it and that I’m comfortable doing so. If I didn’t give a deer a fast death, I’d beat myself up for a long time. 

After my first few days on the bow – I’ve had it for about three weeks now – my groupings are looking great, but I have to credit that to my dedication to putting 100 arrows downrange a day. Do you need to shoot 100 a day? No, but it couldn’t hurt! 

Every good hunter needs a rangefinder

Whether you’re bowhunting, using a crossbow or a gun, one piece of equipment vital to help you place a shot correctly is a rangefinder. I held out for a long time, but now that I plan on taking the Wicked Ridge RDX 400 out into the field I knew I needed to cave. 

When it comes to optics, I’ve been trusting and using Vortex equipment for years. My Remington 700 has one of their Crossfire scopes on it and I use their Crossfire HD binoculars for many different applications. So naturally, I use their Impact 1000 to get the right range. It may seem obvious for the experienced among us, but a rangefinder is also something you need for practicing with your bow. There are other great options out there, but as a Vortex fan, I can’t help but stick with a company I trust and have been buying from for years as opposed to rolling the dice on another product from a company I’m unfamiliar with. 

As Cam Hanes would say, “Keep hammering.” Deer season is almost here!

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