Bowhunting is a close-range game, but slinging carbon at extended distances during practice sessions and at 3-D shoots is becoming common practice for many archers.
I agree with long-range shooting and promote it as a practice tool. If you want your shooting confidence to soar and become lethal in the woods, nothing helps like stretching the distance between you and your target.
With that noted, there are some things you’ll need to do to your archery setup to be accurate at long ranges. A great archer can have sub-par gear, and that archer will only experience frustration when they start stretching the sight tape beyond 60 yards.
Thousands of deer have been shot with a Whisker Biscuit rest and a fixed three-pin sight that hit the under $40 mark, but take that same setup and try shooting sub-six-inch groups at 80 yards, and you won’t experience the same success.
Here’s what you need to know about building a shooter that will boost your long-range game and make you lethal no matter where you decide to chase animals.
Some may tar and feather me here but don’t get too caught up in axle-to-axle length. Traditionally, a longer axle-to-axle bow meant a more balanced platform, but improvements in riser design, accessory attachment, etc., have changed the long-range shooting game.
In years past, my axle-to-axle sweet spot was 33 to 34 inches, but in 2022 and 2023, my favorite arrow slingers measured 30 and 31 inches between the axles, respectively.
I prefer a shorter, more compact bow for hunting the western mountains and whitetail hunting out of a treestand or ground blind. I’ve discovered that modern-day bows, even those that are vertically challenged, sit like a well-trained Labrador at full draw and aim like a dream.
Select a bow that feels good in the hand and balances well at full draw, and you’ll be fine.
Bow weight is a matter of preference, and most archers add or subtract weight from their vertical rig via stabilizers and stabilizer weights.
I currently have two long-range bow builds — one has a single 12-inch Cutter Stabilizer with two three-ounce weights, and the other has a front stab with a back bar that is weighted appropriately. Let’s touch on each.
Today, at age 43, I like my hunting bow to be on the lighter side. You’ll find some long-range bowhunters who promote a lightweight build and some who frown on it. I feel incredibly stable at full draw if my bow-mounted accessories are weighted and attached correctly (more to come on this), and I use a front stabilizer between 12 and 15 inches in length on my VTM 31. This year, I have opted not to use a back bar for 3-D or hunting.
My other current compound, Hoyt’s RX-7, sports a carbon riser, which reduces bow weight, and with this rig, I run a 10-inch Hoyt Pro Series Stab off the front and an 8-inch Hoyt Pro Stab off the back. For me, the bow aims best with three one-ounce weights on the front bar and two on the back. If you run a front and back bar, experiment with weights until you find a combo that makes the bow feel like it’s sitting in concrete at full draw.
I have shot the bow’s head-to-head out to 120 yards, and I find the front-bar-back-bar combo gives me a slight boost in accuracy, but not enough to rant and rave about. Accuracy comes down to confidence and feel. As long as you’re not shooting a stab with a length between 4 and 6 inches, which will do nothing for bow balance besides reducing some noise and oscillation, you can be very accurate at distance without shooting an overly heavy bow equipped with a front and back bar.
I’m not going to burn a lot of word count here. We can argue about whether a limb-driven or cable-driven rest promotes better accuracy at another time. It’s important to remember that both rest styles are remarkably accurate because both fall away and prevent the arm from contacting the arrow shaft or the attached fletchings.
I like the Integrate Mountings System, an option on many modern-day bows, and is compatible with QAD’s Integrate MX drop-away rest. The mounting system eliminates Berger hole mounting, which eliminates the mounting bar and mounting screw, reducing weight and setting the face of the rest flush in-line with the back of the riser. This in-line system promotes better balance and ensures absolute lock-down via a two-part locking system.
Like the rest, your choice of sight will be based on personal preference. The main thing to remember is that the sight needs to be moveable to achieve dial-to-the-yard accuracy. When shooting distance, you don’t want to pin gap, or at 80 yards, see where the 50-yard pin is on the target, glance up and find your 20-yard pin, and then move your 50-yard pin to where your 20-yard pin is. This is a recipe for less-than-precise shooting.
You want a sight with a yardage wheel that allows you to select the correct sight tape and then dial to the exact yardage. Please take your time when selecting a yardage tape.
I am more accurate with a single-pin moveable or a multi-pin moveable with all pins set on a vertical plane. Pins from the side of the sight horizontally jam up my sight picture and produce shooting anxiety.
I prefer sights designed to work with Hoyt’s In-Line System, that mount to the front of the riser via a Picatinny-like rail system. With my sight and rest in line with my riser, bow weight is reduced, and bow balance is improved. Many bow makers like Mathews, PSE, and others are creating accessory systems that make sense — take advantage of them.
If you want to be a long-range assassin, consider your arrow and fletch combination seriously. For me, standard diameter arrows fletched with 2-inch ultra-stiff vanes don’t cut it. My go-to arrow, the best long-range missle ever produced (in my opinion), is Easton’s Axis 4MM Long Range.
The arrow’s small diameter allows it to cut through the wind, and Easton has optimized it for proper FOC. I like a FOC between 12 and 16 percent, and that’s easy to achieve with this shaft, as it is with other micro-diameter arrows. A smaller diameter gives the wind less surface area to press against, and when you select the correct spine based on the poundage of your bow, you get a forgiving shaft that will make you feel like a better shot than you are.
Regarding fletch options, I shoot AAE’s low-profile Hybrid 23s in a four-fletch right-helical orientation and Flex-Flech’s Silent Knights in a three-fletch right helical.
I have discovered that my Axis 4MM Long Range arrows guided by four AAE Hybrid 23s are a tick more accurate, so I pair these arrows with my RX-7, which sports the front and back bar. Still, I stepped out my back door while penning this article and shot a three-arrow sub-seven-inch group at 100 yards with my slightly higher-profile Silent Knight three-fletch arrows. I love the durability of the Silent Knights, and the more extended profile, married with a precise curvature of the vane, makes them great arrow guiders.
The main thing to remember regarding vane selection is to avoid ultra-high profile super rigid vanes. They will create lots of drag and don’t guide the arrow, as well as longer, lower-profile vanes, in my experience.
You’ll only be as accurate as your bow and arrow combo allows. Every arrow should be shot through the paper to confirm a perfect tear, and only arrows that create an ideal incision should make the final cut. If you have a flyer or two in a dozen shafts, you can nock-tune (rotate the nock on the shaft) to clean up the tear. I have found this to be especially true when shooting quality micro-diameter arrows.
If you need an experienced bow tuner, take your bow to your local pro shop and learn from an expert.
Yes, I skipped releases. You can be accurate with any release if you develop an excellent shooting system and learn to execute a surprise release. The main thing to remember when building your long-range system is to shoot a bow outfitted with accessories that give you shooting confidence and an excellent opportunity to be accurate.
Enjoy the process, and have a blast sending carbon at longer ranges. Nothing will prepare you for punching lungs like sending arrows at distances between 60 and 130 yards.