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Archery How Far Is Too Far?

How Far Is Too Far?

Outdoor TV personalities and hunting influencers regularly take long-distance shots on whitetail, elk, and other species. They glorify 100-yard-plus kills and chalk them up to their incredible skills. But you can bet even more footage ends up on the cutting room floor because the buck moved or the arrow deflected or a gust of wind blew through. Undoubtedly, some of these extreme shots end in clean misses or worse — wounded animals.

Just because you can take a shot, doesn’t mean you should.

When hunting with a bow or crossbow, there are several factors we simply can’t account for. Everything would have to go exactly right for one of these long bombs to end in a quick kill. But it often doesn’t play out that way.

In the time it takes an arrow to travel 100 yards, any animal can move just enough for that perfectly placed shot to wind up in the gut or graze its back.

Beyond that, a breeze or the tiniest twig you can’t see from a football field away could send your arrow off course.

You can’t always plan for these variables, but you can count on arrows losing momentum and trajectory taking a nosedive at such long distances — making accurate ranging, precision shot placement, and perfect form absolutely essential to a high-probability hit. But still no guarantees.

These long-distance shots that push the boundaries of bowhunting alsonegate the major draw of archery — the challenge of getting in close.

So how far is too far?

There’s no one-size-fits-all maximum ethical shooting distance. Rig setup, skill level, size of quarry, conditions, and the terrain will influence your ability to accurately make a shot to the vitals.

But it’s certainly not 100 yards — and that goes for champion target archers and celebrity hunters too. Even if you consistently hit 10-rings in competitions, that target can’t move. And you don’t risk it suffering a slow, excruciating death with the slightest error.

Crossbow manufacturers may advertise accuracy up to 100 yards, and that’s great for firing at foam. But it’s just not an ethical distance for hunting.

Rather than gambling on high-risk shots, bowhunters should focus on accurate ranging, getting as close as possible, and taking only shots with the best odds. Determine your maximum effective range and practice beyond that but never exceed it in a hunting scenario. We owe it to the animals we hunt to stick to ethical shots within our effective range.

20 thoughts on “How Far Is Too Far?”

  1. Bow B

    I agree completely. While the velocity of a crossbow is generally higher than a compound, that doesn’t mean it’s range has increased. Even with the air powered arrow shooters (can’t bring myself to call them bows) with their 400+fps, are susceptible to the same issues of wind and deflection.

    The idea that “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” extends to powder burners just as much.


  2. Hey Bow Bully,

    How hungry is the family? How little meat is in the freezer? How much additional time remains in the season? How many more days can you be off work?
    I don’t care a hoot about video celebrity or INFLUENCERS! What about subsistence or partial subsistence hunting and NOT this STUFF!
    Just saying…


    • Shootski,
      You really hit at my journey. My parents families on both sides hunted to put food in their bellies, and I grew up with that influence. I hunted for sport most of my life but tempered it with the idea that wasting meat was a sin. Over the last couple of decades I have carried that tradition to processing my own game from the shot to the table. Some of this is because the butchers had no idea how to take care of game animals. I no longer do any catch and release fishing either, and usually only catch what we can eat in the next day or two unless I will be smoking it.

      I have mixed feelings on pesting. I also have to admit hunting with weapons that take more skill does bring more of a feeling of accomplishment. An instant clean kill on an unsuspecting game animal with a high end weapon will taste the best though.

      My goal in hunting is based on not wasting meat or the quality of the meat, the enjoyment at the dinner table is what I strive for, even though we won’t go hungry without the hunting.


      • Benji-Don,

        I hear you.
        Although my family never had a subsistence hunting requirement during my lifetime only a few years before I was born my mother was forced to subsistence hunt to keep her parents, my sister and a few others from starving to death. They were fleeing their home in Yugoslavia as a result of WWII while my dad was off somewhere in combat and unable to provide for them. That experience is at the core of my learning woodcraft and hunting methods from an early age and encouraging my children to learn well.
        Hunting is a great skill, regardless of the take methods, to have but it is nothing without Woodcraft (to include desert, alpine, tundra, steppes, and jungle) skills at proficient level.
        One thing I have done is share my hunt bounty with homeless kitchens but most often I don’t take the shot at all unless on a sanctioned urban conservation cull.
        I always Stalk Closer since that has forever been my hunting Motto even if it means making a mistake will spook the prey; it ensures I won’t likely make that one again..


      • The Bow Bully,
        “…trying to survive, but I don’t think most bowhunters are in that boat.”
        Thank heavens that isn’t true in most parts of the World at the moment. I was just trying for the concept of what really is the basis for how far is too far NOT being fixed. With that said, each hunter must know the factors that the choice is based on. At the very least what is the absolute maximum that a kill can be expected; i realize a great deal goes into what in the end is still just an estimate.
        Great food for though generated by this Blog nevertheless for all hunters.


  3. “Ethical shooting distance”. Those words should have been highlighted. I practice at 60-90 yards with my compound. Makes 25 or 30 yrd. shots a piece of cake. The only way to group 5-6 arrows at distance is by having perfect form. I know I’ll never shoot at a deer (no matter how big it is) at 60+ yds. unless the freezer and our bellies are empty. Thats what a PB is for.

  4. “Rather than gambling on high-risk shots, bowhunters should focus on accurate ranging, getting as close as possible, and taking only shots with the best odds.”…Amen!
    The Bow Bully,
    That’s an excellent statement you made there; you could even extend that by replacing “bowhunters” with just plain “hunters” and it would still hold true.
    Keep up the good work,

  5. TBB,

    I have a general question – the ballistic coefficient of an arrow is pretty high. So it should good keep the energy at long distance. Do you know some test regarding the velocity/energy loss at the distance? Like we do with airguns to check what is the for example 50yards kinetic energy level. It would be interesting to see what is left at 100yards.

    • I haven’t come across a great study online, but I do know archers who’ve tested with a chronograph. They lost around 30 fps at 100 yards, so kinetic energy dropped too.

      • Thanks! 30 fps at 100 yards is not so much. I have the simulation program chairgun where you can also see the arrow. The problem is the BC of the arrow. The best way would be to shoot it through chrony to establish your own BC for sure.
        At the end it means the shot is lethal “all the way down”, but the time elapsed and arrow drop at long distance makes it not applicable for hunting non-steady target.

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