Tag Archives: Archery

Turkey broadhead should prove deadly

March 17, 2016


Ever since I started bow hunting in the fall of 2011, I have focused my efforts on trying to execute pass-through shots on deer in the heart-lung vital area.

To that end, I landed on a mechanical broadhead manufactured by New Archery Products called the Killzone. The two blades open up to 2 inches, and I have gotten pass-throughs on two of the three deer I have shot at with these heads.

This spring, I will be armed with another NAP product, this time for turkey hunting. But, I will not be aiming for a pass-through. In fact, the product is designed not to pass through a turkey.

That’s right: it is NOT built for pass-throughs.

How can this be? Well, I have done lots of reading up on this head, called a Spitfire Gobbler Getter. From what I can tell, it has been around for about 10 years, and it has most of the features of the conventional Spitfire — three folding blades, with the ends pointing forward and hugging the ferrule.

The Gobbler Getter features a blunt, rounded head versus a sharp, pointed head that the conventional Spitfire employs. The idea is that the blunt point will result in more energy being released into the bird. So, in addition to the blades slicing the bird, you’ll also have blunt-force trauma. This is designed to help keep the bird close to the point of impact.

That’s a huge advantage for the bow hunter. One of the common problems with bow hunting for turkeys is having the birds run or fly off after being hit. They can travel more than 100 yards, and often there is little to no blood trail. Add to that their tendency to crawl into thick cover and you have instances where the bird is never recovered — or at least requires a huge effort to recover.

Thus, the designers of this head tried to come up with a product that can hit a bird hard and anchor it near the point of impact. The research I have done online suggests that hunters have been achieving this effect.

The conventional three-blade Spitfire has been a highly successful design that creates a big wound channel, plus it has a history of consistently opening on contact with a deer and getting lots of pass-throughs. The reviews have been great on this head, and it is a personal favorite of Chris from NAP, whom I talked to about NAP broadheads recently. He and I had a lengthy conversation, and I got a chance to pick his brain about broadheads for both deer and turkey hunting.

I decided to get my hands on a set of Gobbler Getters, and I am planning on using them on future archery hunts, with my crossbow in Wisconsin, where they are legal for all hunters, and in Minnesota with my compound bow. Chris from NAP said they should work just fine with my crossbow.

One thing to be careful of with mechanical heads is the danger of having them open in flight because of the higher speed of crossbows. But, Chris said I shouldn’t have to worry about this for two reasons: 1. My particular crossbow, the Parker Enforcer, is relatively slow, shooting at 285 feet per second (some compounds with 70-pound draw weights can approach or match this speed), and, 2. the Spitfires are held closed with tension springs versus o-rings or rubber bands, so they are less likely to open in flight.

Bottom line: I am not going to worry about using the Gobbler Getters with my crossbow. I eventually hope to try them with my compound bow, too. I thought about it this year for Minnesota, which now allows turkey hunters with an archery tag to hunt throughout the entire spring season, rather than just one seven-day period.

But, I applied for the first time period for firearms and got picked, so I plan to hunt the first season with my shotgun (though I might bring my crossbow and try it out if a bird comes in really close). Had I not gotten picked, I would have bought the archery tag. I likely will keep applying for first season, and there probably will be years when I don’t get picked. So, that’s when I might buy the archery tag and hunt with my compound bow. But, at age 54, I am only six years away from being able to use a crossbow for archery hunting in Minnesota.

I really think NAP has a winner with the Spitfire Gobbler Getter. Having these heads also makes me want to try to conventional Spitfires for deer. Chris said that the three-blade design consistently produces nice blood trails. He said it’s very rare that you get a poor blood trail on a deer shot with a Spitfire.

He believes that you can get great results with a two-blade head, which I have, but if the cut is more horizontal than vertical, you can get a lot less blood coming out of a deer.

I see his point. That exact thing happened three years ago on a deer I shot with a Rage two-blade mechanical. A doe came walking down a trail near my stand, and I took a 25-yard shot at her (I had measured the distance from the trail to my stand, so I knew it was 25 yards).

Because I had a lighted nock, I saw the arrow hit the doe right behind the front leg and in the vital area. I watched her run off with the arrow sticking out of her. I couldn’t tell how much penetration I got, but it looked like the arrow at least hit the right spot.

Unfortunately, I found a small blood trail that eventually dried up. To this day, I am convinced that I hit the deer where I was aiming and that it eventually died.

But, in that instance, I may have had the trouble Chris described. The good news is I have had some great blood trails since then, and I am confident in the Killzones I have in my quiver. I have six of them, three brand new and three with replacement blades. Plus, I also have three Killzone crossbow heads. I now see that, based in my conversation with Chris, I may not have needed to buy the Killzone crossbow heads. But, that’s OK. I killed a deer with one of them, and I am massively confident in them.

I would like to deer hunt with Spitfires someday, but to be honest, I am so sold on Killzones that I am reluctant to switch. I first tried them on a recommendation from the guys at A1 Archery in Hudson. These guy are serious hunters, and nearly all of them use Killzones and love them. They have always steered me right, so I easily chose to buy Killzones. Plus, one of the guys at A1 installed replacement blades on three of my heads when I bought the blades there. That’s customer service you can’t beat!

So, with all due respect to Chris, I probably will be taking my Killzones back into the woods this fall for deer. Now, if he wants to send me a set of Spitfires to try, I would be happy to do so. I’m sure they would perform admirably.

On the other hand, I’m not looking to fix something that isn’t broke. I have shot at three deer with Killzones and killed them all. One of them I did not recover until the next day, which was too late because the coyotes got to it first. That’s on me for not the greatest shot placement (a little far back that resulted in the deer jumping up and running when I went to track it).

So, if I just make sure to execute proper shot placement, I think my Killzones will do a great job. But, it sure is nice to know there are other great options, too. But, whatever NAP mechanical broadhead you choose to use, Chris wants to offer one CRUCIAL tip: Replace the blade after every animal you harvest with it, NO MATTER WHAT. Chris was emphatic on this point, and NAP offers replacement blades for both the Spitfire and the Killzone. They’re about $15 for a pack of three, and worth the money. To me, it’s like sharpening your hook after every fish you catch.

My Spitfire Gobbler Getters arrived in the mail recently. I’m excited to use them!

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Sighting in new crossbow a breeze

February 11, 2016


Got my hands on my new Parker Bushwacker crossbow last week. I didn’t wait long to put it together and sight it in.

I found it simple to put together and easy to use. I really like the way it feels in my hands, and it was amazingly easy to sight in. I started out at 10 yards, and it was very close. I moved back to 20, and it was just a tad low and to the left. A few clicks on the scope adjustments and I was dialed in dead center.

I took a few more shots to make sure, and every one hit the bullseye. I am supremely confident about hunting with this weapon. And, my hat’s off to Parker for making a solid crossbow that I’m sure will take down some animals for me.

I plan to use it this spring for turkey hunting. There’s a place in Wisconsin where I bow hunt where the landowner only allows bow hunting. And, with crossbows being legal for any hunter in this state, I plan to try mine there.

Should be fun. I feel confident I can make a shot on a gobbler out to at least 20 yards, even though a tom’s vital area is only the size of a tennis ball. The crossbow certainly is capable of hitting the target.

But, a critical decision is what broadhead to use. After doing some research online, I plan on trying the Spitfire Gobbler Getter by New Archery Products. It’s designed specifically for turkey hunting, and it has features to help put the bird down where he stands or close to it. Many hunters agonize over birds they hit with an arrow, but run or fly off. My brother-in-law just recently told me about a friend of his who hit three turkeys while archery hunting last spring, but didn’t recover any of them. That’s definitely an outcome I would like to avoid!

I may also try archery hunting for turkeys in Minnesota with my compound bow. An archery tag is good for the entire spring, so that would give me lots of time to try for a gobbler. I applied for the first season in the lottery. If I don’t get picked, I’m seriously thinking about buying an archery tag. I consider getting a turkey with a bow to be the supreme challenge in archery.

I need to decide if I’m up to the task!

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Archery season ends quietly

February 3, 2016


It’s finally over. I went on my last archery hunt of the season Sunday, Jan. 31. In Wisconsin, one piece of property I hunt is located in the Hudson Metro Subunit, with an extended season that goes through Jan. 31.

I hadn’t hunted there since November, so I went on Saturday morning and did some scouting. There was deer sign aplenty throughout the property, including fresh droppings. I found a promising spot and threw down some corn, as baiting is legal in Wisconsin.

I went back to the spot Sunday afternoon for one final sit, with my friend’s crossbow in hand. When I got there, I checked the corn pile and did not see any fresh deer tracks indicating that deer had found the corn.

So, I went to a different spot where I had seen a good amount of tracks on Saturday. I set up in a cluster of pines and waited.

Nothing showed, and I spent the last 10 minutes of shooting light walking around to see if any deer were moving. None were, which resulted in a quiet ending to the archery season.

It was a season of peaks and valleys in terms of deer movement, with mostly valleys. There were many hours in a stand in both Minnesota and Wisconsin when I didn’t see a single deer. I blame the unusually warm fall, which may have been the culprit again last night, with temperatures near 40 degrees in the afternoon.

No matter when it is during the archery season, the colder the weather, the more deer move during daylight hours. I am hoping next year won’t be this warm. I talked to a lot of hunters during the season, including some who spent many days in the field, and they all reported drastically reduced deer sightings.

I know some people think the problem is lower deer numbers, but I hunt in areas with healthy deer populations. In fact, the deer sign on the property I hunted yesterday was very good. The deer are there, they just haven’t moved much during the day.

Well, I can’t complain. I had a good season overall, and was able to take two antlerless deer, one in Wisconsin with a crossbow and one in Minnesota with a shotgun. There’s plenty of venison in the freezer and my family is enjoying it. We had venison meatloaf just last week, and I will be making venison stew later this month.

So, I give thanks to the Lord for the blessings of this archery season!

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Best archer in the world?

January 26, 2015

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My son Joe sent me a video that is absolutely amazing. It features archer Lars Andersen from Denmark and the amazing things he can do with a bow. I have watched it twice now, and it is nothing short of astounding.

In the video, he was able to fire three arrows in .6 second. And, he can hit moving objects, and hit objects while he’s moving. I kept looking for some evidence that the video is fake or doctored, but couldn’t find any. I also did a brief Google search on Andersen. Seems like he’s been around for a few years and established a reputation as a skilled archer. I think his new video has 4 million hits!

I know I won’t ever come close to being as good as he is. That is part of what makes me have so much respect for him. Even with a compound bow, archery is hard, at least for me. But, even when my arrows are a little off target during practice, I simply remind myself that my goal is to put an arrow through the vitals of a deer — about the size of a paper plate.

If I can do that when a deer I want to shoot walks by, it’s all good!

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Not too cold for grilled venison!

December 18, 2013


I’m sure my next-door neighbor was giving me a funny look when I went outside the other night to fire up my charcoal grill.

He was shoveling his driveway. Usually, shoveling and grilling don’t happen at the same time. For most folks, the grilling season ends by Thanksgiving and doesn’t start up again until the snow melts and the birds start singing.

I’m a little different. My grilling season never ends. That does not mean I have no limits. When temperatures plunged down into the single digits recently, my grill stood idle on my back deck.

But, the mercury pushed up to a balmy mark near 30 degrees on Monday, so I decided it was time for grilled venison steaks. The cold didn’t bother me as I poured charcoal into my metal cylinder and stuffed two pages of newspaper underneath. It did take a couple tries, but the coals eventually heated up to a beautiful red glow.

This meal was going to be special, featuring the first meal of steaks from the buck I killed with my bow in early November. Because I was trying for my first deer with a bow, I chose to take a smaller buck. The decision was made easy by the fact that this deer presented a perfect broadside shot at 10 yards, which is every bowhunter’s hope while sitting in a stand.

Now was going to be the payoff, I said to myself as I pulled the marinated steaks out of the refrigerator. Every deer hunter likes to take a big buck, which I did a year ago. But, true meat lovers like me know that the best tasting deer are the younger ones. And, a young buck is the best of all because it has a larger, adult body, but is young enough for the meat to be tender.

So, taking this deer was a no-brainer. The good news is, the area I hunt in the metro seems to have lots of small bucks. I have seen eight so far this archery season, and I’m sure there are even more roaming the woods. Interestingly, I have read recently that metro areas, particularly those off limits to hunting or open only to archery hunting, can have more bucks than areas that allow gun hunting.

I think a major reason for this is that the younger bucks are often very active in the fall, roaming the woods looking for does and often getting run off by bigger bucks. Plus, they are less wary and educated than older bucks, which are highly adept at avoiding hunters.

Thus, I am optimistic that I will continue to see small bucks on this property, though sighting a bigger one would be just fine, too! On the other hand, it’s very hard to argue against harvesting a young buck once the meat ends up on your plate.

And, I have to say, the grilled venison steaks from this young buck did NOT disappoint. They were delicious. I cooked them medium to medium rare, and I used a marinade created by some friends of mine, Bob and Christine Brickweg. Christine would not call herself a gourmet chef, but she definitely knows how to prepare venison!

Her marinade, which I simply call the “Brickweg marinade,” is very simple to make. You buy packets of Italian dressing and make it according to the directions on the back of the packet. But, you need to make two key substitutions. Instead of regular vegetable oil, use olive oil. And, instead of vinegar, use balsamic vinegar.

I usually make a double recipe with two packets. Then, you pour over the meat and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, flipping the meat over halfway through the process to make sure the marinade soaks into both sides. I usually do the marinade right before I go to bed, then flip the meat the next morning. But the time the coals are hot, I’m good to go!

If you were fortunate to get a deer this fall, give this recipe a try. I am convinced that you will not be disappointed!

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Fixing my bow

April 5, 2013


A very troubling and perplexing problem came up last week during one of my archery practice sessions. I had been doing well shooting at 20 yards since getting my new Vapor Trail string installed at A1 Archery in Hudson.

Then, things went bad last week while I was shooting at 20 yards, my usual distance. The first arrow hit 2 inches to the right. Then, the second one did, and the third. I had been hitting the bullseye or close to it regularly, so this was strange. As I continued shooting, the arrows started drifting farther to the right. Finally, I had one hit six inches to the right.

I thought my shooting form was going bad, and I got very upset with myself. Turns out a screw was loose – not inside of me, but on the bow. The day after Easter, I called A1 to ask the guys there about my problem. They instructed me to bring the bow in, which I did.

When one of the guys took a look at it, he instantly found the problem – a screw on the bottom cam had popped out. As a result, two other screws came loose and the string slipped off of the grooves on the cam. This caused three problems: 1. Altered arrow impact, 2. lower draw weight, and 3. shortened draw length.

He took about 1o minutes to find a replacement screw and put it on. Then, he sent me to the shooting range to check it out. My groups tightened right back up again, and I readjusted my sight pins.

As I did so, I saw another employee with his bow, and noticed he had a long stabilizer on it. When I asked him about it, he mentioned the brand name of the stabilizer, Bee Stinger. I asked if the shop carried this brand, and he went and got one for me to try.

Instantly, I liked it and knew this was something I should have on my bow. So, I bought one. I had my first home session with it yesterday, and it performed beautifully. It offers both dampening of bow movement after the shot and stabilization during the shot. I discovered that I could hold the pin steadier on the target, and the bow didn’t jump so much after releasing the arrow.

I’m sold on the Bee Stinger. At my age (51), I have discovered that I am not as steady as I used to be. I’m happy to have assistance in this area. Now, I’m back on track with my shooting, and can’t wait to try it at longer distances.

Finally, I want to say a big thank you to the guys at A1. They really took care of me on this one, and they have won my loyalty. I have gone to other local shops, but A1 has become my go-to archery store!

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The bow hunting offseason is now!

February 6, 2013


I have always marveled at stories about professional athletes who describe the work they do to try and win a championship.

A common thread is that the campaign started during the offseason. A familiar comment goes something like this: “The day after the season ended last year, I got right to work on my offseason conditioning, and right then and there I set my goal on winning a title.”

Look at Adrian Peterson. The recently announced NFL MVP has said many times that his campaign to be the best running back in the league began minutes after he tore his ACL in a game against the Washington Redskins last season. In fact, before he even left the stadium that fateful day in December 2011, he vowed to play the next season.

And, he did just that. Not only did he lead the league in rushing, he fell just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record. And, in the process, he led the Vikings to the playoffs for the first time in three years. It is well documented how hard he worked to rehab his injured knee. He ended up playing in every single game. And, he left little doubt that he was the hardest working player on the team this year, maybe in the entire league.

I think about that now, with the bow hunting season closed and a seven-month wait until the start of the 2013 archery deer season. Unlike many other hunters, I don’t put my bow on the shelf at this time of year. I continue shooting, mostly to keep my muscles in shape. And, just as important, I am using this time to make improvements on my bow setup.

The biggest tweak is getting a new string on my bow. The old one was showing serious signs of wear, including some cut fibers that could hamper accuracy and lead to breaking of the string. So, I decided to replace it.

For advice, I visited an archery shop in Hudson called A-1 Archery. The guy I talked to recommended one made by a local company called Vapor Trail. I did some checking and saw some great reviews. I even called the company and talked to one of their technicians about the strings they manufacture. I love being able to call a company and actually talk to someone about the products. Seems like companies in the hunting and fishing industry understand this. It’s by no means the first time I have talked to a person at a company about its products. In fact, one time I talked to the company president about a turkey choke and he took my order over the phone! The turkey choke I ordered, called a Comp-N-Choke, has worked great for me, and it likely will be the last turkey choke I ever buy for my Remington 11-87.

I ended up ordering a Vapor Trail string, and got it installed at A-1 earlier this week. The technician there put it on while I waited, then I was able to take some test shots. They put on what’s called a peep sight on the string, which allows you to look through the same opening every time you shoot. Plus, I no longer need special tubing to keep the peep aligned correctly. Vapor Trail says there is no peep rotation in the string, therefore no need to install tubing to keep it in proper alignment.

I had problems with the tube breaking about once every month or two. That means you have to reattach it before you can see through the peep and shoot again. I always feared that it would happen when I was drawing back on a deer. Now, those worries are gone.

Next on my list is sighting in my bow with the new string. After that, I will look at stabilizers. I have a cheap one on my bow now, and would like a high-end one to make sure I can shoot more consistently. It’s all part of being prepared.

I’m really hoping to tag my first archery deer next season. I have gone two seasons without doing so, and the mistakes and failures have fueled my motivation to be successful next time around. I will do all I can to address the little things because that could make all the difference come September.

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Getting ready for bow hunting opener

September 11, 2012


With the Minnesota archery deer hunting opener set for this Saturday, I have been working to get all things ready.

I put up a stand on a good looking spot near Red Wing, then got another set up on a metro property that I hunted last year. Due to a complicated problem, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to hunt the property this year. But, things got resolved within the last week, so I went back out and put up a stand.

Looks like the weather will be nice this weekend, though a bit warm. Saturday should be good because it will still be cool in the morning from the day before, plus winds will be light and from the south/southwest.

That is perfect for my metro stand. The cool temps and light winds should have deer moving. I am hoping things happen early, as I will head to the Archdiocesan Youth Day in the afternoon. Hopefully, by then, there will be a deer at the butcher shop!

I have been practicing with my bow diligently throughout the last year, and I feel ready and confident. Based on my stand setup relative to the deer trails, my shots should be within 25 yards, which is my comfortable range.

I have shot with my practice broadheads and am good to go there. Plus, I will use lighted nocks, both to be able to find my arrows after the shot and, hopefully, see where they hit the deer. A double-lung pass through is my goal. That should make for a quick and easy recovery.

My hope is a deer will present a good shot, and I won’t get too shaky when I draw and can settle the pin in the vital area.

That wasn’t a problem last year, although I think I should have been a bit more deliberate in executing the shot. It’s not like a gun where you simply put the crosshairs on the deer and pull the trigger. You have to make sure everything is lined up and steady.

I hope and pray I can draw on a deer this weekend!

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Broken arrow leads to better bow shooting

August 13, 2012


I have one year of archery under my belt, and I have learned one very important thing – the key to success is in your head.

In other words, the sport is mostly mental. That important fact landed like a carbon arrowed zipped into a hay bale yesterday during a practice session.

As I draw near to the bow hunting opener next month, I am trying fine tune my shooting to make sure my arrow hits the mark when I – hopefully – take aim at a deer. Thus, instead of shooting several arrows at a time, I chose yesterday to shoot one arrow at a time. I am trying to make each and every shot count because, more than likely, I will get only one shot at any deer that comes my way.

At the same time, I wanted to test shoot two broadheads that I plan on using this fall – Rage and the new Ulmer Edge by Trophy Taker. The two heads are very similar. Both are mechanicals in which the blades deploy from the rear. The Rage comes with a practice head, while the Ulmer Edge comes with a set screw that keeps the blades from deploying during the shot. I like this feature, as it allows the archer to shoot with the actual head versus a separate practice head.

The good news is I shot both heads at 20 and 30 yards and they both hit in the same spot as my field points. So, I don’t need to do any more shooting with them.

The bad news – and what gave me the opportunity to learn an important lesson – is that my favorite arrow broke during the session. I didn’t have the foam target propped up well enough, and it fell over after my arrow hit, snapping the arrow.

I was bummed at first, but then decided to take the advice of my wife, who told me that situations like this can be opportunities if you let them.

I decided to test that theory. I said to myself, “Well, I’ll just  have to find a new favorite arrow.”

Guess what? I have a bunch of them now. Why? I learned that what really makes an arrow hit the mark is good form. When I shot several others arrows after my “favorite one” broke, I was able to get all of the others to hit at or near the bullseye. As I increased my concentration to try and find a new favorite arrow, my form got better and all of my shots were good.

That’s a great lesson to learn, and it helps my confidence way more than believing I shoot better with my “favorite” arrow. The truth is, today’s carbon arrows (which is what most bow hunters use today) are remarkably consistent from one arrow to the next. In fact, the carbon arrow is one of modern archery’s best technological advancements. Thus, when you buy a set of arrows from a given company (I happen to use Gold Tip), all of them should hit in the same spot, at least at short distances like 20 or 30 yards

In the long run, I think I’ll be much better off believing that my shooting form is the critical factor, not which particular arrow I’m shooting. Yesterday, after my practice session, I was able to proudly tell my wife Julie that I applied her little kernel of wisdom to archery.

Who knows? Maybe she’ll be able to offer me more good advice, like where to put up my stands.


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Enjoying a great day in the woods

March 16, 2012


I took some time yesterday to do some deer scouting down in Goodhue County. I found a new piece of property to bow hunt, and I will be taking my disabled friend, John Nesheim, out this fall. The plan is to set up several spots for both of us to hunt, then hunt together during the archery season.

We actually have two pieces of private property – at least John does. One landowner gave both of us permission to hunt, while his next-door neighbor will just allow John to hunt. That’s fine with me. There are plenty of good spots on the one piece we both have permission to hunt, which is about twice as big as the other.

This will work out great because John is the only one who will be hunting the one piece, so he will get a chance at unpressured deer. That’s always the ideal. And, I can set up on the other piece near the border of the piece John will hunt. Thus, we both will end up being able to hunt unpressured deer.

My friend, Rod, and I walked the larger property and found several good-looking spots. Now, we have to get some stands and ground blinds set up. It would be nice to do this before the trees green up, but we won’t have long before that happens, with the weather warming up fast.

I hope to get out there again in the next week or so. Meanwhile, after we finished hiking around, we went to Rod’s place in Red Wing and had a nice venison dinner. I made one of my favorites – venison cheeseburger on a stick. It included two of his favorite ingredients: ketchup and bacon. It was delicious.

After dinner, we headed outside for some archery shooting. That proved to be an amazing experience. Rod said we were going to try shooting at longer distances like 40, 50 yards and even more.

I freaked at the idea of shooting at such long range. I shoot at 20 yards about 90 percent of the time, and only rarely have tried 40 yards – never 50.

The results proved shocking to me. After painting a black bullseye on his target block about the size of a softball, I tried shooting at 20, 30, 40 and, finally, 50 yards. I was worried about even hitting the block, which is about 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall, at that distance.

Turns out, I did much better. The first few shots, I was within about 6 inches of the black mark. Then, a little later, I actually put one in the bullseye and the others close to it. Finally, on my last group of three shots, I put them ALL of them inside the bullseye.

Needless to say, my confidence took a big leap forward. As Rod pointed out, it’s not so much that I will necessarily try to shoot at a deer  50 yards away. It’s more that I will feel much more confident at shorter distances like 20 yards. I have heard many times that the average length of an archery shot at a deer is about 18 yards. I now am confident that I can make that shot.

Now, I need to keep shooting and get stands and blinds set up for the fall. Oh, and I’ve got a little turkey hunting to do in the next few weeks.

Q: What has been your favorite way to enjoy this beautiful stretch of weather we’re having?

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