Being able to judge shooting distances is critical to hunting success—to put an arrow or bullet exactly where you want it to go, you need to know the distance between you and your target. Here are some easy practice techniques for learning how to judge distance.
Start by dividing the distance to the target into intervals you can accurately judge—five or ten metres—then estimate how many times that distance fits into your line of sight to the target. If you can visualize that a target is roughly three and a half times the distance of a ten-metre interval away, it’s roughly 35 metres out.
Comparing things with distances you’re familiar with helps to visualize distance in the field. For example, the deck on your house is perhaps four metres long, your house is 12 metres wide, and the backyard is 10 metres deep. Knowing the measurements of things you look at every day will allow you to compare distances to objects in the field with quick and accurate results.
Take a “rangefinder” out for practice. This is an instrument that estimates the distance between you and a target. Play the range game with a friend. How far away is that stump or that rock? Identify random objects in the field and guess the distances before verifying them with the rangefinder. Doing this will help you become dead-on accurate during actual hunting situations.
Once you have fine-tuned your distance-guessing skills, use a 3-D target to simulate various hunting situations. Using targets that are the actual size of the game you want to pursue will allow you to practise both your shooting and distance-judging skills. If you don’t have a 3-D target, do your best to visualize the size of your game at various distances.
Stand in different spots to change up the distances, instead of moving the target. Also, practise under different light conditions, as it can affect your depth of perception and make judging distances challenging. Shooting targets at sunset looks much different than at high noon.
When you’re hunting from a single location, range the area before game shows up. Make mental notes of the distances to game trails or other objects that are easy to see and use them as references. That way, when your target strides into range, you’ll be ready and confident of making an accurate shot.