Michael Braden’s Longest and Shortest PSE Shots
Editor’s Note: Michael Braden of Houston, Texas, started shooting with PSE in the early 1990s, turned pro, shooting a PSE bow, in 1996, and won the ASA Rookie of the Year. Then in 2009, he came back to be a part of the PSE Pro Staff and has been shooting for PSE ever since, besides coaching shooters.
Michael, when you’re hunting, what’s the maximum distance and closest distance at which you feel proficient?
Braden: I do my best to keep my shots as close as I can possibly get them. That being said, you have to consider the game you’re hunting and the location and the terrain where you’re hunting. For me when I’m hunting Texas whitetails, I try to get the deer inside 30 yards. I think the deer out at 30 and 40 yards can react to the bow and possibly jump the string. When you’re getting deer in close, you have another problem with the deer being able to see, smell and hear you. But, as you begin to hone your skills as a hunter, you can get a white tailed deer within 20-25 yards regularly. That’s a good range for a bow shot. So, even though I can take a 30 yard shot, I prefer to have the deer within 25 yards or less.
What’s the longest shot you’ve ever had to make?
Braden: I shot a really nice mule deer in northern Colorado at 72 yards. I was in a pop up blind, seated in a chair, and the animal had no idea I was there. The deer was relaxed and feeding, and I came to full draw several times, but then let down because the shot wasn’t just right. I know there are many people who take shots that long and longer, and at that place and at that time, I felt confident to make the shot. On a bigger animal like an elk or a moose that’s won’t react as quickly as a whitetail, you may be able to push your goal distance out to 30 or 40 yards. But my main thought is that I want to make sure that the animal will be where I’m aiming when the arrow arrives at that spot. You can take long shots if your ability and the weather and terrain conditions allow you to take those shots. I practice at distances of more than 100 yards.
To get ready for bow season, always practice beyond the distance at which you plan to take an animal. For instance, if you say, “I only want to take an animal at 30 yards or less,” then I’ll recommend that you practice at 40 and 50 yards. Then when you do have that 30 yard shot at animal, you’re not thinking, “This is the outer limits of where I feel comfortable shooting.” If the animal is at 30 yards, and the bowhunter has been practicing at 40 or 50 yards, then the hunter thinks, “Thirty yards isn’t a problem, because I’ve been practicing at 40 and 50 yards. I know I can make that 30 yard shot.” Being efficient as a bowhunter has a lot to do with how confident you are when a shot presents itself, and by practicing at shots longer than you plan to take. Then you can build confidence in your ability when you do get a shot. Always practice at longer distances than you plan to shoot.
What about the short shot?
Braden: Most people don’t practice the short shot, a point that’s drastically demonstrated in competition archery. The best professional archers in the country usually miss the short targets more often than the long targets, because very few people really practice short shots. To be a better bowhunter, you need to practice at every distance that you may have to shoot.
What distances do the pros miss when they’re shooting short shots?
Braden: Usually 25-28 yards. In competitions we rarely have shots shorter than 25 yards, but every once in a while tournament directors will put a target out at less than 10 yards. For instance, at the tournament at Redding, California we shoot a 4 yard butterfly target. I advise bowhunters to practice a 4 yard shot, since to make that shot, you’ve really got to know your equipment and how to aim. When I was in Redding this year, I shot the 4 yard butterfly for 47 yards. In other words, I aimed at the butterfly the same way I aim at a 47 yard target. When you’re taking this shot, your arrow is much lower than your line of vision. So, your arrow takes off well below your line of sight. Right out of the bow, you’ll hit extremely low if your bow’s sighted for 20 yards. Your arrow will come out of the bow below that 20 yard pin. But, at 8-12 yards, your arrow will impact a target behind your 20 yard pin. Then it will climb slightly and start its descent for the rest of its flight. So, your 20 yard pin will hit dead on somewhere between 8-12 yards and out to 20 yards, but once you get inside of 8 yards, your arrow will hit low. You have to give the arrow more yardage when you’re aiming to hit dead on at 4 yards. Professional archers practice that 4 yard shot for the Redding shoot a lot, because the worst thing that can happen to a competitive archer is to miss a 4 yard shot. So, when you’re out shooting 30 yards plus, don’t forget that sometimes a deer will be right under your tree stand, or a big buck may be within 5 yards of your ground blind. If you don’t practice those two shots, more than likely your arrow will hit between the deer’s legs. Good luck this bow season, and I hope I’ve helped you.