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How tight do my groups need to be?
Whitetail Deer
Contributors to this thread:
Bassmaster9960 18-Sep-18
APauls 18-Sep-18
IdyllwildArcher 18-Sep-18
Ziek 18-Sep-18
orionsbrother 18-Sep-18
HUNT MAN 18-Sep-18
JTV 18-Sep-18
x-man 19-Sep-18
Shawn 19-Sep-18
Hh76 19-Sep-18
stealthycat 19-Sep-18
skipmaster1 19-Sep-18
Bou'bound 19-Sep-18
IdyllwildArcher 19-Sep-18
Bob H in NH 19-Sep-18
JTV 19-Sep-18
x-man 19-Sep-18
GF 19-Sep-18
IdyllwildArcher 19-Sep-18
Scar Finga 19-Sep-18
Bassmaster9960 19-Sep-18
x-man 19-Sep-18
Ermine 19-Sep-18
JL 19-Sep-18
Buffalo1 19-Sep-18
DMTJAGER 19-Sep-18
snapcrackpop 20-Sep-18
Ziek 20-Sep-18
18-Sep-18
I'm back again with another question before my first deer season. How tight does my groups need to be for 3 arrows and 20 yards. I am nervous I'm going to make a bad shot and I want to know if my groups I'm shooting now will work or if I need to practice..

From: APauls
18-Sep-18
I always feel like if your shooting is the yards divided by 10 in a 3 shot group that’s good enough. Better is better but do that and then keep it 30 and under. That’s kind of where I feel is a good minimum. Others may be different. And even then you can only control so much. Don’t fret too much about every little thing. As a new bowhunter, get out there enjoy yourself, make some mistakes and learn from them. The internet is both a blessing and a curse. Too many new hunters feel like they have to abide by the same standards as someone who’s been doing it 20 years which is wrong in my opinion. Sad reality sometimes is you only learn your limits by finding them. Main thing is have fun, that’s what you’re out there for!

18-Sep-18
Group size has some, but limited relation to effectiveness on animals. How well you can keep your cool and execute the shot like you do on a non-animal target, has much more importance.

I think that group size is far more important with a traditional bow than it is with a compound when it comes to hunting. If you can't shoot well with a traditional bow on a target, you need a better set up, better form, or more practice before you shoot your first arrow at an animal. A compound is much more easy to master so long as you shoot fairly well and your bow is tuned.

There's a J-curve and you start to lose the bang for your buck close in with a compound.

I consider "good shooting" for the average bowhunter with a compound as an inch for every 10 yards. You can certainly get better than that, but 2 inches at 20 yards and 6 inches at 60 are doable with practice and a tuned bow with anyone, IMO.

Personally, I insist on much better than that for myself and the distance that I limit myself to is closer than my group size on my target animal's vitals, but that's because animals are far more difficult to shoot than a target because of nerves and the fact that they move.

Still, for your first deer season, focus more on keeping your cool. What happens with a lot of bowhunters that haven't killed a lot of animals, is they hurry the shot and in the last second, just get the pin on the animal and fire and they end up missing or hitting the animal with a bad shot. Learn to slow down, take your time, and pause right before the shot so that you make a quality shot and if you are an average shooter, you're going to make an above average shot on your first bowhunted animal.

If the animal is moving or not going to give you enough time to make the shot, then learn to pass on the shot. It's better to let them walk than to hurry it and wound. The greener you are, the less likely you are to make a good shot when you don't have much time to drop the string.

If the animal sees you draw and is motioning away from you, consider just letting it go, especially if it's over 15 yards. The best shot for your first few bowhunted animals is an animal that has no idea that you've drawn on it.

Learning when to draw and release is a huge part of the art of bowhunting and differentiates bowhunting from rifle hunting more than anything else than the distance required to kill.

For your first few animals, everything should be as close to perfect as possible. But if you think you can kill it, kill it. Don't just wing an arrow at a passing animal. Missing and wounding will just bring doubt and will make you question yourself.

If you have it and you know you can kill it, do it. Tell yourself you're going to kill the animal and then pick a spot on the shoulder and focus on the job at hand and kill it. Every time you do it, it'll build confidence and experience and you'll be that much more prepared to do it the next time.

From: Ziek
18-Sep-18
The only "group" that counts in hunting is the first arrow shot at an animal.

18-Sep-18
What Adam said. But you always need practice. Shoot a few arrows lots of times. Have fun. Don't shoot lots of arrows a few times.

Build your muscle memory and relax. Run through your rhythm. Stance, sight picture, grip, anchor point, breath control, release, follow through.

Take an additional lesson or two to make sure that you're not developing any bad habits form -wise.

When the time comes, just do. Let it flow smoothly. Stay loose. Don't overthink or get stressed.

Be the arrow.

That's all the psychobabble I've got to avoid buck fever or target panic. It works for me, but there are lots of guys on this site more qualified than me to give you advice.

Edit : I was typing when they posted. What Ike and Ziek said too

From: HUNT MAN
18-Sep-18
Ike nailed it

From: JTV
18-Sep-18
shoot one arrow at a time... concentrate on that one arrow, go pull and do it again.. ..... now, with that being said, I strive for 1" per each 10 yds ... so at 20yds that 2" group.... 30 yds 3" group, 40 yd 4" group this is with fixed heads and or FP's and Mech's ....... but it is that single first shot that is oh so important .. dont rush the shot !!

From: x-man
19-Sep-18
Depends on your definition of a group, really.

Guys who claim 1" per 10 yards are not telling the whole story. I can shoot like this "most" of the time as well. But my group definition shows on the paper target I/We use in competition. Any hole in the paper that is more than 1" from the center of the X at 20 yards disqualifies said shooter from that accuracy claim. Go shoot 100 arrows over a few days time at the same paper target. Measure the arrow farthest from the center of the X and multiply that number by two. That is your actual group size at that yardage.

I can't remember the last time I shot a 4 on an indoor 300 score and my 20 yard group size is more like 4". I have seen 60X 300 scores(perfect) that would not qualify for 2" groups.

In summery, please strive for 1" per 10 yard groups but don't be discouraged if they are double that some days.

From: Shawn
19-Sep-18
X-mas has got it. Guys who are not competitive shooters who say they consistently shoot 4 or 5" groups at 60 yards are full of it. I shoot with a guy who won the world's and he even has a rough time shooting 4" groups at 60 yards. Keep them inside say a softball at 20 yards and you will be as good or better than most. Shawn

From: Hh76
19-Sep-18
You guys must have better eyes than me, at 20 yards, by pins blur more than a 2" target.

I'm usually happy when I can get all three arrows in a ~ 4" circle at 20yds.

From: stealthycat
19-Sep-18
I focus more on the first shot not groups

From: skipmaster1
19-Sep-18
We shoot an outdoor 40 yard target league. We shoot at a single spot 40cm target. It's rare that someone puts all 60 arrows into the 10 ring in a night. These are good shooters too. The thing is that just about every one of them can step up and do it 5 times in a row. Every night if they just shot 5 arrows. For me, that's the kind of groups I look for. 1 to maybe 5 arrows shot and then shoot again later. Hunting is not about mentally and physically battling through end after end of shooting.

From: Bou'bound
19-Sep-18
How big are the lungs on the species you are hunting?

19-Sep-18
I consider a group, any 3-6 arrows, not 100. Some may define it differently, but if I have 1 out of 100 that flies on me, I don't consider that as "how I'm shooting," or my actual "group size." I consider my group size what I can put 3 arrows into, well above 50% of the time.

Before my sheep hunt, my last 6 arrows were shot at 45 yards with broadheads and were all center of the bull's eye I was aiming for. That day I shot about 30 arrows and not one was outside of the 1 inch per 10 yards number from 20-80 yards. Mid trip after I missed a sheep high due to ranging the hill behind him instead of his back (therein lies the witchery of bowhunting, translating good shooting into a dead animal) I picked a softball-sized clump of dark tundra on a white tundra back and shot it from 50-70 yards about 15 times and hit it every time with one shot hitting the upper margin and one shot hitting 2 inches high on a 70 yard shot. None of my shots were in the bottom 1/3 of the clump.

Personally, even if I'm drilling the vitals 95+ out of 100 shots from 80 yards, I'm still not going to take an 80 yard shot. I also firmly believe that you should practice out to half-again, preferably twice the distance that you'd consider shooting an animal at. It makes the closer shots easier.

There's a difference between shooting a group consistently and "always." No one is 100% in anything, all the time. Even a strep test misses 1 in 10.

Back on topic to the OP, I'd encourage him to shoot at a lifesize deer target, out of a tree (or whatever he'll be hunting from), with broadheads. When he can no longer hit the vitals 9 out of 10 times, dial your max distance back 10-20 yards and have that be your max shooting distance, or something similar. Honestly, if it's your first deer, you don't want to be taking a long shot, even if you can do it. Closer shots are just higher percentage.

Don't take the majority of your practice shots at 20 yards, or even 20, 30, and 40. Shoot arrows at every single yard distance between 5 yards and up as far as you can while still hitting the target consistently. Deer don't circle trees at 20 and 30 yards. In fact, statistically, they'll be at a yardage other than an even 10 yard increment 9 out of 10 times.

From: Bob H in NH
19-Sep-18
Also make sure you are practicing at something other than a dot. It's very different aiming at the side of a deer, they don't run around with bright colored dots to aim at :-)

From: JTV
19-Sep-18
Striving for and doing is two different things I admit, but I know what I want to "strive" for... also true, there are always going to be the larger groups, and even smaller groups at those given ranges ... but in a hunting situation it is that first arrow, that ONE arrow that counts the most .... shoot a full size 3D target, one that can handle both FP's and BH's... get your FP's/BH's same POI, that way you can shoot FP's more and not tear up your target as fast ... I move my 3D target around, shooting from 5 to 40+ yds, shooting differing angles... I'll shoot FPs, pull them and then shoot one BH... my first arrow of the day is a BH, at a distance and angle I may see in a hunting situation..... heck, I may even set the target so I have to shoot with my body in an odd contorted position .... make that first arrow count ...

From: x-man
19-Sep-18
Count EVERY arrow, even the fliers. You don't get a "re-do" when you have a flier at an animal.

heck...if I only count the "first" arrow I shoot each day while shooting at an animal target without a "spot", then I can claim a 5/16" group at every yardage ;)

From: GF
19-Sep-18
Group size doesn’t matter much; that’s like bragging about your golf score when you’ve taken a Mulligan once per hole.

What matters MORE, IMO, is whether you can hit a gallon jug every time or not, while never taking the same shot twice.

Under pressure.

JMO, Bad Idea for anyone to have more than one sight pin on his bow until he has made several clean kills at close range. And whatever your Fully Confident range is on targets, cut it in half for hunting. If there is any question whatsoever as to which pin to use, wait it out. If you’re too juiced to settle into your shot, wait it out. No blood, no foul, and another will be along soon enough.

Enough stuff goes wrong when everything is Perfect, so no need to push your luck. Nobody will starve, so no sense feeding the coyotes in an attempt to feed the Ego.

19-Sep-18
x-man, I shoot over 5000 arrows a year. If you saw #1,823 and #3,642 this past year, you could judge me a pretty horrible shot...

From: Scar Finga
19-Sep-18
Most guys I know don't shoot 1000 much less 5000 arrows a year. I'm very old school, and I keep all my arrows in an 8" circle at any yardage. If you practice that, you will be fine. When any arrow hits outside that circle you cut 10 yards off that distance and that is your effective range. Of course at 20 and 30 yards you should be at least half of that 8" or less on your circle diameter. For all new hunters, I say keep it within 30 yards no matter what! Do that on a few animals and then you can start stretching your wings a bit.

Shoot lots of different yardages, and angles don't get in the habit of just doing 10 yard increments! shoot at 9, 17, 28 and then 33, 37, 46 etc... quartering too and away, You will become a much better shot and hunter than just punching X's at 20 or 30 yards broadside. Look at where the arrow would have gone in and out of an animal and adjust your aiming points accordingly to hit the vitals and miss heavy bones. A 3-D target is a must. even a cheap one is great!

Good advice above as well, have fun and go learn

19-Sep-18
Thanks guys for everything . It's great how hunters will type long answers just to help a random strangers. Love all the help you guys have given me

From: x-man
19-Sep-18
"x-man, I shoot over 5000 arrows a year. If you saw #1,823 and #3,642 this past year, you could judge me a pretty horrible shot..."

Yes, yes I could. Miss-fires are different I suppose. Missing by six feet due to a miss-fire isn't going to wound an animal. Fliers that miss by six inches should definitely count.

If I remember correctly #1,823 went into your garage wall and #3,642 went over the garage and into the neighbor's roof. :)

From: Ermine
19-Sep-18
Groups don’t matter as much as the 1st arrow. But I like to shoot groups for the fact of seeing if my equipment is shooting good and if I’m consistent

The more I shoot the better I am. Automatic

From: JL
19-Sep-18
FWIW.......I try to practice like the way I bow hunt.....from a treestand (or back deck). For me, it's a little different practicing from elevation vs shooting on the ground.....angles, sight picture, etc. I also came up with a system to help eliminate the buck fever phenomenon. A.F.R. - Aim, Focus, Release. Aim for the target, solidly Focus on a tiny spot in the kill zone and nothing else and then Release. I say that to myself after I draw back. If you do that in practice and commit to it, it will help you keep a true shot when you actually have an animal in front of you. Last thought...if the shot opportunity doesn't feel right...don't shoot...be patient.

From: Buffalo1
19-Sep-18
Once I get a bow sighted in I limit myself to 20 shots per practice session. I try to make all 20 shots count as "on target", especially the first arrow.

Like Ike, I go by the 1" per 10 yard rule. Aim small-miss small.

Appropriate size dots help me to focus better, than a life size target. I do keep things scrambled and sometime shoot life size animals to make sure, I'm on target.

I also use a rangefinder at 3-D shoots to simulate actual hunting conditions. This further positively reinforces my mind about bow correctly sighted in, distances and hitting actual kill zones, not 3-D target zones.

From: DMTJAGER
19-Sep-18
My personal method is after I get my form up and running from my off time from Jan-1 till late April, I start every session wind permitting taking my very first shot of that session at 40 yards with a broad head and execute the shot as quick as I can. This as close as can be done IMHO simulates what I would likely do after sitting mostly motionless in a treestand for 2 or more hours and I have to suddenly in under a minuet make a shot on a deer. It gives mean honest self evaluation. I don't personally feel shooting groups while practicing your hunting form serve much purpose.

From: snapcrackpop
20-Sep-18
Consistently less than 1/2 the size of your animal's vitals.

From: Ziek
20-Sep-18
For new hunters, it needs to be said. Shooting at targets can make you a great target shot, and that's a good beginning, but that doesn't necessarily translate to shooting at animals. Everyone transitions differently, but until you have some actual hunting experience and shots at animals, you should start off very conservatively.

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