3D is a tough discipline for anyone in archery. Not only does the archer need to perform a flawlessly formed shot, the archer must contend with unknown distances (unless shooting in a known class), shooting a variety of targets, having various colors, with changing lighting, on unleveled ground, and during inconsistent weather. It is judging yardage that is my Achilles Heel. The other issues that confound shots are conditions where I hope luck can remedy.
I’ve listened to all sorts of advice when it comes to finding a reliable method to judge distance. One is the 20 yard method where 20 yards is guessed and excess yardages are estimated by rolling that 20 yard distance over in one’s mind’s eye. Then adding the rolled over distance to adjust the mental image of the actual distance.
Another is to look at trees lining the shooting lane. Select a tree about 10 yards away allowing that you now know 10 yards. From that tree to the next judge the yardage then combine the prior tree’s 10-yard distance with the subsequent trees distance for a total. If the trees zigzag subtract a bit of yardage. Continue this approach until the target is reached, mentally hopping from tree to tree and zig to zag.
There’s the know 30 yards really well or the know 40 yards really well approach where the archer becomes an expert at those distances and sizes up each target based on its proximity to the 30 or 40 yard comfort zone. (My comfort zone is at 20 yards).
The target size is a popular method. That is where distance is guessed depending on how large or small the target appears. The smaller the target seems the further away it is positioned. (Duh)
A favorite of mine is measuring distance with your thumb. The idea is that by holding out your thumb to measure angles, you can tell your distance to things (people, cars, buildings, planes, clouds, etc.).
Hold out your arm, look at your thumb, and see a distant car half as high. Cars are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) high. So your thumb may appear 10 feet (3 meters) wide. And since you know your thumb is x30 times as far as it seems tall… you know the car is something like 300 feet (90 meters) away! (I’ve never tried this one. Maybe if foam Ford Focus landed on a 3D range I might give it a whirl.)
Sadly, none of those techniques has been much help to me. Maybe I started archery too late in life to have mastered the distance estimating methods that yield others their success. All I can do is head out to 3D practice and shoot arrow after arrow after arrow over a range is distances. Hopefully, something will sink in. On a good day that something sinking in is an arrow in the 12 ring. (Or 11 if you’re an IBO fan)