Bowhunters understand how important proper shot placement is for ethical, humane hunting. That’s why we spend hours practicing before opening day. Missing by just a few inches can leave a hunter with an empty freezer, or even worse, it can cause unnecessary suffering for the animal.
Shooting from an elevated position is altogether different than shooting a bow from ground level. Even after spending the off-season honing your shooting skills, if you don’t know how to adjust your shooting for the treestand, you could still end the season empty-handed.
There are a few things you can do to shoot your bow more accurately and effectively from a treestand (sometimes referred to as a tree stand). Follow these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to filling tags this deer season
Choose the Right Treestand
There are a ton of different treestands on the market. Whether you opt for a ladder stand, hang-on stand, or a climbing stand, you want to look for a model with plenty of room. A large floor and open design will provide plenty of space to draw and maneuver your bow in a tree stand.
Treestands are big metal contraptions and can be pretty noisy. The sound of scraping or clanking metal is a danger alarm for wary whitetails, so check the quality of the welding and construction before you purchase one.
Look for tree stands with few moving parts. These are less likely to make noise, especially when you move to draw your bow.
Some treestands feature special sound deadening technology. This can be an invaluable asset for hunters trying to stay hidden.
While a treestand is the best way to hunt whitetails with a bow, shooting from a tree comes with some risk. Always take the proper safety measures when hunting from a treestand, including using a quality full-body safety harness.
This essential piece of safety gear can be worn over your hunting clothes or under your top layer. It includes a tether that attaches to a strap secured around the tree. Should you fall from the platform, the tether will keep you from plummeting to the hard ground below.
Not only does a safety harness help protect you from a bad fall, it can also provide some extra psychological security. Knowing that you are tied to the tree allows you to confidently bend forward at the waist when aiming at a downward target. Properly bending at the waist is essential for maintaining proper shooting posture from a tree stand.
Learn to Shoot from the Seat
Skilled archers have mastered shooting from a standing position. However, it may be a major advantage for bowhunters to shoot sitting down. Shooting from a seated position minimizes both movement and noise, both of which can ruin an otherwise perfectly good hunt.
Shooting from sitting can also provide a steady position for aiming. This is one you’ll want to practice before opening day, as it feels altogether different than shooting while standing up. It isn’t hard to master, it is just something you’ll want to be familiar with before you try it in the field in your tree stand.
Maintain Good Posture
Although you will have to make some minor adjustments to your shooting form to accommodate downward shooting angles, from the waist up, little should change in your shooting posture.
Keep the same anchor point and shooting form you use when shooting targets from ground level. However, when shooting from a treestand, you’ll need to bend at the waist. Bending rather than leaning will help you keep the same upper body symmetry you practice when shooting targets at ground level.
Although it can be tempting to adjust the angle of your bow using only your arms, this can totally change your form and shift your anchor point. Instead, fight the urge, rely on your safety harness, and bend at the waist instead when shooting from a tree stand.
Know Your Distance
Knowing the distance to your target is crucial in bowhunting. Misjudging by just a few yards can have catastrophic results, leaving you with nothing more than a fading blood trail.
A good rangefinder can quickly become a bowhunter’s best friend, especially when shooting from a treestand. These handy high-tech gadgets use a laser beam to measure distance to an object. The beam is emitted from the front of the rangefinder and bounces back off a distant target. The device uses the time it takes for the laser beam to return to a sensor located on the front of the rangefinder to calculate the distance to that object.
Modern rangefinders are incredibly accurate, sometimes registering distances down to tenths of a yard. This is great news for bowhunters who can adjust their sights once they know the exact distance to their target. Some rangefinder models even help you compensate for shooting angle, a handy feature when you’re shooting from a treestand.
Adjust Your Aim
Your point of aim will differ when you shoot from a treestand compared to shooting from ground level. Shooting from an elevated position changes the angle of the arrow as it travels through a deer’s body. The shooting angle also affects how an arrow drops over distance. To ensure your arrow strikes vital organs and creates maximum internal damage, you’ll need to adjust your aim.
The exact spot to aim at a deer’s body will vary depending on the height of your treestand and the distance to your target. The key is understanding how the shot angle and gravity affect the arrow trajectory.
As a general rule, when you’re shooting a bow from a tree stand, you should aim slightly lower on the deer’s body than you would if you were standing on the ground. Steeper angles require lower aiming points, so you will need to aim much lower than the “ten ring” on a buck that is close to your treestand.
“Ten ring” is a term often used by bowhunters. It refers to the vital area outlined on the life-size 3 dimensional deer targets often used in competitive archery. When shooting from ground level, a broadside shot to the “ten ring” will send your arrow straight through the heart and lungs, but not when you’re shooting from up above.
Some seasoned bowhunters recommend aiming at a point on the far side of the target, where you would want your arrow to exit the deer’s body. However, for some archers this concept can be confusing and difficult to visualize.
Shooting deer at close range from a treestand can be particularly problematic. Close-up, straight down shots are tempting. Patience is hard to muster when it feels like you’re standing right on top of a big buck.
However, the arrow angle of a straight down shot usually results in a single lung hit. While this is typically a fatal shot, deer injured in only one lung can travel long distances before they succumb to their injuries. Not only does this lower the chances of recovering the animal, it also causes him hours of painful agony, which isn’t the humane ending ethical hunters want for their prey.
Although difficult, it is best to wait for the deer to move to a more desirable position. Chances are that big buck won’t stay under your treestand forever. Eventually, he is going to wander out where you can get a better angle for a better shot and a more ethical kill.
Jumping the String
Sometimes the noise and vibration a bow makes when an arrow is released can cause an animal to duck or crouch reflexively. From this crouching position, a deer is better positioned to leap to safety in the face of danger. This reflex is typically referred to as “jumping the string.”
For bowhunters, jumping the string can have disappointing consequences. It often leads to the arrow flying right over the deer’s back in a clean miss. However, sometimes it can also cause your arrow to hit high, resulting in an injured animal that is difficult to track.
The string jump is another reason to aim lower on a deer than you actually want to hit. That way, if the deer flinches to a crouch when it hears your release, the arrow will still zip straight through the boiler room.
Shooting deer from a treestand with your bow is significantly different than shooting them from the ground. Your elevated position affects your arrow trajectory, requiring you to make some key adjustments to bring down game successfully.
If at all possible, spend some time practicing from an actual treestand before the opening day of the archery season. To make your practice as real as possible, be sure to practice shooting while wearing your hunting and safety gear. This will give you a sense of what specific changes you’ll need to make to shoot more accurately. It will also keep you safe while you hone your bowhunting skills.