By Cole Daniels
The leaves had just blown off most of the trees a few days earlier. The view from my tree stand was significantly different from what I looked at the last time I sat here. My water bottle was just returned to my bag when I saw movement through the trees. The freshly fallen leaves didn’t crunch but crackled as a beefy eight pointer slowly made his way to my stand. I lifted my bow off it’s hook and waited for him to get closer. Right before he entered my shooting lane I pulled back to full draw. A few steps later I pulled the release and sent my arrow on the way to destiny. The arrow seemed to be flying in slow motion as I watched it through my sight. The fletchings tickled the hair on this buck’s back and he sprinted off to safety. It was my first time launching an arrow from a tree stand and my inexperience showed.
Ethical hunters are always practicing their craft. Many of us spend hours at the archery range in an effort to feel 100% confident in our shots. Practice is important. But how effective is your practice routine? Shooting at the range improves muscle memory. But shooting your bow outside, in the elements, is critical for hunting success. To learn where you should aim in a tree stand situation, shoot from an elevated platform or even a tree stand. A friend of mine has a deck that stands about 18 feet above his backyard. It is a ton of fun shooting off his deck and it has really helped my shooting.
Aiming low is common advice for novice tree stand hunters. In many cases, it is sound advice. Gravity pulls an arrow, and anything else, to the ground as it flies through the air. The effect is diminished when shooting at a downward angle because the trajectory of the shot is already moving downward. Aiming low compensates for this. However, a faster shooting bow will be affected less by gravity. I have found that my bow shoots pretty much the same at most common hunting angles. Again, practice is going to prove what is right in your situation.
Range finders have changed the game when it comes to hunting. Selecting the proper pin is no longer guesswork. Archers should know how far a target or game species is before releasing an arrow. You should always use the horizontal distance to the target for pin selection. Let’s say you are 20 feet off the ground and a deer standing 30 yards away from the base of the tree. You should still use the 30 yard pin even if the actual shooting distance is further. Most new range finders will automatically compensate for the shooting angle.
Angles can also affect shooting form. It is vital to keep your form consistent no matter what angle the shot is taken from. Practice bending at the hip when taking shots from a tree stand. This will prevent bow torque. Most people don’t realize how much an arrow can be off from the slightest amount of bow torque. Bending at the hip will keep your form consistent and arrows hitting true.
Shooting from a tree stand sounds more difficult than it is. Hunters often out think themselves by over adjusting. Get in plenty of preseason repetitions and get cozy with your rangefinder to truly master the art of tree stand archery.