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Shooting from elevated stands - tips and techniques for hunters afield.

Shooting From Elevated Stands - Tips and Techniques for Hunters Afield

The vast majority of bowhunters wait for game in tree stands. This can be a highly effective technique, especially on predictable, forest-dwelling animals like whitetail deer. When tree-stand bowhunting became widely legal and popular in the late 1960s, success rates on deer zoomed upward dramatically. Archers perfected their new-found shooting skills from aloft, and state-by-state kill percentages rose even higher during the following decade.

Shooting a bow from a stand 15 to 30 feet above the ground is no easy task. As an archery dealer, you should stock helpful tree-stand shooting aids and be well versed in the art of downward shooting. Many archers are proficient across level ground on a backyard target or commercial range, but relatively few use proper gear and correct technique to hit targets below.

For best results on stand, a bowhunter needs a sturdy, solid-mounting tree platform. All too many stands are shaky, if not downright unstable, ruining an archer's confidence and disrupting a solid aiming stance.

Provided the stands you sell are stable pin-mount or chain-on models, the next key shooting item is a strong, comfortably wide tree-stand safety belt. Such a belt circles firmly around the tree and solidly above your waist. This lets you lean over the edge of your stand and bend at the beltline as you aim and shoot. One key to consistently accurate downward shooting is retaining standard upper-body form - something you cannot do unless you lean into a safety belt and do all your bending in a midriff region.

Shooting downward can present unexpected problems. For one thing, tree limbs around a platform can bump your bow and impede aiming unless these are judiciously trimmed ahead of time. A folding limb saw or compact thumbring saw is standard gear with serious tree-stand archers. A hatchet works as well for cutting away bow-snagging foliage, but creates excess game-spooking noise that nearby animals will remember for weeks. Another problem tree-stand bowhunters commonly face is collision between the bow and the stand itself. The best bows for tree stands measure less than 44 inches in overall length - something to remember as you peddle your wares.

The largest single problem tree-stand hunters grapple with is learning how to compensate for downward arrow flight. An arrow always hits higher than normal on downward shots because gravity has less effect on its trajectory. This means you must aim lower than normal for killing hits. Hitting much lower depends on several factors, including the speed of your arrow, the angle of your shot, and the distance to your target. As a general rule, you should aim for the horizontal distance to an animal. In other words, a deer standing ten yards from the base of your tree-stand tree requires a ten-yard shot - even if actual shooting range is 15 yards. Some bowhunters pace off level distances around a stand to predetermine shooting yardages from the base of their trees.

Since tramping near a stand tends to frighten approaching game with lingering human odor, it makes more sense to use a top-quality rangefinder like the Ranging Model 50/2 to calculate distances from the tree trunk below your stand to nearby landmarks. If you jot down these ranges on a notepad, you can commit them to memory after you climb aloft.

For close-range shooting from a tree, so-called pendulum bowsights work tolerably well. Saunders, Browning, and others sell such sights. As you increase your downward shooting angle, the aiming pin on such a sight rotates farther and farther upward to compensate for flattening arrow trajectory. Most pendulum sights must be adjusted for the precise height of your tree stand. Otherwise, sight placement is apt to be off. Correctly used, pendulum tree sights can be deadly out to 25 or 30 yards. Beyond these distances, such sights do not work well at all. Pendulum sights also tend to be more fragile than fixed sights - something that disturbs some serious bowhunters.

It is presently a fad in a few bowhunting circles to recommend very low tree stands. The theory goes that low stands minimize the need for downward aiming compensation. This certainly is true. However, the primary value of an elevated stand is placing you well above an animal's line of sight and smell. This advantage is severely compromised if you take a stand only 8 or 10 feet above terra firma. My own feeling is that dedicated bowhunters should take higher stands and practice downward shooting until they perfect this essential skill. What good does a low stand do if nearby deer are spooked away and never let you shoot at all?

In summary, you should remember several things when advising customers and selling them tree-stand shooting products. First, elevated stands are superior in many situations. Second, accurate shooting from aloft requires a solid platform and a safety belt that lets you bend sharply at the waist. Third, shooting is sometimes impeded unless you trim away nearby limbs and use a relatively short hunting bow. Finally, downward shooting requires regular practice plus the help of a rangefinder and/or pendulum bowsight. Like every bowhunting skill, shooting from above can be perfected with practice and proper equipment.

PHOTO : Limbs near your stand can impede free movement of bow and arrow. A compact thumbring saw allows quiet, easy pruning.

PHOTO : Shooting sharply downward requires a tree-stand safety belt. Such a belt lets you bend at the waist to retain correct upper-body form.

PHOTO : A pendulum bowsight like this model from Browning helps compensate for variable downward shooting angles.
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Title Annotation:hunting with bow and arrow
Author:Adams, Chuck
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Dec 1, 1989
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