A nice 8 point out at 35 yards. You’re up in your tree stand. It’s a clear shot. Perfectly broadside. You pull the trigger on your crossbow and watch, painfully, as the arrow flies mere inches over the buck’s back. He was at 35 yards. I shot for 35, how could I have shot high? Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there.
It’s actually a fairly easy mistake to make from a tree stand if you’re not used to shooting from elevated positions. Gravity has a much greater effect on an arrow than some might think. A 30 yard shot from the ground might actually mean you have to shoot for 20 yards when up in a tree stand, depending on the shot angle.
When shooting on a level surface like your back yard or a shooting range, the arrow feels the full effect of gravity as it travels down range. This produces a nice, even arch down range to the target. But in a tree stand shooting at a downward angle, you are now shooting WITH the force of gravity, which means the arrow will not feel the full effect of gravity, effectively changing the typical arch that arrow would otherwise have as it travels to its intended target.
If gravity doesn’t pull as hard on your crossbow arrow initially, then the arrow doesn’t drop and the arc is not as steep as it would have been on flat ground. This is the reason you have to account for shot angle when up in a tree stand, and is why that 30 yard shot might easily be accomplished using your 20-yard pin or dot.
There are range finders out there with levels built in to compensate for such angles, but they can be pricy. The best way to combat this problem is to practice shooting your crossbow from an elevated position. Horton Crossbow Innovations has a great blog article about turning your target practice to trophy taking. Essentially, you simply need to practice like you will be hunting. If you hunt from a tree stand, practice from an elevated position. If you will hunt from a ground blind, pop that baby up and shoot out of it when you practice. In the end, you will be a far more successful hunter and you’ll have even more memories to share.