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Steep Angle Shooting: 2 Things to Consider

If you've struggled with steep angle shooting, or will be going on a hunt that requires it, here are 2 things to consider to improve your accuracy.

I remember it like it was last night. It was my first time in a tree stand hunting whitetails and I was with some good family friends. I had been bow hunting for a few years, but all of my hunting had either been out of a ground blind or spot and stalk style. My friends had been generous enough to invite me along to hunt their property, and we were on a mission to put some doe meat in the freezer. We showed up plenty early and I was placed in a stand about 15 feet up a tall cedar tree growing on the edge of an alfalfa field. I could tell this was going to be a good night. As time slipped by the shadows lengthened and primetime was upon us. With the sun still hanging above the horizon deer began their stealthy approach from a nearby bedding area. To this day I am still impressed with the almost ghostlike movements of whitetail at dusk. Several deer filtered into the field, but too far for a shot. Soon enough though I had a pair of dry does swing by my stand. The yardage was about 15 yards and moving broadside. With the anticipation building I drew back and found my anchor point. I settled pin where normally would on a 15 yard shot and released my arrow. The deer bounded away leaving my arrow embedded harmlessly in the dirt. A clean miss. The culprit for this miss; a steep angle. I've since gotten much better at steep angle shooting, but had to practice after missing that first tree stand shot. Here are 2 things I've learned that you can use to improve your steep angle shooting in no time.

Bend at the Waist

The first piece of advice for someone looking to improve their steep angle shooting ability is to bend at the waist. This starts by drawing the bow flat, as if you were shooting at your backyard target on flat ground. Drawing the bow in this manner will get you into a familiar position and have you properly setup for the shot. Next you must begin to adjust the angle either up or down to find your target. To do this however don't just move your arms. Since you are in proper form, make your waist the pivot point for your movement. Doing this will maintain your proper form throughout the shot. Here is a good video put out by Levi Morgan showing the basics of the idea.

Distance Compensation

Learning to bend at the waist is easy, but learning how to compensate distance when steep angle shooting takes time. The general rule of thumb when shooting extreme angles, such as my treestand shot, is to decrease the shot distance and aim shorter than the shot would be on flat ground. The steeper the shot, the more you compensate. Both uphill and downhill shots require the same compensation. In reality what you are doing is shooting the true horizontal distance of the shot, not the distance to the target. The image below shows the basic idea. In the top situation the circle is 40 yards away (green line) from the square and is also 40 yards away in true horizontal distance (black line). Obviously in this scenario you put the 40 yard pin in the bull and go to work. In the second scenario however the actual distance between the circle and the square is 45 yards (green line), but the horizontal distance is still at 40 yards (black line). If you were shooting this shot you would still use your 40 yard pin since your arrow will drop at the same rate. If you need to think of it using extreme examples, imagine if you were standing on top of a 100 yard tall sheer face cliff. Below you 100 yards and 10 yards away from the foot of the cliff is your target. Would you use your 100 yard pin or would you use your 10 yard pin? [caption id="attachment_6457" align="aligncenter" width="300"]The top diagram shows a shot on flat ground. The bottom image shows the actual horizontal distance of an angled shot. The top diagram shows a shot on flat ground. The bottom image shows the actual horizontal distance of an angled shot.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6458" align="alignright" width="123"]Chuck Adams Laser Rangefinder Chuck Adams Laser Rangefinder[/caption] Learning this compensation method takes time and practice. There are rangefinders on the market, such as the Chuck Adams Bowhunter Rangefinder, that automatically calculate the "shoot" distance for you. These can be an invaluable tool for someone not accustomed to steep angle shooting in the mountains or other rugged ground. If you are planning on taking an adventure hunt in a location where steep angles will be prevalent, but can't practice these shots, looking into purchasing this type of rangefinder might be a good option. Had I been better versed in steep angle shooting methods I would have nailed that dry doe several years ago. Although she managed to get away scott free, I have learned enough to manage to put some deer meat in the freezer since then. Learning to bend at the waist and compensate for the shot distance has really improved my shooting. Incorporate these two tips into your own shooting routine if you have been having trouble with these kinds of shots. You'll be glad you did.

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