“These four tips are what I recommend practicing before stepping foot on the climbing sticks or mountain this fall” – Chris Bee
Every year when August rolls around, it seems I still don’t have anything ready on my bow for the season less than a month away. For myself, I have no arrows, no sight tape, a semi-tuned bow and no broad heads to my name. So, as I write this article, I feel a bit hypocritical. But, with that said, I am sure more than half of you are in the same boat as I am.
As we navigate the final month before season, it is all hands-on deck to wrap up whitetail chores, plant fall plots, start packing/supply lists for western hunts and get the Mathews dialed. For myself, I will need to cut & fletch arrows, tune my bow, get a sight tape, double check broad heads and keep everything dialed until end of season. There seems to be no limit on the amount of obsession and detail you can put towards your equipment. Spine testing arrows, paper tune, walk back tune, sorting arrow & broadhead weights, the list goes on and on. In the end, the most important thing that matters is your own confidence in your equipment, no matter how advanced your preparation is. And I truly believe the most efficient way to gain that confidence is done on the practice range.
1: Angles & 3rd Axis
If you are hunting from a tree stand or on a mountain, there is no doubt you are going to have to shoot at a multitude of angles. The first priority is to make sure you understand whenever shooting up, or down, you subtract yardage. An arrow’s path is impacted from gravity the most on level ground. When shooting both upward and downward angles, gravity has more effect on velocity and the arrow flies in a straighter path. For example, shooting at 50 yards line of sight at a 30-degree downward angle, the actual yardage you would put your pin at is roughly 43 yards. You could use math: cosine of the angle you are shooting at, multiplied by the range of your target, otherwise the much simpler solution would be to get a range finder that automatically does it for you.
“An arrow’s path is impacted from gravity the most on level ground. When shooting both upward and downward angles, gravity has more effect on velocity and the arrow flies in a straighter path.”
For tree stand hunters, if you were hunting at 20 feet shooting 20-25 yards, you would only subtract about one yard. Overall that will not cause dramatic impact changes. But, in the instance of having a tree stand on a riverbank or steep hill, sometimes we are dealing with steep shots 30-40 feet above deer and that can cause more drastic impact changes.
Next, it is important to have your sight’s 2nd and 3rd axis properly setup. When shooting on flat ground or angles, canting your bow one way or another can cause left/right impact changes. Properly aligning your 2nd axis on your sight with your bow will ensure your bow is upright on level ground. Aligning your 3rd axis ensures your bow is upright while shooting at extreme angles. It is possible for your 2nd axis to be correct and your 3rd axis to be off, which can be frustrating and difficult to diagnose that your sight is off without proper equipment. There are many levels and devises to use, most of them work well. My technique is to use a Brite Site 3rd axis leveler to adjust the sight off of the bow, then use a plump bob with the Hamksea 3rd axis level to double check my bubble at full draw. You can find a more in-depth look on how to do this here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1np-RlYatI
2: Shooting Positions
Going back to gaining confidence by practice, the best way to practice like you play is to go hang a stand/saddle and practice for several days until it feels as normal as shooting on flat ground. The same goes for the western hunter, find a spot where you can get some crazy angles and practice. I have seen people even use a block target attached to a rope and pulley hoisting it up 50 feet in a tree to practice angles. Another great way to get realistic practice in is to visit your local 3d course or Total Archery Challenge. At the very least, place a small target 2 steps away on the ground and practice aiming at an extreme downward angle. When shooting from different positions, different angles and with different clothing on, it is vital to keep your shooting form in check. Things can get awkward and uncomfortable when shooting in different positions, which is why it’s vital to work the kinks out before season and not for the first time on a buck. The more practice the better.
“Another great way to get realistic practice in is to visit your local 3d course or Total Archery Challenge.”
3: Shoot Broadheads
This tip may be over-used, but it is extremely vital to being successful in the woods. Your arrows WILL shoot different to some magnitude while using broadheads. It is easy to get caught up in “field point accuracy” marketing and think you can pull them out of the package and sling them downrange for the first time in the woods. Any change, big or small on your equipment, you need to check your broadheads. Especially if you are switching from broadhead to broadhead, they all fly a little different.
From a tuning standpoint, there are dozens of reasons for improper broadhead flight or variation from field point impact. If there was a rabbit hole I would recommend going down to learn more about, it would be broadhead tuning. I would recommend using the resources and knowledge online, along with visiting your local Mathews dealer to assist in tuning.
Here are two video resources for broadhead tuning:
4: Pin Gapping
Shooting either a multi pin sight or single pin sight, there are going to be instances when knowing how to “pin gap” can come in handy in hunting situations. Pin gapping is essentially knowing what distance and where your arrow is going to hit aiming between your pins, down your single pin post, or even using your bubble. Sometimes things happen fast and furious in the woods and we don’t have time to range and move your sight. The multi pin shooter should be relatively familiar with this technique, if your target is at 35 and you only have a 30 & 40 pin, you would find the middle of the two pins to aim and “gap” shoot. It gets a little hairy when using a single pin. I am a big fan of using a single pin with an indicator down the post giving you roughly a 10-yard extension to your pin. Many sight manufacturers also have a double pin indicator on the sight tape, so you know what both pin’s yardages are. When I am shooting a scope that does not have a double pin, I use a silver sharpie or paint pen to make a small mark on my pin post for an indicator. I will then practice from 20-100 yards aiming with the main pin indicator and even the bubble to know where arrows will hit at all of my distances. I will work on practicing like I play and with the most unusual yardages so I don’t get thrown off by a curve ball in the woods.
“Sometimes things happen fast and furious in the woods and we don’t have time to range and move your sight.”