Over him? Under him? Not sure where the arrow went?
Maybe you’ve been there, or perhaps this will be your first season 18-feet up a tree waiting on a cagey whitetail to wander past your stand. Regardless, it’s important to know that shooting from an elevated perch is much different than shooting on flat ground. While buck fever and the like lead to errant arrows, many bowhunters miss the mark simply because they didn’t prepare adequately to make a shot from an elevated perch. The to-come tips will help prevent this common mishap.
The first time I climbed into a treestand, I was terrified. My knees trembled, and my heart thundered in my chest. I was scared to stand — to move — to breathe. I remember inching around in my seat and hugging the trunk of the tree with both arms so I could stand. Reaching for my bow was a nightmare, and when I actually tried to draw, I became so uncomfortable that I had to climb down. Had a buck walked by — even within slam-dunk bow range — it would have been a disaster.
You have to get comfortable in a tree if you’re going to hunt from one. If this season marks your maiden treestand voyage, I highly recommend a stand with a sizeable platform and a large, comfortable seat. You don’t want to feel confined and claustrophobic in the tree. Also, you will want to hang your stand and spend time in it before you actually hunt from it. I believe this is an area a lot of bowhunters overlook. So much of bowhunting comes down to confidence, and if you’re uncomfortable and unfamiliar with your stand, confidence goes out the window.
Use a tree in your backyard, or take a walk in the woods and practice hanging your stand. Once you get the stand hung, spend some time getting a feel for being off the ground. Sit for a while before your stand, and then get up and move around the platform. Remember, you should be connected to a lifeline via the harness on your safety vest. Stand and sit. Stand and sit. Practice pulling your bow up with a pull rope and letting it down. Climb out of your stand and then climb back in. The more time you spend doing the above-mentioned, the more comfortable you will get.
Of course, being comfortable in a stand and executing a solid bow shot from one are two different things. Once you’ve gotten comfortable hanging 18-feet above the ground on an aluminum platform, tote a target with you to the woods or situate one accordingly in your yard. I recommend starting with the target at 15 yards. Get in your normal stance on the platform, draw your bow, bend at the waist and settle your pin. Then, let your bow down. Just like blind bale shooting, it helps greatly the first few times you draw your bow from a treestand not to have the thought of actually triggering an arrow in the back of your mind. You need to get comfortable getting into your stance, drawing your bow, bending at the hips, and letting your pin settle on a spot. Come to full draw just like you would on flat ground—your arrow pointing harmlessly into the woods. Then, bend at the waist and acquire your target. The more you do this; the more natural the feeling will become.
Now you’re ready to sling some carbon. Go through the same process, only this time, with your pin floating on the spot you want to hit, let your release fire your bow. Execute a normal follow-through, and your arrow will be right where you want it. I advise against just shooting a few arrows and calling it good. Invest some time in the process. Move the target to various distances, and if possible, shoot the target at various angles. I like to tote a 3-D target along and shoot quartering-away and slightly quartering-toward angles. Practice slipping arrows through tight spaces in the trees and brush. The more arrows you shoot, the more proficient and confident you will become. Plus, by doing this, you’re spending more time in a tree — getting more comfortable — preparing adequately for the season. Not to mention, you’re boosting safety. The more familiar you get with your lifeline and sliding a prusik knot up the line, the better. You develop a routine for this as well as getting into and out of your stand.
A Few More Tips
It may be hot outside, but that will likely change come November. You need to practice shooting wearing the same clothing you’ll be using come fall. A bulky jacket or even a face mask can make things feel a little weird.
Another important tip is to consider your bow poundage. Sitting for long hours in the cold can take its toll on muscles. I know of several bowhunters who have been unable to pull their bow back due to this. Nobody knows your body the way you do, so be sure to adjust accordingly. Remember, shots from a treestand are typically under 40 yards. Two years ago, my wife sent an Easton through the lungs of a Sooner State buck at a distance of 34 yards. The arrow passed completely through the buck and stuck in the ground. A good test to see if you’re pulling the appropriate poundage is to hold your bow straight out in front of you and pull it back in one clean, fluid motion. No tilting the riser up or down — just bringing the string straight back. If you can’t do that, the poundage your shooting may be a bit much for your fall rut hunt.