Being elevated affects the flight of your arrow in one simple way: it has a downward angle. If you shoot across straight ground, the arrow’s trajectory is angled straight. Or, if you know how to aim correctly, the arrow’s trajectory is arced to account for drop.
However, whether you account for drop or not, the arrow will always have a downward trajectory when shooting from a tree stand at any target within 70 yards, more than enough for bowhunting.
Arc Shot vs Downward Shot
When shooting at ground level, the arrow drops enough due to gravity that you have to aim upwards to hit it, even if shooting relatively close to you with a powerful compound bow. For hunting purposes, you never need to do this from a tree stand, which elevates you about 20 feet.
That’s because even if you shot at a perfectly flat angle, the arrow from a recurve bow shooting 200 fps will go 70 yards before dropping to the level of the deer’s killzone, and a compound bow would shoot it even farther. If you aimed upwards, you’d overshoot the animal, and if the animal is closer than 70 yards, you’d overshoot it too.
The ideal range for bowhunting is five to 40 yards, closer to 20 maximum for a traditional bow. In other words, you always have to aim downwards from your tree stand.
If you’re in a tree stand 20 feet high, and you’re holding your bow up another five feet, the downward angles of your shot to the deer’s killzone are pretty easy to figure out based on the deer’s distance.
- 10 yards: 55 degrees
- 20 yards: 25 degrees
- 30 yards: 15 degrees
- 40 yards: 12 degrees
- 50 yards: 10 degrees
Okay, so we know that the arrow’s trajectory will always be downward, but does that mean you don’t have to compensate for arc at all?
Elevated Shooting and Arrow Drop
Being elevated in a tree stand causes arrows to always travel on a downward trajectory, regardless of distance. This affects how hunters must aim, especially in terms of compensating for arrow drop and target distance, to ensure accurate, ethical shots.
Gravity still has the same force on an arrow shot downwards as one shot at ground level. If the arrow is in the air for one second, it will be pulled downward about 16 feet. Period.
However, if you’re already shooting downward, part of this drop is incorporated into the arrow’s trajectory. If you shoot straight down, for instance, all of the drop is incorporated into the trajectory, so you don’t have to compensate for drop at all.
The result is that you have to compensate for drop by raising your aim less the more of a downward angle you’re shooting from.
Understanding the Downward Trajectory
I know what you’re thinking. “Obviously shooting from a tree stand means you have to shoot down. Tell me something I don’t know!” Okay, here’s why noting the downward trajectory is important.
That downward trajectory continues once the arrow enters the deer. It travels through the animal’s body at the same angle.
In other words, if you hit the deer right where it’s heart is, the arrow will keep traveling down before it reaches the heart and pass underneath it. You have to aim slightly higher to account for the downward angle.
Mastering bowhunting from a tree stand requires not just skill and practice, but also a deep understanding of how elevation impacts your arrow’s flight. Remember, each shot you take is more than just aiming and releasing; it’s a calculation of distance, angle, and trajectory, finely tuned by your understanding of these principles.
As you spend time in your tree stand, reflect on the insights shared here, and apply them to each arrow you notch. With knowledge, practice, and respect for the sport and the wildlife, you’ll find that success in bowhunting is as much about the hunt as it is about the harmony between hunter, bow, and nature.
For more, check out How to Bowhunt From a Tree Stand | All You Need to Know.
Christian grew up in the Ozarks where he spent much of his childhood on his grandparents’ homestead learning about guns, hunting, and the great outdoors.
An avid traditional bowhunter, much of his writing covers this and other similar topics, but he also covers just about everything from history and economics to motorcycles.
See more of his work at ChristianMonson.com.