As a bowhunter who’s spent countless hours perched in treestands, I’ve come to understand the subtle art and science behind landing the perfect shot from above. The vantage of a treestand offers a strategic edge, cloaking you from the keen eyes of deer, yet it also demands a refined understanding of aiming techniques
When shooting a deer with a bow from a tree stand, you should aim both lower and higher than from the ground. Confusing? Yeah, I know. What this means is that you should aim higher on the deer’s body but lower to account for drop. Don’t worry, if that’s not clear enough, I’ll go into more detail.
But first, here is a quick summary of where to aim:
From a 20-ft high treestand, aim 1.5 inches higher on a deer’s body at 20 yards, 1 inch at 30 yards, and 0.75 inches at 40 yards to account for the downward angle. For arrow drop, at a standard 350 FPS, aim 1.5 inches lower at 20 yards from a treestand, compared to 5.5 inches from the ground.
In this guide, I’m going to share with you the insights and tactics I’ve honed over the years. We’ll explore why aiming higher on a deer’s body is crucial from a treestand and how to expertly adjust for arrow drop, ensuring your hunt is as effective as it is ethical.
Aim Higher on the Deer’s Body
When shooting a deer from a tree stand with a bow, your target is slightly higher than when you’re shooting a deer from the ground. In other words, you want the arrow to enter the deer’s body higher than you would from shooting from the ground.
The reason is simple. When you’re shooting from the ground, the arrow is traveling straight. Therefore, you can just aim for the heart. The arrow will travel straight through the deer, piercing one lung, then the heart, then the other lung.
However, when shooting from a tree stand, the arrow is traveling at a downward angle relative to the deer. If it enters at the same level as the heart, it will move downwards through the deer’s body before reaching the heart, meaning it will likely miss it as well as the other lung.
How Much Higher to Aim on the Deer’s Body
How much higher you should aim requires some instinct on your part as a hunter, but we can make some general estimates. A whitetail deer is about a foot wide with a four-inch heart, meaning the arrow must travel about four inches before reaching the heart. We’ll also assume you’re shooting from a tree stand 20 feet up.
|Line-of-Sight Distance to Deer||Downward Angle||How Much Higher to Aim|
|20 yards||20 degrees||1.5 inches|
|30 yards||13 degrees||1 inch|
|40 yards||10 degrees||0.75 inches|
As you can see, the downward angle is steeper the closer the deer is to you, meaning you need to aim higher on its body.
Aim Lower to Account for Drop
When shooting from ground level, gravity pulls the arrow down a consistent amount over its trajectory, so you have to aim higher to compensate for this. The same is true when you’re shooting downwards, but some of that drop is already accounted for in the downward trajectory, so your aim doesn’t need to compensate as much.
I have a full article on this concept, but take, for example, that when shooting an arrow at 350 fps at a deer 20 yards away, you’d need to account for 5.5 inches of drop from the ground but only 1.5 inches from a tree stand 20 feet high.
Here is a table focusing on a compound bow shooting at 350 feet per second (fps) from a 20 feet high tree stand:
|Distance to Deer (yards)||Height of Treestand (feet)||Arrow Drop from Ground (inches)||Arrow Drop from Treestand (inches)|
Sight in Your Scope for Drop
Since I usually hunt with a recurve bow, I have to reconcile both these factors at once, which is part of the challenge. However, if you’re hunting with a compound bow and using a scope, you can go ahead and sight it in from your tree stand.
Install your tree stand in your backyard, or use your roof, ladder, or other means to elevate yourself to the same height. If you don’t have a backyard, I recommend sighting your bow in before hunting season using a tree on public land.
Let’s Settle the Debate
Whether you should aim higher or lower seems to spark a lot of debate and confusion in the bowhunting community. Hopefully, with this article, I’ve been able to show you why. Bowhunters are often discussing different aspects of aiming and are all right in some way or another.
Remember, you should aim higher on the deer’s body. However, when it comes to compensating for drop, you should aim lower if your scope is not already calibrated for this.
When bowhunting from a treestand, target higher on the deer yet aim lower to offset arrow drop. Height adjustments depend on distance and descent angle—for instance, aim 1.5 inches higher for a deer 20 yards away at a 20-degree angle. With the arrow’s downward trajectory from a treestand, less compensation for drop is needed. For best accuracy, calibrate your scope from a height similar to your stand.
I hope this info is helpful and helps you bag more deer in the future. Thanks for reading!
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.