By: Cindy Lavender
Understanding the trajectory of your arrow flight will greatly reduce your misses or bad shots in bowhunting. How much do you understand about the trajectory of your arrow? You know that the arrow you shoot travels in an arc. This arc is created by the slow speed in which it travels. (Yes, 300fps is pretty slow compared to a bullet shot from a rifle, which is about 10 times that speed (3000fps)). The slower your arrow (the projectile) travels, the more it will drop over the course of its flight.
When you shoot at a target, your sight references (the pins on your sight) have to be adjusted to compensate for this drop in order to reach its intended target. In other words, the slower your arrow travels, the higher you have to aim your bow so that the arrow has enough height to drop right into the bullseye. It’s hard to imagine that you are actually aiming the bow a little higher, because you are looking through a peep sight at the sight pins.
As a bowhunter, you need to understand that the speed of your arrow is directly related to how much arc is in your trajectory. If you practice visualizing your arrow’s trajectory, you will be able to adjust your sights to avoid hitting branches when you shoot at a deer. Learning your arrow’s trajectory will also help you shoot better from sharp-angled tree stand shots and uphill or downhill shots.
When you look through your peep sight, through your sight pin, at the spot that you want the arrow to impact, this “line of sight” is well above the position of your arrow at the beginning of its flight path.
Bowhunters typically assume that because they don’t see that branch in front of the sight pin, that they have a clear shot to the deer’s body. Not always the case. The branch is not in your line of sight, but it is in front of the arrow’s flight path. The arrow, as it sits on your arrow rest, begins its flight path approximately 4-to-6 inches below your line of sight when it is loosed from your bowstring.
When you shoot, the arrow begins at a position lower than your line of sight, then, travels upward on the arc at the beginning of the flight path before it curves back down and drops as it loses speed. If you don’t aim higher or change your aim to bring that arrow up and away from the branch, you will most likely hit it, because it is directly in front of the arrow, even if it’s not in your line of sight.
Now you may be thinking, “What the ????” In most modern sights, you have 3 to 7 pins. For most setups, your top pin is typically adjusted to hit a target at 20 yards. The next (second) pin is adjusted for a target at a 30 yard distance. The rest of the pins are set at 40, 50, and 60 yards, respectively.
Keep in mind, when you shoot at a deer at 30 yards away, you would place your 30 yard pin on the deer. If your 20 yard pin is lined up with a tree branch that is 20 yards away, your arrow will hit that branch and deflect!
Practicing your shots before bow season is more than just getting your pins sighted in. If you spend a little more time learning the flight path of your arrow, you will be able to determine whether you need to readjust your aim to avoid striking a tree branch and missing the buck of a lifetime.
When shooting from the height of a tree stand, you’re shooting on an angle. There is a mathematical calculation that compensates for up or down angle shots, but seriously, trying to figure this out is not very practical in the field. The best method for making successful tree stand shots is to practice shooting from the tree stand and the height at which you will be hunting. Get up in your climber or ladder stand with a 3D deer target, and shoot until you understand where you need to hold (how much higher or lower) for each distance that a deer might be shot at.
Practice at 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 yards from your tree stand. The time spent will make you a better bowhunter. And isn’t it just plain fun to just shoot your bow? Practice with the headgear and clothing that you intend to hunt with, before you find out that your anchor point has changed with the camouflage headcover on. A different anchor point will change your shot. Remember, anything at all that you change on your bow may change the flight of your arrow. Sometimes it won’t at all, but sometimes the change is more drastic than you realize. How else will you know unless you make these practice shots?
If more bowhunters realized the importance and commitment to this type of practice before the hunting season starts, the number of missed shots and wounded deer each year would decrease greatly.