Published: 19 June 2017 
 Last revised: 28 October 2017

Since prehistoric times, hunters have preferred treetops and elevated positions to get better views of their targets. However, one must know how to shoot a bow from a tree stand, as the line of view is completely different. The chances of erratic shots creep in, and you may be using the wrong technique. There are correct ways and wrong ways of shooting a bow from the top of a tree.

Ideal shooting positions from a height

Hunters usually find themselves shooting slightly lower than where they had actually intended. A killing shot will always penetrate both lungs of the game. The shooting range will change; the hunter has to adapt and get into an ideal shooting position. These positions will vary depending on the height of the tree stand.

If your rifle was calibrated for horizontal targets, it is best to use the Rifleman’s Rule. Set the equivalent horizontal range based on the calibrated reading for the slant range (Rs) aligned for a particular inclined angle. In other words, the adjustment is made to the trajectory of the arrow to accommodate for the slant range.

The body has to make sufficient adjustments around the waist. Bend to aim the arrow at the required angle. It is important to practice your shooting skills from different heights. First target a dummy soft target from a position set up on the tree stand. Vary the height of the tree stand and then accordingly target distance.

For example, you may begin by taking a shot at the target at ground level from a distance of around 20’. The idea is to get used to the tree stand, your safety harness and attachments, your body positions, and the speed at which you shoot the bow. Try different standing and sitting positions from the same tree stand. Though this target does not move, assume it’s a moving target before your release the arrow.

Give yourself very little time to decide on the speed and angle at which you release the arrow. Imagine the deer arriving in your direction at a slow pace. Allow the deer to pass through sideways so you have a clear shot at both lungs.

Practice tree-top hunting positions

Check your hunting equipment including the bow and arrows before you leave for the hunt. Adopt a horizontal position before you take aim. Arch backwards with the arrow fully stretched within the bow. Move your body in line with the stretched arrow.

Make necessary adjustments to your height. Use your safety harness and tether to position yourself at a convenient position. You may have one good shot at the most; missing out on both lungs may allow the deer to scamper away. Following a wounded deer, especially in fading light, will be a difficult task. It is best to try different shooting positions from the stand and from an upright position within your safety harness for the most accurate shot.

Take into account wind and weather conditions, especially if you are using a hang-on stand. You may require steps or climbing sticks if you need to find a quick shooting position that can be easily dismantled later.

At ground level, you want to aim behind the shoulder of the deer to get through both lungs. As you take this shot from a tree stand, the shot angle is going to change. If the deer is at a distance, the shooting angle many not vary too much. As the deer comes in, your shooting angle gets steeper. Try shooting at a dummy from a tree stand at a height of 15’ and 25; up the tree. Place the target at 10, 20, and 30 yards away from the tree, so you can practice the different angles for good kill shots.

The first shot is from 15’ up in the tree stand at a target that is 10 yards away. Take a moment or two to think about how you would take the shot. The goal is to penetrate both lungs with one arrow. Your arrow will fly flat and pass through the deer’s lungs at ground level. You cannot get a horizontal view of the deer from the top. In this case, you aim higher up on the deer’s body to penetrate both lungs.

If you were trying to hit the deer from your stand, you wouldn’t penetrate the same spot from ground level; the arrow will probably catch one lung. Keep your shot angle in mind as you come across a different tree shot elevation and shot distance.

  • Try taking a shot from 15’ above ground level at the dummy set 20 yards away
  • Move on to 15’ above ground level at a prey that is 30 yards away. For this shot, move the tree stand up to 25’
  • Now try 25’ up the tree at the dummy placed 25 yards away. Keep changing the height at which you place yourself for the shot and distance of the target.

Practice until you get the shot elevation right. Make sure you measure these killing shots. Take notes of adjustment you made to penetrate both lungs.

At a distance of 10 yards and a height of 25’, the likelihood of getting a killing shot for both lungs is almost impossible. The incline is too steep and the arrow is likely to penetrate just one lung. You need to allow the deer to move away until it is 15’ to 20’ away, and then take the shot from the same height. This way the incline is reduced and the arrow penetrates both lungs.

At a distance of 20 yards and 15’ up, the incline is just right to penetrate both lungs. The penetration angle is almost the same when you shoot from a distance of 20 yards and a height of 25’. The angle may differ, but the incline is now sufficient to penetrate both lungs. Notice that your arrow enters the target at almost the same spot.

From 30 yards away, the arrow is almost parallel to the ground with just a slight angle. In this case, the power at which you release the arrow is more important.


Now that you know how to shoot a bow from a tree stand, practice these techniques to succeed in all your hunting trips.

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