Archery deer-hunting pointer: Practice shooting from tree stand rather than from ground level

We’ve heard it a thousand times, but it’s true – time really does fly like a launched arrow.

I spent a good portion of the Labor Day weekend with my husband prepping for bow season, which will kick off in only a few weeks. We’re in full-blown hyper focus as we prepare for what we hope are good things to come.

Other than making sure tree stands are safe, the most vital element by far is making sure bows are sighted in and arrow groupings are tightly-patterned and consistent. In my opinion, practice shouldn’t stop because the season starts. It takes virtually no time at all to sling a dozen arrows, and the reward comes in the form of a confident hunter with the ability to execute an ethical shot.

Something I’ve always wanted to try, but for some reason never have, is to practice shooting my bow from a tree stand. Shooting from a stand is a completely different ball game than it is at ground level. Probably one of the most important things to understand and remember is that when a deer steps into your shooting lane, and you’re half-blinded by adrenaline, if the need to make an adjustment after you’ve drawn your bow arises, always bend at the waist rather than drop your arms to adjust.

It’s a harder notion to acclimate to than one might think.

So, with my Hoyt, harness, practice arrows, a 5-gallon bucket to haul the arrows up and down, and my husband to act as a gopher, we headed out to one of our stands. You know, it’s funny, and in the same breath disconcerting, how different it was to draw my bow and shoot at a block target from 15 feet off the ground as opposed to shooting a deer in a hunting situation.

When you’ve got a deer in bow range, you forget you’re off the ground and neglect to consider the possibility of losing your footing. And even if you’re wearing a safety harness, any type of fall will undoubtedly send searing pain through your body. The awareness that one slight misstep could produce a very different outcome than intended was all too real.

In fact, I shook like a leaf, and my first few attempts to draw my bow were unsuccessful. It probably didn’t help that the stand I chose was one with a smaller platform than others we have. Finally, after sitting for a bit and forcing myself to calm down, I stood and shot four arrows that hit exactly where I was aiming. After smacking eight more field points into the target, I called it a day.

I’m not only glad but relieved that I made it a point to practice from a stand. I plan on doing this a few more times before bow season arrives – it afforded me a confidence that practicing from the ground couldn’t. Having the time to set up for the shot, which isn’t usually the case when the target has four legs and is alive, offered an entirely new perspective and experience. Such would be beneficial to any bowhunter, whether you’re a veteran hunter or a newbie.

However, a word of advice: It’s definitely worth making sure you have an “arrow-retrieving-gopher” and some type of receptacle to hoist the arrows up to the stand, like I did. It’s not only safer than constantly climbing up and down a tree, but it also saves energy that is much better used to practicing making that perfect shot.

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