Seven tips on getting a deadlier treestand bow

Posted on April 6, 2011

By Joe Bell

Precision shooting isn’t just a western bowhunting thing. It applies to whitetail hunting, too, only the circumstances call for slightly different medicine. Nonetheless, to come out on top, you want the most accurate, most forgiving, and most powerful rig you can shoot.

After years of hunting out of treestands and pursuing whitetail bucks in a variety of settings, these are the points I place the most value on when setting up a whitetail bow.

If you’re feeling less than 100-percent confident with your current setup, I’d at least give these suggestions some thought and make the necessary adjustments when the time is right.

1) Sweeten the Draw

Shooting off a platform means bending at the waist and forcing your upper body to stay relatively straight so you can maintain proper shooting form. This can be difficult to do without a lot of practice. However, even with regular practice and know-how shooting accuracy will still suffer if you shoot the wrong draw length.

To make sure your draw length is set correctly, have someone take pictures of you while you’re at full draw and aiming at a target on level ground. Then analyze the position of the draw-arm elbow from the side and from the back

The elbow should be inline or slightly above the arrow from the side and inline with the bowstring and arrow when looking from the back (not to one side or the other).

If the elbow is below the arrow or inward, as in toward your neck, when looking from the rear, then the draw length is too long. If the elbow is excessively high and away from your neck, then it’s too short.

For tree-stand hunting, I prefer to err on the side of a bit too short rather than a hair too long. This arrangement has proven best since it improves shooting form when bending at the waist and provides easier, more consistent shooting.

Also, proper draw weight is crucial. Most of today’s bows draw pretty harshly as cams have become more aggressive and faster. However, if you can’t draw your bow back liquid-smooth-like, then you could be in big trouble when a big buck walks into view, especially when the juices are flowing and you need get to full draw promptly without being detected.

I use this test to establish proper draw weight. I sit in a chair, while placing the bow straight out in front of me between both legs. Then I draw the bow straight back. If I can’t draw the bow smoothly from this position, then I crank it down until I can.

Using a bow with an attached quiver can be cumbersome to handle in a tree, especially when resting the bow across your lap while you sit. Also, the "wad" of bright fletching can also catch the eyes of a close-range deer when you move the bow to get to full draw.

 

2) Improve Your Aim

Use a basic aiming system. This will allow you to shoot fast and effectively – something that seems required when bucks are in full rut mode.

The key here is centering the peep and sight system all within a couple seconds, while you swing into the deer’s vital zone. This way you can promptly settle the pin and squeeze through the shot before the buck passes through your shooting lanes.

To do this, you must have a clutter-free sight window, a fairly large peep sight, and super-bright aiming pins.

For whitetail hunting, you don’t need a lot of aiming pins, unless you plan on taking longer shots over fields. For best results, choose a three-pin setup. This will give you plenty of range options while lessening the “pin clutter” effect. I prefer to set all my pins in 10-yard increments (20, 30, 40 yards, etc.) but experiment with other setups such as (15, 25 and 40-yard pins) to see what works best for you and your arrow speed.

I prefer a 3/16-inch-diameter peep for all-around whitetail hunting. I shoot by centering the pin in the peep. This method seems to offer plenty of precision and light-gathering ability. If you center the sight guard in the peep, you may want to consider a 1/4-inch size peep, which will be even better for optimizing performance in low light and allow you to clearly see the sight guard.

A solid, non-vibrating QD-type quiver allows for dual-purpose use. A design that hugs the bow improves accuracy when shooting with the quiver on. It also makes the bow easier and more enjoyable to carry.

Fiber-optic pins sizes of around .029-inch are ideal – small enough for serious precision, yet large enough for fast, easy sight acquisition. Bow sights that feature “wrap-around or feeding” fiber optics are the best since they provide maximum brightness. Good sights with this feature include the Tru-Glo Site-Brite, Fuse, G5 Rock, Extreme Challenger, and similar models.

 

Another thing to note is the bubble level on your sight. Some models feature small bubbles, which may be hard to “center up” in low light. For this reason, search out models with larger bubbles, which are easier to see and will allow you to get “centered up” in a matter of seconds.

3) Drop the Quiver

Whether you hang your bow or sit with it in your lap, a bow without a quiver attached is more streamlined, better balanced, and overall easier to handle when you are up in a tree.

Quick-detach (QD) bow quivers make for the perfect whitetail-hunting system. These quivers make arrow transport ultra easy, since the arrows are attached to the bow in one confined unit, so you can carry extra gear in your other hand as necessary. But then you can quickly detach the quiver when you’re up in the stand and all buckled in, making the bow easier to maneuver around and hold on your lap.

However, don’t just buy any QD-type quiver. Buy a dual-purpose model that is rugged and quiet enough to shoot with while it’s mounted to the bow. This type of quiver will also mount pretty tight to the riser, making the bow feel better balanced and more enjoyable to carry. The reason for this is simple: you never know when you might have to sneak up on a deer in the woods and shoot with the quiver on, or even shoot at a deer while reeling your bow back up the tree as it surprises you just as you were about to leave the stand.

There are many great QD-type quivers on the market, but I’m very impressed with the Tight Spot quiver. It offers the best qualities I’ve seen for dual-purpose use (www.tightspotquiver.com)

Be sure you use a grip system that doesn't cause torque, especially when using a thin glove to shoot with.

4) Prepare for the Shoulder Hit

Arrows don’t always hit where you want them to, regardless of how disciplined or patient you are as a bowhunter. Variables such as shooting excitement, arrows colliding with small twigs or branches, or “string jumping” can all can cause less-than-desirable impacts. This is a reality of bowhunting.

When such things happen, the type of arrow setup you use becomes of utmost importance. Basically, you want an arrow/broadhead setup that will help save the day when a poor hit does occur. Generally speaking, you want a setup that optimizes penetration, shatters bone, and cuts a big enough hole in non-vital tissue to cause major blood loss and damage.

Hitting too far forward is the main concern I see, since your arrow will surely impact the shoulder bone. For this kind of shot, an arrow with enough momentum (weight) is paramount, as is a bone-splitting, streamlined broadhead design. Otherwise, your arrow and broadhead will likely not pass through to the vital and the animal will get away.

In terms of arrows, I prefer shafts that weigh no less than 9 grains per inch of shaft weight in order to optimize kinetic energy. Good examples would include the Easton AXIS, Carbon Express Pile Driver, and Beman MFX Bone Collector.

In broadheads, I prefer a fixed-blade design with a moderate cutting width. However, most importantly, I want a broadhead with a tip designed to shatter (not split) bone, so it will drive through this barrier and into the lungs. I like models with extra-long, chisel-type tips. Good models to consider include the Muzzy 4-Blade 100, Slick Trick Standard, Innerloc Stainless Extreme, Grim Reaper Hades, Trophy Taker Terminal T-Lock, or Wasp Bullet.

5) Sight In Properly

Seems obvious enough, but is it? Experience tells me that sighting in for “perfect shots” may not always be the best. Let’s be honest here. Did you make a perfect, “squeeze through” shot on the last deer you shot? If the answer is no, then you may want to experiment with “rough releasing” a bit just to see where your arrow hits. Chances are, you’ll hit a few inches off the mark.

Now, don’t take me wrong here. In no way am I saying you should practice using lousy form. You don’t want to do that very often, otherwise bad habits will form. I’m just saying that maybe you should set your sights “a hair” toward your “rough” hits. This could help you hit the animal more precisely when adrenaline is flowing.

For me, when I tend to press the release’s trigger quickly, rather than squeezing it and pulling through the shot, I hit a few inches to the left. Determine if your point of impact varies enough to justify a slight sight adjustment.

6) Analyze Your Grip

Make sure you practice with the same clothes you’ll be hunting with, at least a few weeks prior to opening day, especially if you plan on using shooting gloves and a head cover. I’ve found that something as small as a thin glove (and head net) can cause major shooting destruction, unless you practice accordingly.

If you notice any inconsistency with left or right arrow impacts, then the bow grip would be the first thing I’d look at. Today’s high energy bows, especially those with brace heights of around 6 inches, don’t tolerate much inconsistency in the grip area. You must use a relaxed hand and keep it in the same spot on every shot, otherwise fliers will develop.

For best results, use the narrowest grip system you can get by with without giving up comfort. I’m not a big fan of rubber bow grips, as they tend to be “tacky” on the surface, which can contribute to inconsistent hand placement.

Experiment with different grip systems or insist on shooting your bow without the grip plate in place. Also, be sure your glove doesn’t have rubber or neoprene-type friction dots. These tend to grab and cause torque. Choose a shooting glove that has smooth fabric or leather in the palm area. This will allow your hand to slide into the same spot on each shot, making your shoot better.

7) Increase Forgiveness

A good hunting rig allows for slight imperfections in shooting form. After all, in the field, nothing is perfect.

Bow forgiveness is one thing, accessory forgiveness is another. You should do what you can to maximize both. In the bow department, slightly heavier arrows and aerodynamic broadheads will make spot-on shooting easier to achieve.

Also, adding a string stop will almost always increase forgiveness, since this accessory stops the bowstring from oscillating. This deadens bow movement more and can prevent a loose jacket sleeve from colliding with the bowstring, which will cause an errant shot. Mathews’ Dead End String Stop or Norway’s String Tamer are excellent models to consider.

Also, a short, vibration-robbing stabilizer will add a bit of weight to the front of the bow to enhance aiming a bit, all while making the bow quieter, smoother and more forgiving. I prefer Doinker’s new Chubby Hunter 5-inch or Woodsman Hunter, or Sim’s S-Coil.

Fletching type can affect shooting forgiveness as well. With most arrow-rest setups, today’s rigid, compact vanes are a top choice. I prefer Arizona Archery’s Max Hunter vanes, since they are very consistent in shape and weight, allow for maximum fletching helical, and are optimized to fly quietly (to reduce the chance of string jumping).

Shots on deer only come around so often, and you really have to make each and every one count. In doing so, be sure your equipment is as accurate and potent as you can make it. When this is the case, your bowhunting confidence will increase and you’ll capitalize on more of these moments of truth.

 

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